One year stood between Arizona Cardinals and a franchise-changing head coach

The Arizona Cardinals may have made a real splash with their choice for a head coach if last year's search could've taken place in 2024.
Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots
Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

Roughly a year ago, a large contingent of Arizona Cardinals fans were on the "hire Sean Payton" crusade. It wasn't surprising, considering the fact that the California native was the shiny jewel among a group of somewhat unimpressive head-coaching candidates. As we all know, the Denver Broncos landed Payton in the end, while the Cards ended up going with defensive guru Jonathan Gannon.

There's a good chance that Arizona lost out on Payton because of the competition for his services. The Cardinals weren't the only organization that coveted the only top-quality, proven option on the market. That wouldn't have been the case, however, if management had been able to conduct it's search for a new head coach in 2024 instead.

For example, the Redbirds would've had a shot at acquiring Bill Belichick, the future Hall of Fame coach who won an eye-popping six Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots. The 71-year-old is now a free agent following his departure from a squad that now has serious issues at the quarterback position. That wouldn't have been the case in the desert, where Belichick could've combined his vast defensive knowledge with a two-time Pro Bowl signal-caller like Kyler Murray under center.

Arizona Cardinals may have had a shot at landing a highly-successful head-coaching candidate this offseason

After adding a National Championship to his resume in 2023, it certainly appears as if Jim Harbaugh is itching to coach again in the NFL. The University of Michigan alum took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl following the 2012 campaign, after guiding the club to an NFC Championship appearance the season before. It would've been interesting to see how far Harbaugh could've taken the Cards with a talented weapon like Murray leading the offense.

It seems as if longtime Seattle Seahawks head man Pete Carroll wanted to continue coaching the team when he was shockingly dismissed last week. How great would've it have been to see the San Francisco native obtain the Cardinals gig, and get revenge on those division-rival Seahawks during the team's two yearly matchups? There have been no reports on what Carroll will do next, but one would have to think that Arizona would've qualified as an attractive destination for the age-defying 72-year-old.

While Carroll's departure from Seattle caught many off guard, the same could be said about Mike Vrabel's exit from the Tennessee Titans. The Akron, Ohio native led the Titans to a trip to the AFC Championship game following the 2019 campaign, and then followed that up with division titles in both 2020 and 2021. What a change the no-nonsense Vrabel would've been over the "country club" atmosphere that former head coach Kliff Kingsbury allowed during his four-year stint with the Cards.

Even though Arizona emerged victorious just four times this past fall, there are indications that Gannon knows what he's doing. Who knows, maybe the 41-year-old will one day be lumped in with the league's all-time greats. Nevertheless, it would be difficult for the "Birdgang" to deny the excitement that would've come with having Belichick, Harbaugh, Carroll or Vrabel locked in place as the head coach of the Cardinals.