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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Michael Bidwill
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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 be 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.
Tags: Buddy Morris, coaching staff, John Estes
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Freddie Kitchens, Jason Licht, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt, Titans, Todd Bowles
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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.
Tags: coaching staff, Freddie Kitchens, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt, Todd Bowles
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So far, Todd Bowles is scheduled to interview for a pair of head coaching jobs: With the Browns Friday and then with the Minnesota Vikings sometime next week. Does that mean Bowles is leaving as Cardinals’ defensive coordinator? Of course not. Last year at this time, DC Ray Horton was set up for three head coaching interviews — Cleveland, Buffalo and Arizona — and as we all know, Horton was still the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator when Bruce Arians decided to let him leave so he could be the DC in Cleveland and Arians could hire Bowles.
We’ll see how this turns out. Bowles fulfills the minority requirement of the Rooney Rule. Not that he isn’t a legitimate candidate, but that’s a possibility too. The Houston job (Bill O’Brien) and Tampa job (Lovie Smith) are now filled, so the only openings left are Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota and Washington. It’s also hard to get a sense about what candidates are in play since many of the playoff teams will have assistants up for jobs when their seasons end.
(On a side note, so Horton doesn’t get the Cleveland job last year but goes to the Browns to be DC. Now that job is open again and I can’t think Horton would be thrilled if he was kept under contract when Bowles — the man who replaced him — then got the head Browns gig.)
I don’t know exactly what Bruce Arians, who has made clear his hope that Bowles someday becomes a head coach, would do if Bowles left. I’m not sure there is an automatic candidate on the staff already. But that’s a long way off. It still seems likely to me Bowles will be around for another year as defensive coordinator. Certainly, the Cards would like that to happen.
Tags: Browns, coaching staff, Todd Bowles, Vikings
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MMQB.com published a interesting read this morning about how Bruce Arians and his staff may have done the best coaching job in the NFL this season. The piece, well worthy of a read, details a couple of plays on offense and defense as to how the staff has done a good job utilizing the Cardinals’ strengths. And it makes a lot of sense.
It’s been notable the Cardinals have tried fewer deep plays as the season has gone on because, quite frankly, the protection wasn’t able to hold up well enough in those situations. Arians has done a nice job diversifying the passing game. It means that someone like Larry Fitzgerald might not get as many catches as many would like, but it may help more in the long-run.
There is also no question that the coaching on the offensive line — led by offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, along with assistants Larry Zierlein and David Diaz-Infante — has made a big difference on that unit. The Cards have done a better job scheming protection as the season as gone on, but the more intimate coaching situation helps. When Arians was hired, he said one of the reasons he wanted so many coaches was to, essentially, keep class sizes down for the players (those of you who are or who know teachers know what I am talking about). Teaching matters to Arians. It seems to be paying off.
A couple of other interesting points in the article:
– Author Andy Benoit said he thinks Fitzgerald’s shift to multiple positions helps, even if Fitz’s numbers have shrunk. “The 30-year-old is just beginning what will prove to be a career-extending renaissance” Benoit writes. (Now, whether that can line up with an $18 million salary cap number, well, that’s one of the big questions of the offseason.)
– He called Andre Ellington a future superstar (and made sure to emphasize that he meant superstar and not just star.)
– He noted that Patrick Peterson’s ability to cover main receivers one-on-one with no help creates freedom for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in Bowles’ quality scheming.
As the season comes to a close, the staff has a lot of pressure. Bowles has to handle a couple of physical offenses without key cog Tyrann Mathieu (and maybe without starting safety Rashad Johnson), for instance. And that offensive line that has been doing well enough now has to face a pair of incredible defensive lines. But the Cardinals likely wouldn’t be in this 9-5 position without the chess moves of Arians’ group.
– Arians said during his weekly segment on Sirius XM NFL Radio last night that Fitzgerald will not practice today, but that he remains hopeful that Fitzgerald will be able to play Sunday following his concussion. I saw Fitzgerald yesterday afternoon as he came out to take part in Darnell Dockett’s annual Christmas outing for needy kids. I didn’t speak to Fitz other than to say hi, but I can definitely see how this will have to play out as the week goes along. I don’t expect anything definitive on Fitzgerald before Friday, and even then I wouldn’t be shocked to hear it would be a game-day decision. That’s what happened to Kurt Warner in 2009 in Tennessee, when the decision on game day was to hold Warner out.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, coaching staff, David Diaz-Infante, Harold Goodwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Zierlein, Todd Bowles
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The Cardinals have a handful of coaching interns on hand to help them through the offseason and training camp. One of the faces is very familiar — former Cards running back Marcel Shipp.
“It’s weird,” Shipp said after a recent workout. “Just being out here, it felt like I’m hurt and just not practicing.”
It’s been a while since he’s practiced as a Cardinal. Shipp made the team back in 2001 as an undrafted rookie out of UMass. He outplayed Thomas Jones early on, and just when Jones was dumped and Shipp thought he was going to get his chance, Emmitt Smith was signed. Then after 2003, when Smith was hurt all year and Shipp played pretty well, Denny Green came in in 2004 and dropped the post-offseason work bomb on Shipp that — despite Shipp running first team all offseason — Smith was indeed the starter. Oh, and to add injury to insult, Shipp suffered his ugly broken ankle/leg during the Red-White Scrimmage in training camp, ending his season. (I still have the photo of Shipp lying in pain with teammates trying to help him, his foot at an angle it should never be for a human being.)
