ESPN’s Clayton: Arians and Bowles coaches of the year at halfway point

Nov 7, 2014, 4:00 AM | Updated: 4:00 am

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The Arizona Cardinals are sitting pretty at the season’s halfway-point, with the best record in the NFL at 7-1.

Most teams with a hot start like Arizona would be earning rave reviews for their standout players and MVP candidates. Although the Cardinals have had some great performances on the field, it’s the guys on the sidelines who are getting the most praise at this point.

In his midseason awards, ESPN writer John Clayton gives coach of the year to Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.

Coach: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals — Like Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, Arians established a winning formula for the Cardinals, and they have a great chance to be the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

In just his second season coaching the Cardinals, Arians has received positive reviews for his work with the team, already finishing fifth for NFL Coach of the Year award in 2013. But unlike last season, when the Cardinals finished just short of the playoffs, Arizona is in a great position to make noise in the postseason with a two-game lead in the NFC West and a one-game advantage in the conference.

One of the more impressive things about the job Arians has done is continue to win in spite of a rash of absences by key players. The Cardinals lost linebacker John Abraham, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and punter Dave Zastudil to season-ending injuries, and were without starting quarterback Carson Palmer for three games earlier in the season.

Arians is not the only Arizona coach earning praise from Clayton, with the writer choosing defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as his assistant coach of the year.

Assistant coach: Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Arizona Cardinals — Despite losing most of his starting linebackers, Bowles has devised an aggressive scheme that stuffs the run and blitzes the quarterback.

With many of the Arizona’s key injuries coming on the defensive side of the ball, Bowles has had an unenviable task of finding a way to stop opponents with seemingly lesser talent. Yet, the Cardinals still stand out with one of the best units in the league, ranking third in the NFL allowing 79.6 rushing yards per game, and fifth in scoring, giving up 19.5 points per game.

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ESPN’s Clayton: Arians and Bowles coaches of the year at halfway point