Getty Images/Getty Images
In the absence of Keith Butler, Ray Horton has been widely tipped as the Cardinals new runaway favorite to get the nod.
Unlike Butler, Horton—the Steelers secondary coach, who is out of contract following the end of the 2010 season—does not need permission to speak to the Cardinals, and is expected to begin discussions later today.
These discussions are considered by many, to be a formality. Horton and Whisenhunt know each other well, and the discussions are expected to center around hammering out the specifics of the contract, rather than being a true interview.
Horton is an experienced coach, and has helped mould the Steelers secondary unit into one of the top performing pass defenses in the league.
Troy Polamalu was named defensive player of the year for 2010, and in spite of an uninspiring performance in the Super Bowl, is still considered one of the greats to play at that position.
He respects Horton a lot, saying of his current secondary coach
"[Horton has] the toughest job on this team, coaching the secondary," in an interview regarding potential coaches for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"He's been here a long time and he's handled that. He has an in-depth understanding of the defense Coach LeBeau teaches, and he has an in-depth understanding of what the offense is doing, personnel groups, percentages."
These are great things for the Cardinals, and defensively minded head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who would love to bring the defensive philosophy he experienced in Pittsburgh to the Cardinals.
There could be a potential spanner in the works, as Horton reportedly already has an offer from the Dallas Cowboys, which early reports indicated that he had already accepted.
Although that now appears not to be the case, and the Cowboys cannot currently offer him a defensive coordinator position, he would remain a position coach.
There are, however some indications that the Cowboys, and wealthy owner Jerry Jones, could sway the negotiations by offering Horton the assistant head coach position, coupled with a sizable salary, and even an implicit "line of succession" plan laid out for him.
All of this seems somewhat unlikely, given that he is still preparing to sit down with Whisenhunt later today, but the Cowboys are known to pursue the people they want hard, and, if Horton is that man, may make it difficult for him to refuse their advances.
Whatever happens, however, all of the four options look good, and the Cardinals appear set to make significant strides, defensively, in 2011.