NFC West: Norm Chow

Mike McCoy's expected hiring by the San Diego Chargers leaves the Arizona Cardinals ... where?

There is no way to know the answer to that question.

First, we do not know for sure what the Cardinals' plans are for naming a head coach. Second, we do not know whether McCoy will become a better head coach than the person Arizona winds up hiring in the end.

We do know Cardinals president Michael Bidwill announced intentions to interview Andy Reid, only to have Reid accept the Kansas City Chiefs' offer without visiting Arizona. We know reports suggested the Cardinals sought a second interview with McCoy, only to have McCoy cancel that interview after accepting the Chargers' offer.

So, from outside appearances, the Cardinals appear to be struggling in their search for Ken Whisenhunt's replacement. They do have an insurance policy in defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Missing out on Reid and McCoy would hurt more if Horton also appeared likely to land a head coaching job elsewhere. Horton appears more likely to stay, however.

In my view, firing Whisenhunt made sense if the Cardinals were in position to move decisively for a superior candidate. They have not done that to this point. Still, it's tough to render a verdict on the process before the Cardinals have made a hire. And even when they do make a hire, we won't immediately know whether they've made a good one.

Before hiring Whisenhunt in 2007, the Cardinals reportedly conducted second interviews with a group featuring Mike Sherman, Norm Chow, Cam Cameron and Ron Rivera. Whisenhunt was also a candidate to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers at that time.

Horton, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden have interviewed with the Cardinals this offseason. They appear to be the leading candidates.

No coach is going to succeed in Arizona without upgrading the quarterback situation. Whisenhunt proved he could win with a top quarterback. He lost his job because the quarterbacks he helped acquire and develop following Kurt Warner's retirement either could not stay healthy (Kevin Kolb) or struggled (John Skelton, Ryan Lindley) or both (Kolb, to varying degrees).

The other teams seeking head coaches generally have superior quarterback situations. That makes those teams more attractive to coaching candidates. If the Cardinals wind up settling for a lesser candidate, then they would have been better off keeping Whisenhunt, shuffling the offensive staff and making another run at finding the team's next quarterback.

XTRA910 audio: Coaching changes, etc.

January, 6, 2012
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Passing along: an audio link from my Friday conversation with Dan Bickley and Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 in Phoenix.

Among the subjects we discussed:
  • Ray Horton and the Rams: The Arizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator did interview for the Rams' head coaching job Friday. The Rams confirmed it to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. My money would be on Jeff Fisher taking the job next week. It's unlikely, in my view, that the Rams would hire a first-year, first-time coordinator to replace Steve Spagnuolo.
  • Divisional competition: San Francisco ran away with the NFC West this season, but contentious late-season games between the 49ers, Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks made the division feel highly competitive. The division produced two 1,200-yard rushers and two others with at least 1,000 yards. There were two top-10 defenses (measured by yards and points allowed). Hard-hitting safeties made their mark.
  • Josh McDaniels' future. The Rams' in-limbo offensive coordinator would appear much smarter and adept as a play caller if he landed with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. One thing we did not discuss was Sam Bradford's affinity for McDaniels' system. And if the Rams do hire Fisher, a defensive-minded head coach, they would become vulnerable to continuity issues if their offensive coordinator fared well enough to land a head coaching job elsewhere. That was never a big problem for Fisher in Tennessee, however. Les Steckel, Mike Heimerdinger (twice) and Norm Chow were his coordinators. Bradford was fired up about working with McDaniels. How might he feel about running an offense similar in philosophy to the ones Fisher's teams ran in Tennessee?
  • Todd Haley's status: The Cardinals' former offensive coordinator could return to the role after three seasons coaching the Kansas City Chiefs. The direct, sometimes highly charged connection Haley achieved with some players on the team, notably Larry Fitzgerald, distinguished his Arizona tenure. Adding Haley could come at the expense of quarterbacks coach Chris Miller, according to Jurecki. Miller had little to work with in 2010. Kevin Kolb's struggles in 2011 stood as a disappointment.
  • Larry Fitzgerald's greatness: It was tough to envision any receiver living up to the contract Fitzgerald signed in August. I think Fitzgerald is pulling it off, not just through his production but by what he represents on the field.

Enjoy your Friday. I'm home this weekend before heading to San Francisco to spend much of next week with the 49ers.

Mike Williams' strange trip back to NFL

October, 20, 2010
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Those interested in learning more about Mike Williams' improbable revival with the Seattle Seahawks should check out Arash Markazi's in-depth piece for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The story includes anecdotes from former Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen, former USC and NFL assistant coach Norm Chow, the trainer who tried to help Williams get into shape and others. Chow was with the Tennessee Titans when he talked the team into taking a chance on Williams:
I talked to everyone in Tennessee hard about getting him. Oakland had cut him and I actually wanted to trade for him, but when they cut him I fought hard for us to sign him. When he got to Tennessee, he was 286 pounds. It was unbelievable. I really couldn't believe what I saw. He could still run around, but he was too heavy to play receiver. ... He actually got me in trouble, because when he got here they said, 'What are you talking about? Why would you bring a 286-pound receiver here?' It was really disappointing. I don't know what allowed him to do that. Maybe instant fame or whatever when Detroit made him a top-10 pick and gave him all that money and he just didn't have that drive anymore."

