Cards add Moore, Goodwin, Bowles to staff

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2013 – 3:06 pm

The Cardinals officially announced Monday the additions of the three main new coaches to Bruce Arians’ staff: offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Tom Moore, the assistant head coach/offense. The addition of Bowles and Goodwin I’ve covered before. Hopefully we’ll hear from Arians soon about his choice. While I understand there are still a lot of questions over going from Ray Horton to Bowles, that too was explained in simple terms by Arians. Now we see how this plays out.

But the addition of Moore is a big deal. Moore had stepped away from the game for health reasons — he did serve as a consultant for the Titans for five games at the end of the 2012 season and consulted for the Jets in 2011 — but he wanted to get back into coaching this year. The Cardinals benefit. Moore was the guru who brought along a young Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. That, along with Arians himself, give the Cardinals a good base with whatever young quarterback they choose to bring along. Between the two of them (below, talking before a Colts-Titans game last season), that’s a good start for any young quarterback.

Now, would the quarterback be Kevin Kolb? Maybe. It would seem very likely a quarterback is drafted this year. Sitting here right now, I don’t see it in the first round and seventh overall, but second round, that makes sense. Jason Cole noted Arians was at the Senior Bowl practice of the North team Monday, a team that features quarterbacks Mike Glennon of North Carolina State, Ryan Nassib of Syracuse and Zac Dysert of Miami (Ohio.)

As for the rest of the staff, I believe most of the decisions — if not all — have been made but the announcements will filter out as the logistics work out.


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Fitz is Man of the Year finalist

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2013 – 6:12 pm

With the Super Bowl a couple of weeks away, the NFL announced Sunday the finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, including Larry Fitzgerald. The other two finalists are Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. The NFL Man of the Year award is announced Feb. 2, the night before the Super Bowl, during a nationally televised awards show on CBS. We already knew Fitz was the Cards’ Man of the Year (with that award presented to him by team president Michael Bidwill, pictured below.)

The Cardinals’ Kurt Warner won it the year the Cardinals played in the Super Bowl. The award recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well his playing excellence. Finalists for the award received $5,000 for their charity of choice from NFL Charities. The winner receives a $25,000 donation.

The selection panel for the award is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Walter Payton’s wife Connie, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk of the Ravens, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.

Fitzgerald has increased his profile in charity work as his NFL career has progressed. The Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund provides funds for positive activities for kids during the summer and throughout the year, with programs in Arizona, Minneapolis (his home city) and Chicago (where his family is from). He works with the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund, established in honor of his late mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2003. That focuses on issues Fitz’s mother crusaded for, including HIV/AIDS education and the fight against breast cancer. Fitzgerald has also traveled the world extensively and often turned those trips in charity work, such as missions in Africa. In July, he flew to Uganda to assist President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea fit hearing aids for those in need.


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Niners win puts Washington in the Pro Bowl

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2013 – 4:07 pm

When the Pro Bowl teams were announced at the end of the regular season, linebacker Daryl Washington admittedly was disappointed he wasn’t chosen. Today, he ended up going to Hawaii anyway.

With the 49ers winning the NFC Championship and going to the Super Bowl, Washington officially was elevated to the Pro Bowl roster as a replacement for 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman. It was Bowman and fellow 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis with whom Washington battled all season as a potential Pro Bowler. Now, Washington gets his first shot in his third season.

Washington is the first Cardinals linebacker to make the Pro Bowl since Seth Joyner did it back in 1994. He’s the first Cards’ inside linebacker to get to the Pro Bowl since E.J. Junior in 1985. Washington had 140 tackles this season — 110 of them of the solo variety — with nine sacks, 14 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one interception, a fumble recovery and six passes defensed.

The Pro Bowl will be televised on NBC a week from today, at 5 p.m. Arizona time. Washington joins teammate Patrick Peterson as the lone Cardinals in the Pro Bowl.


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Staff starts coming together

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2013 – 11:10 pm

There have been no official announcements yet from the Cardinals about additions and changes to the coaching staff, but multiple reports from many places have noted that new head coach Bruce Arians — who said Friday he was hoping to have his staff set by Sunday — is starting to do just that.

To the surprise of no one, former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is the pick for Ray Horton’s replacement as defensive coordinator. Bowles took over in Philly for the fired Juan Castillo last year as the Eagles season went from bad to worse. Bowles played for Arians at Temple and later played for the Redskins and 49ers. Here’s an interesting coincidence too — Bowles was interviewed for the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator job in 2011, the spot that eventually went to Horton. He worked as the assistant head coach and interim head coach while in Miami, but his part-season stint in Philly this season was his first as a coordinator.

