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“One of the young guys” will be defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2015 – 1:56 pm

The announcement won’t come until after the Super Bowl, Bruce Arians said Monday, but he knows who his defensive coordinator is going to be — and it’ll be, as expected, a in-house hire.

“The defensive coordinator will come off our staff,” Arians said during an appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” show. “It’ll be one of the young guys. And we’ll bring in some guys to help him.

“We’ll wait until the Super Bowl is over but we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.”

Looking at the “young guys” on the Cardinals’ staff — and young can be a moving target on a staff that features the 62-year-old Arians and a couple of coaches well into their 70s — the possibility of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher seems to fit the bill. Bettcher has long been highly thought of among the coaches he has worked for. (Along the “young” lines, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner would also qualify, but I’d think Bettcher would be the candidate.)

As for bringing in “some guys to help,” that could be anyone now that Dick LeBeau has passed up the chance to come to the Cardinals. But again, that’s been the thought this whole time, that the Cards would have a younger DC and have a mentor with him. It now just sounds like it’ll be a waiting game until next week — Monday maybe? — to get official word.

— Arians reiterated he hopes Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the Cardinals “for about three more years,” and that he again really likes the future potential of Logan Thomas. Arians added that Palmer is about a month ahead of schedule coming back from his ACL injury.

BAonESPN


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No DC yet, no LeBeau and Campbell surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2015 – 8:24 pm

Little NFL team business is going to be announced right now, since Super Bowl week is upon us and nobody wants to take the spotlight away from the league’s most important time. The Cardinals still have not made any announcements in terms of their defensive coordinator — it’s still expected to be an internal hire — but whatever role ex-Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau might have had, multiple reports say that collaboration isn’t going to happen. Given the idea that LeBeau didn’t want to be far away from family in Ohio, it’s not a surprise. What direction the Cardinals go now to fill their vacancies is yet to be determined, although the team has talked to more than just LeBeau outside of the team. (Not every name has emerged publicly.)

— Defensive end Calais Campbell said he will have to have surgery post-Pro Bowl to fix a sports hernia that was bothering him the last few weeks of the season. “It’s an easy recovery,” Campbell said.

— The Seahawks players who were named to the Pro Bowl but obviously aren’t playing — because of their game next week — were on hand at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night to be interviewed and announced to the crowd. The crowd, definitely pro-Cardinals here in the Valley, delivered a pretty good round of boos.

Pro Bowl Football


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The mystery of LeBeau’s availability

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2015 – 8:19 am

We take a break from all this talk about deflated footballs — and there is a lot of it — to mention that the Cardinals still do not have a defensive coordinator.

(Although that apparently doesn’t rank as something to note by some.)

No DC in itself isn’t a shock. Bruce Arians is at the Senior Bowl. Reportedly, he hasn’t yet had a chance to talk fully with Dick LeBeau about joining the Cardinals’ staff. But Gerry Dulac, a long-time Steelers beat writer who knows LeBeau well, took to Twitter (and later did an interview on Arizona Sports 98.7) to throw some cold water on the report LeBeau would be with the Cardinals as a linebackers coach.

Dulac has gone beyond that, saying he doubts LeBeau will want to come this far away from family in Ohio. That’s been the vibe coming out of Pittsburgh from the day the LeBeau-to-Cardinals rumor surfaced. One thing I did not know — I had heard LeBeau had family in Ohio, but I didn’t know it was his wife that lives there. That’s a bigger deal to me than if it was, for instance, his children and grandchildren.

Where this goes is a good question. There has long been the thought (even before LeBeau and the Steelers parted ways) that if Todd Bowles left Arians would go internal for the new DC. Would getting LeBeau mean enough to Arians make him the DC? As I have mentioned, other than LeBeau — who apparently is also drawing interest from Ken Whisenhunt in Tennessee (where the Titans already have Ray Horton as DC) — there has been a report the Cards also want to talk to Mike Nolan. The coaches’ offices in Tempe, meanwhile, remain quiet and dark. There’s a chance this whole situation could remain quiet until after the Super Bowl too.


