Former NFL quarterback Frank Reich (left, with Peyton Manning) has been hired to coach receivers while John McNulty (right, with Isaiah Williams) will move from receivers to quarterbacks.
In-house, John McNulty went into his interview to be quarterbacks coach and "blew me away," head coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
And while Whisenhunt didn't know Frank Reich, of late a receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts, Whisenhunt did get a phone call from former Colts general manager Bill Polian and an "impressive recommendation" for Reich.
Many had been interviewed – including former Cards' assistant Todd Haley – but in the end, Whisenhunt finally solidified his coaching staff Wednesday by officially sliding McNulty over to quarterbacks coach from receivers and hiring Reich to take his old spot.
"We wanted to make sure we had the right mix and what gave us the best chance of keeping what we developed over the last nine games," Whisenhunt said.
The spot was opened on the Cardinals' when the Chris Miller was fired as quarterbacks coach after the season. Reich, a long-time reserve quarterback in the NFL best known for orchestrating the Buffalo Bills' historic playoff comeback win (down 35-3 to win 41-38) over Houston in 1993, was the wide receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011. He spent 2009 and 2010 as the Colts' quarterbacks coach.
McNulty, who has now spent nine seasons in the NFL and has been the Cards' receivers coach since 2009, was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Rutgers University from 2006-2008.
His interview was a winner – "The things he talked about would be a good mix for our quarterbacks and developing that position and getting more consistent play from them," Whisenhunt said – and left enough of an impression that it was a major reason McNulty was not allowed to interview with Tampa Bay for their vacant offensive coordinator job.
McNulty, under contract, could not leave without permission.
"We didn't want to lose him," Whisenhunt said. "That was a position we felt we needed to get better at and we felt strongly he could help.
"Of course he was disappointed. It was an emotional time. That is something you work hard to get opportunities for. I think it is part of the business. You see where we are as a football team and we feel we are close and continuity is an important thing, that's part of the decision."
McNulty will work with a position that has been a roller coaster since Kurt Warner retired. The Cardinals want to find a way to create more consistent play out of both Kevin Kolb and John Skelton.
"Everybody is in agreement that after the last two years, we need better play at the quarterback position," McNulty said. "I think that's pretty much the directive of the organization at this point.
"We're beyond the replacing-of-Kurt-Warner at this stage. That’s not what we are talking about. When we are talking about production, you don't have to win the game on your own, put the team on your shoulders. It's a productive player that scores and protects the football."
McNulty knows he can't just get Kolb, Skelton and Rich Bartel to the field yet , since teams are limited with what they can do in the offseason with the new collective bargaining agreement. But "as soon as possible," he wants his quarterbacks working on things like footwork and mental workouts picturing plays to just drown the basics in repetition.
McNulty also said there would be no "preconceived notion of who is going to be The Guy" at quarterback.
"I know McNulty will be missed by some WR, but I'm happy to have him in our already tight QB circle," Skelton wrote in a text message. "Looking forward to working with him."
Reich too will have places of emphasis. The Cardinals already have Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald, but they also are looking for development from third-year wideout Andre Roberts and more, if he returns from free agency, Early Doucet.
Reich could have been a candidate for the quarterbacks job. Reich's professional coaching experience began in 2008 as an offensive assistant with the Colts. Reich was fired from the Colts last month as the team overhauled both its front office and coaching staff.
Reich, who played from 1985-1998 with the Bills, Panthers, Jets and Lions, hasn't had a chance to familiarize himself with the Cards' receivers other than knowing Fitzgerald's body of work. But he said he loves working with receivers, and that as former quarterback, there is almost always an instant chemistry with wideouts.
Having worked with not only Reggie Wayne but also emerging receivers like Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie should also help Reich's reputation coming in.
"The key is the players," Reich said. "They want to get better. If you get a guy who has talent and wants to get better, they will develop."
The coaches are beginning the process of staff-wide evaluations as the team heads into first the Scouting Combine and then free agency.
Haley was considered for the vacancy. Asked if Haley's return was ever close, Whisenhunt said yes. But Mike Miller was going to remain offensive coordinator in Arizona, which impacted the talks.
Haley was hired this week to be offensive coordinator with the Steelers, a team with which his father played a large role in the personnel department for many years and for which Haley himself worked as a ball boy growing up.
"I had a discussion with Todd," Whisenhunt said. "That's an emotional thing too, in the situation he was in and being a head coach and having to look at it from another perspective and finding the best fit for him and his family. He's a good football coach and I am glad he is getting that opportunity."