Drawing Up a Blueprint for Andy Reid to Rebuild the Arizona Cardinals

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJanuary 2, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 30:  Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles walks off the field after the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on December 30, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 42-7.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Cardinals didn't even give fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt time to clean out his office before rumors began swirling that the team has their sights set on another head coach who was shown the door on "Black Monday."

Andy Reid, who was fired by the Philadelphia Eagles after 14 seasons with the team, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Whisenhunt in the desert, with one source telling ESPN's Adam Schefter that there was a "95 percent" chance that Reid ends up the next coach of the Cardinals.

Granted, nothing has been finalized (as evidenced by Reid's interview with the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday), but with Reid set to interview in Phoenix and speculation running rampant, it appears more likely than not that he will be the next head man for the Redbirds.

Here's the first three things that Reid needs to do once he signs on the dotted line.


Try Like Crazy to Keep Ray Horton

The Arizona Cardinals were dreadful on offense in 2012 on a level that makes one's head hurt, but before Reid turns his attention to fixing the offense, he needs to make sure that a defense that ranked 12th in the NFL in 2012 doesn't regress.

The easiest way to do that is by retaining Ray Horton as defensive coordinator.

That won't be easy, however. Horton's name has been mentioned in connection with several other head-coaching vacancies, and after already interviewing for the head job in Arizona himself, Horton may not be inclined to hang around if he's passed over.

However, if he doesn't land a head-coaching job of his own, Reid needs to do everything he can to smooth things over and convince Horton to remain in Arizona.


Fix the Offensive Line

OK, now for an offense that was, well, offensive in 2012.

Granted, quarterback is a huge area of need for the Arizona Cardinals, but unless the team addresses an offensive line that allowed a league-leading 58 sacks this season, it's not going to make a bit of difference who lines up under center for the Cards.

The return of tackle Levi Brown—who missed the entire 2012 season with a torn triceps—will help, but rookie Nate Potter had his share of troubles while fellow newcomer Bobby Massie and seventh-year pro D'Anthony Batiste were just terrible this year.

Whether through free agency or the draft, both Reid and the Cardinals need to make the offensive line their top priority, and in a free-agent class that includes Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins, Ryan Clady of the Denver Broncos and Brandon Albert of the Kansas City Chiefs, the talent is out there if the Cardinals are willing to pony up the cash.


Address the Quarterback Position

Now on to the elephant in the room.

The Cardinals opened the season with four straight wins behind the surprisingly effective play of quarterback Kevin Kolb, but after Kolb went down the bottom fell out, as John Skelton and Ryan Lindley combined for some of the most horrific quarterback play in recent memory.

According to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, part of Reid's sales pitch to the Cardinals is his belief that he can "fix" Kolb, who has been a disappointment in the desert since signing a six-year, $63.5 million contract prior to the 2011 season.

However, whether it's with Kolb or another stopgap starter such as Michael Vick (who know Reid's offense), the Cardinals need to look at the position in the long term, which means that Reid will likely be charged with scanning a weak draft class of quarterbacks in the hopes of finding Arizona's signal-caller of the future.