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Nolan as potential Cardinals assistant

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2015 – 6:29 pm

This much is becoming clear: Bruce Arians is looking to have the same setup at the top of the Cardinals’ defensive food chain as he does on the offensive side of the ball.

Multiple reports Monday have the Cards looking to talk to Mike Nolan, the one-time 49ers head coach who has spent the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Again, like the possibility of Dick LeBeau, the idea would be that Nolan would be a defensive mentor to whomever Arians names as defensive coordinator — expected to be an in-house promotion — like the Cardinals have with current offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and Tom Moore, whose title is officially assistant head coach/offense.

I’d guess the first choice would still be LeBeau, who is also receiving interest (not surprisingly) from the Titans and their coach, Ken Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt tried to hire LeBeau as his defensive coordinator a few years ago when Whiz was coaching the Cardinals. Options will have to stay open. I have heard from a few wondering why Arians wouldn’t talk to recently bounced 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. I am not sure, but if the actual DC is not going to be a new hire, maybe that’s why. Fangio does have history with Arians, having coached together with the Colts for a couple of seasons back in 1999 and 2000. (UPDATE: Fangio is headed to the Bears.)

Arians did head out to the Senior Bowl; I’m not sure what the timeline will be to fill all these spots. If reports are true that inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell is also going to the Jets to be the assistant head coach for Todd Bowles, that’s another spot that has to be filled.

 Mike Nolan


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Bowles, the Falcons and LeBeau availability

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2015 – 9:50 am

Rex Ryan is the Bills coach, the Seahawks are favorites to return to the Super Bowl (and thus extend their season another three weeks) and now is the time when teams without head coaches begin to get a little antsy when it comes to their coaching vacancies. So it’s probably no surprise that, with Ryan choosing Buffalo, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has reportedly become the front-runner for the opening to coach the Atlanta Falcons.

Bowles was said to have had a good interview with the Falcons over the weekend. There are ties there to the man now charged to run the football side — Scott Pioli — since Pioli is Bill Parcells’ son-in-law and Bowles coached under Parcells in both Miami and Dallas. More importantly, Bowles is a defensive mind for a team that needs to upgrade on the defensive side. For Bowles, the Falcons’ job would have to be as attractive as any, given the softness of the divison (for now) and the fact he has a quarterback (Matt Ryan) in place. It’s not often you can walk into a head coaching job with a good QB already there; that’s usually why there is an opening in the first place.

We’ll see if that plays out. (The Falcons are not only getting Bowles for a second interview, but so are the Jets.)

But if it does, what then for the Cardinals? Bruce Arians has already said he has a plan in place if Bowles left. That was a plan put together before the startling news this weekend that Dick LeBeau was resigning as defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a move that initially sure gave off similar vibes as when the Steelers announced Bruce Arians was “re-fired” once upon a time. (In hindsight, B.A. loves that story.) As soon as the LeBeau story hit, the questions came: If Bowles leaves, does Arians — who worked with LeBeau all those years in Pittsburgh — replace Bowles with LeBeau?

There are a lot of things that go into this. LeBeau made it very clear he was resigning but not retiring. At 77, is LeBeau what Arians wants for his staff (although, obviously with Tom Pratt and Tom Moore, the age itself isn’t an issue). Does the Cards’ personnel fit what LeBeau would want to do? More importantly, how crucial did Arians see his previous moves to fill Bowles’ spot had Bowles’ left? (Was there a promotion coming in-house?)

It would be interesting, however, after how badly former coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to lure LeBeau to the Cardinals once upon a time (in 2011, back when Ray Horton ended up the choice), if LeBeau finally did make it to the Cards long after Whisenhunt was gone.

First, though, Bowles has to take a job elsewhere, which still isn’t a sure thing.

UPDATE: A report from Pittsburgh says Arians has already spoken to LeBeau about joining the Cardinals.

Todd Bowles


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“Black Monday” and inevitable coaching change

Posted by Darren Urban on December 30, 2014 – 10:20 am

Bruce Arians was asked about his thoughts of “Black Monday,” the day after the NFL regular season when a handful of coaches and GMs inevitably lose their jobs.

