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Miller Takes a Pass At Offense

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Passing game coordinator Mike Miller watches game video in his office.

As the Cardinals went through their playoff run, quarterback Kurt Warner joked a couple of times about his close relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley and that the two talked so often "my wife thought I was having an affair."

Haley's replacement, now that Haley has gone on to be head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, is former wide receivers coach Mike Miller. Perhaps, at some point, Warner will make jokes about how he and Miller communicate. Miller isn't sure. But Miller does seem certain he will mesh well with Warner – one of the more crucial questions that arose after the team's coaching staff shuffle following the Super Bowl.

"I'm not trying to have a relationship that he and Todd had or that he and Coach (Ken Whisenhunt) have," Miller said. "I am going to be myself, and I want to have the best relationship I can have with Kurt.

"That said, I think I have a good relationship with Kurt. With the way we do our pass game and how we install in the season, it was the three of us (with Haley), we all exchanged ideas."

On paper, the Cardinals change seems drastic, no longer employing an offensive coordinator. Miller was given his promotion, and assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm was given yet another title, this time run game coordinator.

In practice, the Cardinals don't think the execution of the offense will be much different. Whisenhunt will go back to calling plays, as he did when he first arrived in Arizona. Grimm, who has always had his stamp on the running game, will continue his role.

Miller, meanwhile, will try to pick up where Haley left off in directing arguably the most dangerous passing game in the NFL. Miller is the unknown, although he is heading into his 10th season as an NFL coach.

"Obviously, there is a dynamic there we've got to get comfortable with and figure out," Warner said after recently signing his new contract. "Knowing Mike, I think Mike is going to do a tremendous job. But I think that whole dynamic is going to work itself out. Coach (Whisenhunt) and I talked through the process and about what I thought we needed and what he thought we needed. So I have a lot of confidence the pieces he put in place will benefit us."

With Warner returning, Miller could just be a caretaker to an offense that was second in the NFL in passing and third in scoring -- "It's hard to improve with what the guys did last year," tight end Ben Patrick said Thursday – but he said that wasn't the right approach to take.

"We certainly feel good about what we have," Miller said. "But this league is evolving, and if you think you can just stay doing what you are doing … even in a game, these defenses are so fast at adjusting."

There were multiple changes on the offensive staff. New are quarterbacks coach Chris Miller, wide receivers coach John McNulty, running backs coach Curtis Modkins and offensive quality control coach Chad Grimm. The moves altered the learning curve of the offseason, especially since there will be only about nine weeks between the new staff's hirings and the first minicamp practice in early April.

But Mike Miller believes the offense has a good starting point with holdovers like him, Russ Grimm and tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens. Most importantly, the players won't be learning a new offense.

In many ways, pairing Miller with Grimm makes sense. The two shared an office for three years when both were assistants with the Steelers, and are close friends. Miller said the two can easily trade ideas, and don't let football disagreements turn personal.

"First and foremost in our room, (Russ) is the assistant head coach," Miller said. "That wasn't questioned before and it won't be questioned now."

Whisenhunt said he eventually wanted to cede playcalling again, as he once did to Haley. Miller is the most likely recipient of that responsibility, although Miller doesn't want to be overanxious – "I try and do things one step at a time" – and jump into new duties too soon.

With the whirlwind of the offseason, Miller hasn't been able to talk to many players. He has spoken with Warner and Matt Leinart and some of the receivers. He has also traded text messages with players after the changes.

"I feel confident in my personal relationships," Miller said.

EXTRA POINT

The Cardinals officially signed long snapper Mike Leach Thursday to a three-year contract. Leach, a 10-year veteran who spent the bulk of his career in Denver, replaces Nathan Hodel, who was recently released. Hodel had been the Cards' long snapper since 2002.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 3/12/09.

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