TEMPE, Ariz. — For two seasons, Todd Bowles was the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator.
He did a good job.
After a slow start to the 2013 season, the Cardinals rebounded to finish seventh in points surrendered, and then the following season Arizona moved up to fifth.
In large part due to Bowles’ success in the desert, he left following the 2014 season to become the head coach of the New York Jets, which is the position he holds as his team travels to Arizona to face the Cardinals in a Monday night football matchup.
For the Cardinals, it’s a chance to reconnect with an old friend.
“Oh, it’s fun,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s the first guy that I’ll coach against that was with us. We feel like we had a part of it, because he did such a great job here and earned the right to get that job. Not just him, but about seven or eight other guys that are on that staff and five of them were here.”
Bowles is the first branch in the Arians coaching tree, one he is hoping will grow at least a couple more head coaches in the near future.
“No, I was so happy for him and I’ll be the same way when Harold (Goodwin) and Bettch (James Bettcher) and whoever’s next, when they get theirs,” Arians said when asked if he had any mixed emotions when Bowles left for New York.
Arians is undoubtedly proud of what Bowles has accomplished, and Bowles said the last thing he wants to do is let his former boss down. That comes with a bit of a caveat, however.
“In order to not let him down, you’ve got win the game,” Bowles said.
Bowles went on to talk about how happy he is for Arians to be receiving “his due,” adding he works hard to ensure Arians is validated for giving him a chance in Arizona, which then led to his opportunity in New York.
“But, he’s like my uncle, my big brother,” he said. “He taught me so much in life and in football. Words can’t describe how I feel about him.”
Normally, they are great friends who Arians said text back and forth throughout the season.
This week, however, they are adversaries, at least on the field. And in that regard, there is some thought that because Bowles knows the Cardinals’ personnel and schemes so well, the Jets may come to town with a bit of an edge.
“He knows a lot of our players on offense because it’s been, for the most part, the same group,” Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said. “He knows a lot of guys on defense because there are a lot of guys that were here. We’re running a very similar defense ourselves. It’s really kind of all been, for the most part, kept intact.
“At the end of the day, you’ve still got to get your guys ready to play and we’ve got to get our guys ready to play and you’ve got to go out there and the best team wins. There’s no doubt, he knows a lot about us, a lot more than we know about them, but we’ve still got to go out and execute, and they do too.”
Arians said it takes too much time to really change what they would normally do, and at that point you risk asking guys to do things they aren’t capable of. As offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, it is important not to overthink the matchup.
“We do what we do,” he said. “(Bowles) knows what he’s going to get. He’s going to get a vertical passing game, he’s going to get screens, he’s going to get play-actions. He knows he’s going to get double — I’m sure he’s going to try to stop double.
“He’s going to try to force us into third-and-long, that way he can bring his pressure, so we’ve just go to make sure we’re doing a good job on first and second down getting positive yards so we don’t get all the crazy third-down packages on the grass.”
Just as Bowles likely has a feel for what the Cardinals will want to do, Arizona also has an idea of what Bowles will bring to the table. That’s probably why Bowles, when asked, said he does not think familiarity will factor much into the game.
“It’s been over a year-and-a-half since I’ve been gone, and they’ve tweaked a lot of things and we’ve tweaked a lot of things,” he said. “You learn a lot week-to-week in this league, which I find out every day. It wouldn’t be hard from that standpoint. It will probably be a little different. They’ve got to go off our film; we’ve got to go off their film.”
In other words, both sides are attempting to downplay the idea that Bowles being in Arizona as recently as two seasons ago will be advantageous for either side, at least in any kind of tangible way. Even if that was not the case, there wouldn’t really be anything to do about it.
Bowles and his Jets will be taking on the Cardinals, and each team comes into the game desperately needing a victory. At 1-4, New York is in danger of seeing a season with high expectations be lost in mid-October; at 2-3, the Cardinals, who likewise had high expectations, can ill-afford another home defeat.
That they are facing each other in this week and one of them will likely lose is not a cruel joke — it’s life in the NFL.
It’s also not the first time Arians has coached against a great friend, as in 2013 — his first year in Arizona — Chuck Pagano and the Colts came to town. Arians, remember, had guided Indianapolis to a playoff berth the year before while serving as the interim coach while Pagano was out dealing with leukemia.
The Cardinals won that game 40-11.
“Yeah, this one goes back 30 years,” Arians said when comparing the two scenarios. “I’ve known Chuck a long time and the thing that we went through was totally different. This one is — they didn’t run our offense and defense, and obviously Todd knows everything we do and we know a lot that he does, but not their offense. But, you take all those emotions and put them away until after the game.”
Stories for pre-game reading
Arians has no plans to give up on receivers who are struggling with drops
The Cardinals moved up in the national power rankings
Tyrann Mathieu understands the challenge he faces as he works his way back into form
Paul Calvisi previewed Cardinals vs. Jets in a video
Richard Sherman gave some serious props to Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson
The Cardinals’ offense has room to improve, but there does not seem to be much concern
The Arizona Cardinals have never beaten the New York Jets
With a great motor, linebacker Markus Golden plans to ‘just keep hunting’
Patrick Peterson is ready to face the Jets’ Brandon Marshall
The Cardinals expect no lag in play with new guards John Wetzel and Earl Watford
Robert Nkemdiche found himself on the busted assignment sheet too often in practice
– The Jets will be playing in University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time on Monday, leaving the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans as the only teams to never appear in the building, which opened in 2006.
– The Cardinals enter the game with an 8-3 record in primetime games under Bruce Arians. After going 5-0 in such affairs last season, so far this year Arizona is 1-1.
– Since moving to Arizona, the Cardinals are 0-5 against the Jets. As a franchise, the last time the Cardinals beat the Jets came in 1975.
– With one catch Monday night, Larry Fitzgerald would have a reception in 185 consecutive games, tying Terrell Owens for the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.
– If he notches at least 105 yards from scrimmage, David Johnson would become the first player in franchise history with 800 or more yards of scrimmage in the first six games of a season.
– With one sack, linebacker Markus Golden would become the first player in franchise history with seven sacks in the first six games of a season. It would also give him one in each of the team’s first six games, which would represent the second-longest sack streak in franchise history.
– Chandler Jones, formerly of the New England Patriots, has six career sacks against the Jets.
– Patrick Peterson is one pick away from having 20 in his career.
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