“You feel bad for them, but there’s only two kinds of coaches — those that are fired and those who are going to get fired,” Arians said.

The Cardinals went through it recently when Ken Whisenhunt and Rod Graves were let go, and that opened the door for the arrivals of Arians and Steve Keim. But even for the teams that don’t make changes, “Black Monday” represents the possibility of staff upheaval. Especially for the good teams who have assistants who are attractive head coaching candidates. For the Cardinals, that means defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Don’t forget, when Arians walked in the door and announced the hiring of both Bowles and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, he said at the time his whole goal was to get both of them head coaching jobs. So losing one (or both) at some point was at least portrayed as inevitable. Will Bowles go anywhere? We’ll see. He’s made it clear he won’t just take any job. Then again, there are only 32 NFL head coaching jobs and you only remain a “hot” candidate for so long. (Ask Russ Grimm.) He must also sort through the part of the equation where teams need to interview at least one minority candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule; Bowles has to figure out what may be a legitimate chance at a job and what might not be.

Reports have the 49ers, Jets and Falcons all wanting to interview Bowles. He cannot be interviewed until next week. Those teams asking permission to do so, by the way? That’s just a formality. The Cardinals cannot refuse permission for an assistant to be interviewed/take a head coaching job. And given that Arians has long talked about Bowles as a head coach, it only makes sense the Cardinals have a plan in place if Bowles leaves.

(No, I don’t know what it would be at this point.)

In the meantime, the Cardinals have a playoff game against Carolina. Arians, Bowles and crew are prepping for that, so there is no black cloud hovering around the Cards’ complex this week.

“Thank God it ain’t me this time,” Arians said, grinning. “It will be someday.”

BowlesBlogUSE


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Teachers plentiful for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on November 4, 2014 – 10:52 am

Ken Whisenhunt’s final coaching staff with the Cardinals numbered 17 members. With Bruce Arians, the number has ballooned to 24. It’s gone up just since Arians arrived, when he showed up in Tempe preaching how he wanted to teach and how he wanted his staff to be teachers as well. Arians’ theory is simple, and perhaps a given since Arians once thought he was going to get into middle school teaching and coaching: Smaller class sizes work. That goes in the NFL too, so why wouldn’t the offensive line benefit with three coaches (Harold Goodwin, Larry Zeirlein and David Diaz-Infante) instead of one. Why wouldn’t the defensive line need two coaches (Brentson Buckner, Tom Pratt), or there be a separate coach for inside (Mike Caldwell) and outside (James Bettcher) linebackers?

The Cardinals and president Michael Bidwill had to give the OK, of course, but Arians’ called it a “very easy sell.”

“Guys who have big position groups need more teachers,” Arians said. “I wish our school systems would take that approach.”

(I know my wife, who teaches high school down the street, agrees, as do many of her colleagues. But that’s something for another day, and probably another blog.)

“Michael has been great about it,” Arians added. “Rather than having one (coach) make this much money, give me three and let them make this much money. I’m not going to spend any more money, just give me more guys and we don’t care who’s sitting on whose desk in the office space.”

It has made for much more crowded football side of the team’s Tempe facility, but it’s worked. It’s not the only place things have changed with the organization. The personnel department has also grown in size, as has scouting. Heck, the building itself is growing, with new construction ongoing to enlarge the weight room, the cafeteria, the training/medical area and eventually, the locker room.

It’s hard to think anything other than that focused teaching has helped the Cardinals for the past year-and-a-half, that it’s helped a team overcome the kind of personnel losses this team has suffered, and keep playing at a high level.

CoachesBlogUSE

 


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Buddy Morris added as strength coach

Posted by Darren Urban on March 4, 2014 – 11:51 am

The Cardinals have hired Buddy Morris, who had just been hired at the University of Buffalo and who once worked with Bruce Arians when Arians was in Cleveland, to morris-20140116-0005-2be their new strength and conditioning coach. He replaces John Lott, who was fired last week. Morris’ time in Cleveland was from 2002-05, and he also spent three stints as the strength and conditioning coach of the University of Pittsburgh. (Interestingly, the man who replaced Morris for the Browns? John Lott.)