For offensive coordinator, Arians will go back to his Colts’ ties to bring in Harold Goodwin, who was the offensive line coach in Indianapolis. Arians already said he will call his own plays. But having Goodwin on staff — along with whomever is the going to be the offensive line coach — will give the Cards extra eyes on a unit that needs to improve. Arians already said he is a big believer in technique on the line. Goodwin’s brother, Jonathan, is an offensive lineman for the 49ers.

(It may be worth noting, after a lot of talk of late that after the head coaching hires around the league did not include a minority, both Cardinals’ coordinators will be African-American.)

The Cardinals do need a lot more spots filled. It looks like Arians will move on from the bulk of the holdover coaches. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer joined former boss Ken Whisenhunt with the Chargers Saturday (Whiz was named offensive coordinator and the Chargers hired Frank Reich, who was just the Cards’ receivers coach, as the quarterbacks coach).  The Cards reportedly only are keeping tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens — Kitchens played quarterback in college for Arians when Arians was the offensive coordinator in 1997 for Alabama — and strength coach John Lott. That would mean moving on from defensive line coach Ron Aiken, linebackers coaches Matt Raich and Ryan Slowik and defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi.

Again, there have been no official announcements yet. Whether the staff is all in place by tomorrow is in question, but as coaches and scouts head to Mobile next week for the Senior Bowl work, it seems that Arians will have a good chunk of his work done (and Mobile is often a place where coaches can interview prospective candidates, too.)


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The search for a coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2013 – 12:04 am

The dinner was at Tarbell’s on Camelback Road on Wednesday night, a prelude to a formal Thursday interview with potential head coach Bruce Arians. But Michael Bidwill felt that night — as the conversation turned, as much as they tried not to, to hardcore football.

“He’s a great teacher,” Bidwill said, “and he didn’t need a chalkboard to communicate what he wanted to do.”

That was the night Bidwill was convinced Arians was going to be the right pick to be the Cardinals’ next head coach. General manager Steve Keim wouldn’t go that far, but the vibe was good, he said, and that carried over to the next day’s talk — a long day that eventually ended up with Arians accepting the job in the early evening.

“It was very similar to when I decided what college I went to,” said Keim, the former offensive lineman from North Carolina State. “I remember having just the right feel.”

Bidwill said the Cardinals interviewed a total of “close to 10 candidates.” Not all were known publicly and at least one was on the college level, Bidwill added. Arians was a target from the start, Keim said. Why did it take so long to talk to him? Keim said there were others the Cards wanted to get to first — Andy Reid and Mike McCoy were named the day the Cards fired Ken Whisenhunt — and Arians was also in the playoffs with the Colts. Then Arians came down with the serious ear infection that not only kept him from the Indianapolis playoff game but for a couple of days after, and then Arians also committed to interviewing with the Bears (a job for which Arians was the runner-up to Marc Trestman.)

But Keim said he had been talking with Arians’ agent, Mike Brown, from the time Whisenhunt was relieved of his duties. “We knew at some point we’d have a chance to get in front of Bruce,” Keim said.

The exact details of how the coaching decision was made was, obviously, kept close to the vest by the power structure (Bidwill said director of player personnel Jason Licht and brother Tim Bidwill joined Keim and himself on the coaching interviews.)

“One thing through this process I have learned is the amount of misinformation,” Keim said. “You guys (in the media) have a tough job, because a lot of times, you’re chasing ghosts.

“We stayed the course. We had several guys we wanted to talk to, but once we talked to Bruce, we knew he was our guy.”



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Changing of the (defensive) guard

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2013 – 4:17 pm

Bruce Arians had coached with Ray Horton in Pittsburgh. He called Horton a “dear friend” during his press conference Friday. But by then, it was also clear that the mass of reports leading up to the press conference that Horton would indeed be moving on from being Cardinals defensive coordinator. Arians deftly and succinctly handled the question of why he would want to do that — because the question everyone had was why move on from a coordinator who had had so much success?

It was, in the end, simple for Arians. It was about one direction in the locker room.

“I had talked with Michael (Bidwill) when I got here about that (Horton) situation and I didn’t feel like, at this point and time, that’s where I wanted to go,” Arians said. “We talked about it at length, and like I said, I’ve got all the respect in the world for Ray. We worked together in Pittsburgh. We were together with a Super Bowl team. He’s done a great job here. For my first time (as a head coach), this is the direction that I feel very strongly about.

