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ESPN’s John Clayton: It’s ‘Atlanta or bust’ for Arizona Cardinals DC Todd Bowles

LISTEN: John Clayton, ESPN NFL insider

As of Friday, there are six vacant head coaching jobs in the National Football League.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles figures to be a candidate for all of them.

In his second season under head coach Bruce Arians, Bowles overcame a litany of injuries and suspensions to key players to design an effective defensive scheme for the Cardinals, who finished 11-5 and will play their first playoff game since the 2009 season Saturday against the Carolina Panthers.

Of the six openings, ESPN NFL insider John Clayton believes the one in Atlanta, which became available when the Falcons fired Mike Smith after six seasons, makes the most sense.

“That would be the job, I think, that would appeal to him the most,” Clayton said on the Doug and Wolf Show Friday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

“I can’t see him going to Oakland. In New York (Jets), I think it’s more than likely going to be Doug Marrone going there, so I think that door is going to be closed. Then you look over and see what’s going on in Chicago, and I don’t know if he’d be a big advocate of going in there, either having Jay Cutler as his quarterback or trading Jay Cutler and not having a quarterback. I’d say, right now, Atlanta or bust.”

In November, the Cardinals signed Bowles to a contract extension through 2017, which according to Clayton, gives the assistant coach the power to be selective.

“The reason he signed that contract and the reason they gave him that contract is to give him the ability to pick and choose,” Clayton said. “By merit, he deserves a job. I think that if the job isn’t right, he isn’t going to take it.

“But Atlanta would be the right job.”

Earlier this week, reports indicated that Bowles was one of the candidates the Falcons wanted to talk to as they begin their coaching search.

Bowles, 51, interviewed for two head coaching positions after the 2013 season — Cleveland and Minnesota — before removing his name from consideration with the Browns and returning to Arizona.

Bowles’ only head coaching experience was a three-game interim stint with the Miami Dolphins in 2011 after head coach Tony Sparano was fired. He guided the team to a 2-1 finish.