Morris has a lengthy and impressive résumé – this blog post gives some good detail into his thinking. For the moment, Pete Alosi remains the assistant strength and conditioning coach. The Cardinals officially begin their offseason conditioning program April 21, but some have already trickled in here and there. CBA rules prohibit any coaching right now, but once Morris arrives, he can at least introduce himself.

“I’m a fanatic on technique,” Morris recently told the Buffalo News. “I’m a fanatic on the little things. The game’s still a game of discipline and it starts in the weight room.”

— The Cardinals also signed center John Estes Tuesday. Estes had spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars (where new Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough was previously in the front office) before spending last season out of football.


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Keeping the staff together for 2014

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2014 – 9:45 am

There is often change this time of year for any coaching staff and front office. Coming off a 10-6 season, it wouldn’t have been surprising if anyone was poached from 8701 S. Hardy. But it sure looks like — barring something unforeseen — that the band will stay together for another season.

Bruce Arians already said he was hoping his coaching staff would stay intact. There were rumblings Alabama might want quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens for their offensive coordinator spot, but it was clear quickly Kitchens didn’t want to leave the NFL and the Tide went with Lane Kiffin. When Ken Whisenhunt was hired to be the Titans’ new head coach, there was a chance he might seek a reunion with Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott — but then came the news that the Titans would be retaining their own strength coach, Steve Watterson. (Now, some assistant coaches are sometimes retained in the wake of a head coaching change only to be let go soon after. That happened with the Cards just last season, when the defensive coaches were kept after Whisenhunt was fired, only to have them let go in the wake of the Bruce Arians hire.)

Vice president of player personnel Jason Licht has interviewed for the vacant general manager jobs in both Miami and Tampa Bay, but the Dolphins keep bringing in new candidates and the Bucs apparently are leaning elsewhere.

And of course, the biggest news for the Cardinals is that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will be sticking around. The Vikings hired Mike Zimmer to be their head coach, meaning Bowles wouldn’t be getting that job, and he had already withdrawn his name from consideration for the Browns’ vacant head coaching job. Having Bowles around for another season to build on a defense that ended up sixth in the NFL (and No. 1) against the run should put the Cardinals in good defensive shape for 2014. Continuity is always a good thing.

BowlesStaysUSE


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Kitchens report underscores staff could change

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2014 – 9:33 am

The day after the season ended, Bruce Arians was asked if he expected to have his entire coaching staff back in 2014.

“I hope so,” Arians said, before acknowledging the head coaching interviews defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was certain to get and later did.

Will Bowles stay? He talked with the Vikings and Browns, although the latest report is that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is the leading candidate in Minnesota and the Cleveland search is continuing with, among others, former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt — who had two interviews in Cleveland last year for the job before Rob Chudzinski was hired. Now comes a report that the University of Alabama, which lost offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to Michigan, could hire Cardinals quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens — a one-time Alabama quarterback — as the new OC. Alabama is interviewing former Raiders coach/USC coach Lane Kiffin for the post today.

It’s an interesting time as the coaching carousel spins. You never know — especially with a staff has big as the Cardinals have now — what other opportunities may change the landscape. For instance, if Whisenhunt gets a head coaching job, how many of his former staff would he try to bring in (and, in regard to the current Cardinals, might he try and get strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott?)  Other things could pop up from nowhere, like the Alabama opening and Kitchens’ potential chance there.

I do think Kitchens, who had an impressive comeback season after his near-death experience of the summer, would like to be an offensive coordinator. Whether Alabama will chase him or whether he would be willing to go back to the college game, I’m not sure. But it’s an intriguing situation.

UPDATE: Multiple reports say Kitchens won’t be going anywhere because he wants to stay in the NFL. But again, will Arians’ staff stay completely intact? We’ll see.

FreddieBlogUSE


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