“I wish him the best. Like I said, he’s going to be a head coach. It needed to be a football team that was directed by me. Anytime there’s carryover, we don’t want guys being able to go somewhere else to voice their opinion. I didn’t want to put Ray in that situation. That’s not fair to him. If a guy’s has got a gripe or a concern, come to me, and that’s just the way we’re going to do business.”

Horton didn’t last long on the market; Within an hour of the end of Arians’ press conference, the Browns — who interviewed Horton for their head coaching job but went with Rob Chudzinski instead — hired Horton as DC with a reportedly hefty four-year, $8 million contract. Arians’ new bosses, general manager Steve Keim and president Michael Bidwill, made clear they wanted to support their new coach.

“We talked it through and when you look at it, we have great confidence in what (Arians) has done, last year and through out his career,” Bidwill said. “Ray made some tremendous contributions to the Cardinals and we wish him well. We have tremendous talent on our defense and we expect our defense to continue to be very good.”

Said Keim, “Any time you hire a new head coach, you want to give him a chance to succeed. If he thinks his best opportunity is by making changes on his coaching staff, I think you have to support him.”

Arians didn’t name his new DC yet, but all signs point to Todd Bowles, who as of right now technically remains with the Eagles. Bowles played for Arians at Temple in the 1980s and later coached with Arians in Cleveland. Arians wouldn’t talk about Bowles as a potential Cardinals’ coach — yet — but it was clear Bowles makes sense as a candidate.

“He’s very dear to me, one of my captains at Temple, has a bunch of Super Bowl rings as a player, and is a good football coach,” Arians said.

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Arians’ former bosses speak about new Cards coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2013 – 11:41 am

The Indianapolis Colts released statements today from general manager Ryan Grigson — brother of Cardinals scout Dru Grigson — and head coach Chuck Pagano as their offensive coordinator Bruce Arians embarks on his new career as Cardinals head coach.

General Manager Ryan Grigson

“We congratulate Bruce on this great opportunity with the Arizona Cardinals. The exceptional job he did this past season in keeping this team focused, combined with his long record of accomplishment, made him a very attractive candidate for a head coaching position and we congratulate the Cardinals on their good judgment in selecting him. BA did a remarkable job last season, filling in for his friend and head coach in a time of need. Without BA’s selflessness, leadership, football acumen, and competitive spirit, we couldn’t have had the season we did. We surely will miss BA’s presence as a coach and a friend but we’re delighted for him and we wish Bruce, Chris, and their entire family nothing but the best as they embark on their new journey.”

Head Coach Chuck Pagano

“We are excited for Bruce, Chris, and his entire family. This is an opportunity of a life time and I know he will do a great job. Arizona hired a great coach but a better man. What he did in my absence was truly remarkable. I am forever in debt to Bruce. He is and always will be a great friend and I wish him nothing but the best as he begins this new chapter in his life.”


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The night Arians was named coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2013 – 10:30 pm

Before I power down for the evening — the Arians news continues again tomorrow with the 1 p.m. press conference, with some behind-the-scenes stuff on too — a few thoughts on the newest Cardinals’ head coach.

It feels like a good move for the Cardinals. This is a guy who many thought would be a hot candidate for a head coaching job and who was close to getting the Bears job. He’s about a vertical passing game — one of the reasons he reportedly lost his offensive coordinator job in Pittsburgh was because he passed too much. I do think, with Steve Keim as general manager, the offensive line and run game will be made a priority. That part of the offense has to get better. It has to get better in general, and it has to get better to ease the pressure on a passing offense that — at this point — can’t shoulder such a burden.

I’d think Larry Fitzgerald is a big winner here, assuming that consistent quarterback play can be found. I really have no doubt that the bottoming out of the quarterback position won’t be repeated. Will the franchise quarterback be found this season? No way to know, but given the draft class, it might not be possible. But I do think the offense will get better. But the proof will be on the field in September, October, etc.

As for the defense, there’s a lot to settle. There are a lot of reports about defensive coordinator Ray Horton, about him being upset he didn’t get the head coaching job, about him wanting out, about the Cards replacing him. Here’s all that I know as I type this: He’s still under contract, he’s still employed by the Cards. (And the reported replacement, Todd Bowles, is still under contract for the Eagles.) Could there be a change? There is always that possibility when a head coaching change happens. Anyone assuming that something was set in stone — how many times in the last three weeks has something been put out there, nationally, and have it turn out to be untrue? — is wrong because these are all fluid situations.

