Ray Horton as a head coaching candidate

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton should be frustrated after the team passed over him when hiring Bruce Arians as its next head coach.

Horton orchestrated tremendous defensive improvement over a two-year run as coordinator. The team interviewed him as a potential replacement for Ken Whisenhunt. Interviewing Horton wound up doing more to satisfy the Rooney Rule than it has done to advance Horton's career. Horton reportedly wants out, and could get his wish.

The Cardinals were known to have interviewed four other candidates, all offensive coordinators: Bruce Arians, Todd Haley, Darrell Bevell and Jay Gruden. They tried to interview another offensive-minded coach in Andy Reid.

Horton arguably deserved the job more than those other candidates.

However, the Cardinals had very good reasons for seeking an offensive-minded head coach. Improving the offense had to be the No. 1 priority this offseason.

Promoting Horton to head coach would have prevented the Cardinals from pursuing Arians, Haley, Bevell, Gruden or any offensive coordinator for what would have been a lateral move. Promoting Horton would have left the Cardinals worse off, not better off, on the offensive side of the ball. They might have become worse on the defensive side, too, given that Horton would have to focus much of his attention away from the one area where he was most valuable: coaching the defense.

The Cardinals did what they had to do.

Criticisms of Horton as a head coaching candidate have more to do with style than substance. He's a bit of a loose cannon the way Haley has sometimes been one. Some of the things Horton says publicly suggest he thinks he's smarter than everyone else. That was the impression Horton left when suggesting the Cardinals had outfoxed New England during a 20-18 victory in September.

Horton can come off as flippant. That approach isn't for everyone. Neither does it mean he would fare poorly as a head coach, or that someone shouldn't seriously consider him.

Note: Reports suggest Horton is frustrated and wants out, and that Arians might replace him with Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. In that case, the Cardinals would have traded Whisenhunt-Horton for Arians-Bowles.