On Jan. 21, 2013, Todd Bowles was formally hired to be the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals.
Bowles was tasked with replacing the very popular Ray Horton who, in two years with the Cardinals, helped them go from being ranked 29th in 2010 to 12th in 2012. Guided by Bill Davis, Arizona allowed an average of 27.1 points per game in 2010. Under Horton, the Cardinals allowed 21.8 points per game in 2011 and 22.1 in 2012.
Horton was oft-outspoken and employed an aggressive defense that helped keep the team competitive while winning fans over.
Bowles, on the other hand, was most recently attached to the failure that was the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles, having taken over for Juan Castillo in mid-October. With Bowles at the helm, the Eagles allowed an average of 31.9 points per game. Not surprisingly, the Eagles went 1-9 over that stretch.
So you had to forgive Cardinals fans if they were a bit concerned with the man new coach Bruce Arians tabbed to run his defense.
One year later, the concerns changed from worries about Bowles coming in to fears he might leave.
Bowles’ Arizona defense got off to a bit of a slow start — allowing 14 fourth-quarter points in a season-opening loss to the Rams and 31 points in Week 3 loss to the Saints – as well as totals of 32 and 34 to the 49ers and Seahawks, respectively, but had also posted gems like the 10 points allowed to Tampa Bay in Week 4 and the six points surrendered to Carolina in Week 5.
Things really started to click in the season’s second half, as the Cardinals held five of their last nine opponents under 15 points and another three under 25.
Overall, the Cardinals finished the season ranked first in the NFL against the run and sixth overall, allowing an average of 317.4 total yards per game along with just 20.3 points.
Arizona’s 47 sacks rank sixth in the NFL, as do their 20 interceptions.
From trepidation to excitement, Bowles’ presence meant good things for the Cardinals.
“We got better as the year went along, we really did,” safety Yeremiah Bell said the day after the season ended. “We grew. You could tell that guys really started to trust in each other. It was a special feeling on the defensive side of the football, and I think we all knew it as well as our defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and we had a lot of fun this year.”
A full 365 days after he first took the job, it is obvious Bowles did a great job.
“At the beginning of the season we let stuff go here and there, here and there, here and there,” veteran linebacker John Abraham said after the season ended. “But then by the end of the season – you all watched us play — you all know our defense, you can tell those guys grew up together, you would think we knew each other for a long time the way we were playing.
“I didn’t want it to end right there, I wanted to play some more, I wanted to see what else we could do.”
The defense’s success understandably led to head coaching interviews for Bowles, but he is set to return to Arizona for a second season. And while the personnel he has to work with will undoubtedly change some, be it due to injured players returning, new additions or a few inevitable departures, people seem to be pretty comfortable with the coach who is leading the way.