Williams set NFL career highs with 10 receptions for 123 yards during the Seahawks' victory over Chicago in Week 6. But even Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll never thought Williams would return to this level of production. Williams joined Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson and Tommy Kane as the only wide receivers in Seahawks history to catch 10 or more passes in a game.

Finally, someone speaks up for Leinart

August, 28, 2010
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It's been a rough week, by NFL standards, for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart.

Three three-and-out possessions Monday night hurt his already tenuous standing, and before long coach Ken Whisenhunt announced Derek Anderson's promotion to the starting lineup for the third exhibition game Saturday night.

Reporters covering the team have offered accounts of Leinart's demotion, but if there's been a single story featuring pro-Leinart sentiments from another Cardinals player, I've missed it. There haven't been anti-Leinart comments, either -- the team has been practicing in Nashville and traveling to Chicago, diminishing media coverage -- but where is the love for Leinart?

Answer: UCLA.

"I tell you what, don’t write [Matt Leinart] off," Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow told 710ESPN Los Angeles, according to sportsradiointerviews.com. "I'm still convinced that he will have an extremely, extremely successful career."

What else is Chow going to say? He was the offensive coordinator at USC when Leinart played there.

"You know, he started out well and then whatever happened, happened, but I still think he’s going to have a terrific career," Chow said. "I’ve talked with him over the offseason, I know how hard he’s working, how much this means to him. I don’t have any question in my mind that he’s going to be successful at that level."

The quarterback situation will dominate discussion following the Cardinals' game at Chicago. Leinart's performance in relief will speak for him. Will any Cardinals teammates speak for him? Darnell Dockett and Larry Fitzgerald have been prolific on Twitter, but neither tweeted anything, to my knowledge, regarding their longtime teammate, Leinart, following the change.

Surely someone associated with the Cardinals must be in Leinart's corner, right? The postgame session should be interesting Saturday night.

Seahawks give Mike Williams a look

April, 12, 2010
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Reggie Williams isn't the only high-profile receiver named Williams getting an extended look at Seahawks minicamp this week.

Mike Williams, who played for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC, will also participate on a tryout basis.

It's clear the Seahawks are considering all options at the position. There's no risk in giving either player a look.

Mike Williams, the 10th player chosen in the 2005 draft, flamed out previously with Detroit, Oakland and Tennessee. Size, strength and hands were what made him appealing coming out of USC. But Williams, listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, caught only 44 passes for 539 yards and two touchdowns in 30 career regular-season games. His weight reportedly ranged between roughly 240 and 270 pounds.

Williams is only 26 years old. Carroll's ties to Williams could give him an edge in tapping into the receiver's potential, but it's still a long shot. Former USC assistant Norm Chow was with the Titans when Tennessee gave Williams his most recent NFL opportunity.

The Seahawks open their minicamp Tuesday. Free-agent defensive back Kennard Cox, formerly of the Jaguars, will also participate on a tryout basis.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle outlines the philosophical differences that led to Mike Martz's ouster from the 49ers. Also, Mike Singletary says the team needs to upgrade at offensive tackle, safety and pass-rusher.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says there's confusion over who has control of the 49ers' roster after Singletary suggested he would have control despite reporting to general manager Scot McCloughan. 

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat provides a transcript from Singletary's end-of-season news conference. Singletary says the 49ers sneaked up on a few opponents this season.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers admittedly are taking another step backward in an effort to move forward, but Singletary saw no other way.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers need more than just a power running game to succeed.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists Scott Linehan, Jim Fassel and Norm Chow as potential offensive coordinators for the 49ers. Note: Link updated thanks to a tip from base2bass.

Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News raises questions about the 49ers' power structure after a team spokesman suggested Singletary and McCloughan would share control of the roster.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Singletary will favor an experienced offensive coordinator without ruling out inexperienced candidates.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at pivotal moments in the Cardinals' season, including the contract awarded to receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Also from Somers: Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley thinks the team's performance against Seattle in Week 17 was critical in re-establishing a running game.

More from Somers, with Bob McManaman: a notebook with items on the Falcons and Cardinals, with a look at key matchups.

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic profiles a Cardinals fan with 61 years experience rooting for the team. Richard Hayden remembers attending the team's previous home playoff game -- in 1947.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with the Cardlinals' longest-tenured players. Six have spent six or more seasons with the team, starting with Adrian Wilson.

Also from Urban: The Falcons' Matt Ryan was in high school the last time Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner started a playoff game.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune questions whether the Cardinals' defense can hold up against the Falcons.

Mike Sakal of the East Valley Tribune says Fitzgerald's longtime girlfriend has obtained a protection order against the Pro Bowl receiver. Fitzgerald is not facing criminal charges.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Jim Haslett, under contract until Feb. 15, is going about his business as usual while the team searches for a head coach.

Also from Thomas: Rams assistants Jim Chaney and Keith Murphy are taking jobs at the college level.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch defends St. Louis as a football town by ripping Arizona and Minnesota for failing to sell out playoff games.

Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Seahawks rookie Lawrence Jackson expects improvement in 2009 after a humbling rookie season.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sizes up the Seahawks' projected strength of schedule for 2009, drawing comparisons to recent seasons.

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