New Head Honcho: Part 5

With Andy Reid likely less than two weeks away from being fired, it’s time to look ahead to some future candidates for the Eagles’ head coaching job. So far Pete Carmichael Jr., Jay Gruden, Rick Dennison, and Vic Fangio have gone under the microscope. This week we keep the search in the NFC with another aggressive coordinator.

Ray Horton – Defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals Training Camp

On offense the Cards are a despicable bunch. Their is attack is the worst in the league this year (4th worst last season) and has managed to limit future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald to 674 yards and 4 TDs on the season. It’s miserable in the desert, which certainly helps boost the already impressive resume of Horton.

After a ten year career as a defensive back, Ray Horton entered the coaching ranks in 1994 as a defensive assistant and then defensive backs coach for the Washington Redskins.  He also coached defensive backs in Cincinnati and Detroit before moving on to coach a familiar enemy: the Pittsburgh Steelers. Under the guidance of Dick LeBeau, Horton helped to construct an annual defensive juggernaut.

For example, developed players such as Ike Taylor and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu.  After that 2010 season, Arizona swooped in and handed Horton the job as defensive coordinator.

Let’s take a look at the numbers from his two campaigns so far:

Year Pts/G Yds/G 3rd Pct Opp Comp. % FF Sacks Safeties Int
2012.0 21.6 335.8 34.0 54.5 14.0 36.0 1.0 22.0
2011.0 21.8 355.1 31.0 58.8 18.0 42.0 3.0 23.0
Average 21.7 345.5 32.5 56.7 16.0 39.0 2.0 22.5

As you can see, Horton’s defense has done a great job of generating pressure the last two seasons. The Cardinals have a 32.5% 3rd down conversion rate and allow less than 22 points a game on average. They’ve also had an opposing completion percentage of 58.8 and now 54.5-good for 11th and 3rd in the league respectively. So the Cardinals may be in the NFL gutter, but it certainly isn’t because of the D.

Just as Vic Fangio is a hearkening back to the Buddy Ryan era, Horton is reminiscent of the Jim Johnson era; he relies on a blitz-heavy 3-4 scheme to generate pressure. So, while this hiring would cause for a bit of a transition period, Horton is the perfect fit for re-imagining the Eagles’ secondary and bringing back some swagger.

One of the reasons that secondary players benefit from Horton’s system has to do with the concept of using d-backs to rush the passer. Just think of Kerry Rhodes. Remember that huge play he made during the Battle of the Birds in September?

It was 3rd and 1 at the Arizona 1 in the end of the second quarter, Vick dropped back and fumbled due to a Kerry Rhodes sack which then turned into a 93-yard game ending touchdown. Plays such as this have him listed as the 4th best safety in the league this season according to ProFootballFocus.

If the Eagles were to sign Horton, that would subsequently play a major role in the fates of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. DRC will be a free agent this spring and Asomugha could either take a pay cut or be released by the franchise.

Regardless, Horton specializes in the secondary play and has the potential to give the Eagles everything they wanted from Todd Bowles.

So for the next few weeks keep an eye on Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton, he might just be the new head honcho.

Posted on December 22, 2012, in Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. He will make the perfect D coordinator in Philly after the AZ staff gets fired. Vic Fangio will hire him in a heartbeat.

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