Losing Horton doesn’t sound appealing. I get that. I do know this, that for those who suggested on Twitter that there would be a player revolt, I don’t see it. Some players might not be happy. Others might embrace a change. But players know coaches come and go. That’s the business.

We’ll see how the staff shapes up. If Horton isn’t coming back, the other defensive coaches may be moving on too. I’d think special teams coach Kevin Spencer could be OK, since he coached with Arians in Pittsburgh. Strength coach John Lott could be OK. It was a little strange when tight end coach Freddie Kitchens was the lone offensive coach retained, but look at this — Arians was the offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama in 1997, the same year Kitchens, then a senior, was quarterbacking the Crimson Tide. So there is a tie there.

There will be much more tomorrow. So I’m going to get some sleep now.


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Arians thinks Cards give him “heck of a feeling”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2013 – 2:07 pm

Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is interviewing with the Cardinals today, and as has been custom to candidates who have come to Tempe, he met with the media this afternoon. He’s wanted to become a head coach for a long time and admitted he isn’t sure why he hasn’t garnered more interest before now, but he’s taking advantage of his visits. The Bears, during Marc Trestman’s press conference today, acknowledged Arians was the runner-up for that job. The Cards are the lone job left open, and Arians is the latest candidate — following Ray Horton, Jay Gruden, Todd Haley, and Darrell Bevell of the known guys left available.

He just went through an emotional season with the Colts, making the playoffs and serving as interim head coach as Chuck Pagano went through leukemia treatments. He admitted it wouldn’t be easy to leave Indianapolis. “I told my agent early, when he was setting up interviews, ‘I’m going to have to have a heck of a feeling about that organization, owner, general manager, team, to leave where I am right now,’ ” Arians said.

So someone asked the obvious: Does he have that feeling in Arizona?

“Yes I do,” he said.

— Arians said he couldn’t really comment on what would happen with defensive coordinator Ray Horton or any assistant still under contract if he got the job. “It’s too early in the process,” he said.

— He said he would hire an offensive coordinator if he were head coach. But he said he would call the plays himself until he found someone who could do it better. Not a surprise. That’s what Ken Whisenhunt did when he first arrived in Arizona. He said, doing it with the Colts, “it’s easy. There are plenty of hours in the day.”

— A team is always looking for a good quarterback. You try and find that. But until you do, Arians said you have to coach up the players in front of you and “make them better.”

— He’s had to learn how to delegate, when serving as interim HC for the Colts.

Being a head coach, “it’s not as hard as it’s supposed to be.”

We’ll see if that means he will get a chance in Arizona. I don’t know who is the favorite, so please don’t ask. Nor do I know when this is going to be resolved. Obviously, with Jacksonville hiring Gus Bradley Thursday morning, the Cards have the only remaining head coaching vacancy. I have a full Arians story on the homepage.


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Former Cardinal finds way into Te’o mystery

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2013 – 7:49 am

So, unless you’ve been under a rock, you know by now about the crazy story about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and the story of his dead girlfriend, which turned out to be a hoax. (And if you haven’t read Deadspin’s excellent report, here you go.) There wasn’t much yesterday that was going to knock Lance Armstrong and Chip Kelly off the national stage, but the Te’o story did it.

Unbelievably, at least from this corner of the sports world, the Cardinals have a tie to the story. Last night, ESPN tracked down former Cardinals fullback Regan Maui’a and Maui’a said he had actually met the girl. The girl that Te’o, Deadspin and Notre Dame all acknowledge didn’t exist. Um, OK.

From ESPN’s story, Maui’a said he thought she existed because he met her in person doing charity work in American Samoa in June, 2011, with, among other people, Steelers safety Troy Polomalu. (ESPN is calling Maui’a “Cardinals fullback” and while Maui’a has been back quite a few times, he isn’t on the roster right now.)

“This was before her and Manti,” Maui’a said. “I don’t think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was — I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.”

Wow. You can peel the layers of this onion for a long time.

This isn’t going away anytime soon. Everyone is going to be digging for more and more answers. I am surprised Notre Dame came out talking about it and backing Te’o so forcefully. We’ll see how it unravels.

As for as Te’o’s draft stock — he will be drafted in April — my guess is, no matter what his involvement, it won’t matter much. Will some teams red flag him? Sure. But as always, if he can play, someone will want him, and if he can play well, someone will want him early in the draft. That’s how this works.

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