The New York Jets are finally visiting University of Phoenix Stadium, in the building’s 11th season. The last time the Jets were in Arizona was 2004, and there is only one person in the locker room — player- or coach-wise — who remembers. Larry Fitzgerald rattled off a couple of details, including the fact Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma led the “J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets” chant at Sun Devil Stadium.
“We’ve got some things we have to change about the culture,” Fitzgerald said he remembered thinking.
The culture has changed. The Jets come into town for Monday’s game and their head coach is actually from the Cardinals. Todd Bowles has a team struggling at 1-4, and he won’t find a stadium quite as inviting as the Jets did back in ’04. (Such an ugly game, too. Shaun King started at QB for the Cards and was bad. Josh McCown came in in relief but couldn’t rescue a 13-3 loss. Denny Green turned to — of course! — rookie seventh-round pick John Navarre the next week in Detroit. That didn’t go well either.)
This one needs to end with a lot happier ending for the Cardinals. A chance at .500 awaits.
— When Bowles was hired by Bruce Arians in 2013, Arians said he was hoping Bowles would groom his DC successor because Bowles would hopefully be getting a head coaching job soon. It took Bowles two seasons, and in fact, the new defensive coordinator did come within the staff when James Bettcher was hired. So, Bettcher was asked, did Bowles groom you?
“As a position coach you are trying to do your job the best you can, because one thing about coaching, if you don’t do a great job with the job you’ve got, the next thing doesn’t come,” said Bettcher, who had been outside linebackers coach. “Todd was great about explaining the whys — here’s why I’m doing this, here’s why I think this way. I had the office right across from his, so I had the opportunity to walk in and ask, ‘Why do you see it this way.’ Not questioning what he is doing, but to understand what he is thinking.”
— The Cardinals remain the only team not to score in the first quarter this season. Arians has tired of the subject. “I’ll just take a win,” Arians said. “I don’t really care anymore.”
That doesn’t mean the message as disappeared. “Trust me, we’re harping on it,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “And trust me, they are feeling the pressure.”
— Along those lines, Arians continues to script his top 30 plays, the best the Cardinals have each week. Red-zone and short-yardage also get scripted. “You could do it, bro,” Arians said to a reporter, noting that they are already picked. In fact, Fitzgerald mentioned that the scripted plays are good — the players need to execute them.
— Fitzgerald weighed in on the issues teammate and fellow wide receiver Michael Floyd is having. “Mike’s fine. Mike’s fine,” Fitzgerald said. “We saw what he was able to do last year. It just takes one big plas to spark him. As a teammate, you just remind him how important he is to the offense.”
Arians has been doing the same thing, while trying to get Floyd to take too much thinking out of his game. The Cardinals will keep throwing Floyd’s way, Arians has repeatedly said.
“It’s just like lining up for a four-foot putt after missing five of them,” Arians said. “You don’t really feel good about the next one but you’ve got to make it.”
— Fitzgerald is rated as the top wide receiver in the NFL at this point by Pro Football Focus. His numbers are good — 31 catches, 361 yards, five touchdowns — but they are great in a passing offense that isn’t what it was a season ago (at least, not yet.) Fitz, however, shrugged off his personal start.
“I don’t care how we win,” Fitzgerald said. “At this stage in my career, if David Johnson runs for 160 yards every week and we win, I’m good. I’m good, man. And I think everybody else feels the same way.”
— Speaking of running, Goodwin doesn’t call the plays. But make no mistake, he’ll let Arians know what he thinks. And he’s also made no secret he’s of a more conservative bent when it comes to play selection.
“I’m always going to say run it, run it, run it, run it, run it,” Goodwin said. “But we pay guys to catch balls too, so we have to be nice to them.”
Goodwin said with a smile he was definitely in Arians’ ear in San Francisco, urging the ground game. “One of these times, he’s probably going to tell me shut the hell up.”
— In case you missed it, red-hot Markus Golden (six sacks) is all about setting an example for his family.
— Terrible news Saturday that former Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves, who played with the team in 2012, died in his sleep at the age of 32. Groves was a good guy. Had a giant chain with a huge lock in his locker, meant to represent his family sticking together. He was a key figure in that crazy 2012 upset of the Patriots in New England, blocking a punt and sacking Tom Brady. Rest in peace.
— Bowles, on the difference between Arians now and Arians as 30-year-old head coach at Temple back in the day: “At Temple, he probably was fiery every second,” Bowles said. “Now, he probably can go every five minutes.”
Might be a little more often than that Monday night. This is a big one for B.A.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, Jets, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Quentin Groves, Todd Bowles
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