That’s ancient history now, though. Shipp actually stayed with the Cardinals through training camp of 2008 before being released, and after a brief camp stop with the Houston Texans, moved on to an effective stint in the UFL from 2009-2011 with the Las Vegas franchise. In 2012, he was the running backs coach for Vegas until the UFL finally went under. But it gave Shipp the coaching bug.
“I always thought about it,” said Shipp, who often works youth football camps, including some through the Cardinals. “The opportunity on the professional level, though, you can’t put that into words.”
There was a small connection with Bruce Arians too, since both Arians and Shipp were born in Paterson, N.J. With the Cards, he’s working with the wide receivers.
“I’m just blessed to be back in, especially with the Cardinals,” Shipp said.
With Shipp around in coaching (for now), Josh Scobey working in the team’s personnel department and Damien Anderson the team’s Alumni Relations Manager, it’s like the Cards are getting the running backs room, circa 2004, back together. No word on whether Emmitt is on the way.
Tags: coaching staff, Marcel Shipp
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On a day where most of the NFL was just starting their offseason work (and on a day when football seems a little trivial given the tragic events at the Boston Marathon), the Cardinals were entering Phase II of the offseason schedule thanks to their new coaching staff. That meant on-field work for about an hour today with coaches. The main restriction is no offense-versus-defense work, which meant once the defensive players finished with their various position drills and gathered as a group, they were limited to lining up against trash cans to walk through various defensive calls without much else to do. The offense didn’t get to do a ton more, but at least there were snaps and handoffs and passes, even if it was against air.
The most noticeable thing on this initial day of coach/player work on the field: The tangible evidence of the larger coaching staff. When players are working with individual units, they had smaller groups thanks to the extra coaches. That was Head Coach Bruce Arians’ plan all along (and there is Arians below checking out his team). Arians wanted more coaches so that it was easier to teach (and with my wife being a teacher, I understand the desire for smaller class sizes). That extended on to the field when assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein worked with the edge blockers (tight ends and tackles) while offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin worked with the centers and guards. Or linebackers coach Mike Caldwell working the inside linebackers with outside linebackers coach James Bettcher working with that group.
The crowd was also good. This is all voluntary remember — including next week’s minicamp — but the Cardinals had almost everyone on hand. A story on the homepage and a photo gallery coming later today.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, Larry Zierlein, Mike Caldwell, offseason
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The Cardinals finally released a list of their new coaching staff Tuesday. They had already announced, after the hiring of head coach Bruce Arians, the addition of assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Now comes 13 new names, along with keeping four holdover coaches:
– Special teams coordinator: Amos Jones (last job, special teams coach, Pittsburgh Steelers)
– Quarterbacks: Freddie Kitchens
– Wide receivers: Darryl Drake (receivers coach, Chicago Bears)
– Running backs: Stump Mitchell (head coach, Southern University)
– Tight ends: Rick Christophel (head coach, Austin Peay)
– Assistant tight ends, assistant special teams: Steve Heiden (tight ends coach, Concordia University)
– Assistant offensive line: Larry Zierlein (OL coach, Hartford of UFL; was Steelers’ OL coach from’07-’09)
– Defensive line: Brentson Buckner (intern DL coach, Steelers, 2010-12)
– Pass rush: Tom Pratt (consultant, IMG Academy)
– Linebackers: Mike Caldwell (linebackers coach, Philadelphia Eagles)
– Outside linebackers: James Bettcher (special assistant to head coach, Indianapolis Colts)
– Defensive backs: Nick Rapone (defensive coordinator, University of Deleware)
– Cornerbacks: Kevin Ross (safeties coach, Oakland Raiders)
– Defensive assistant/assistant defensive backs: Ryan Slowik
– Offensive assistant: Kevin Garver (offensive assistant, University of Alabama)
– Strength and conditioning: John Lott
– Assistant strength and conditioning: Pete Alosi
An interesting note: the offensive line doesn’t have a offensive line coach per se. Duties teaching the line will be split between Zierlein, Moore and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who has spent his coaching career as an offensive line coach.
Kitchens had been coaching tight ends under Ken Whisenhunt, but moves to quarterbacks, a position Kitchens played in college. Slowik was outside linebackers coach on the last staff, and of course, Lott and Alosi remain in their former jobs. The staff of 21 is four more coaches than was on Whisenhunt’s staff. Arians said he preferred to have extra coaches on staff, and said he likes the diversity of experience and youth. The group moved into offices and began their meetings today. More in a bit on azcardinals.com, including more background on the new group. (And here it is.)
Tags: Amos Jones, Brentson Buckner, Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Darryl Drake, Freddie Kitchens, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, John Lott, Kevin Garver, Kevin Ross, Larry Zierlein, Mike Caldwell, Nick Rapone, offensive line, Pete Alosi, Rick Christophel, Ryan Slowik, Steve Heiden, Stump Mitchell, Todd Bowles, Tom Moore, Tom Pratt
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The Cardinals still have not officially announced their full coaching staff, past the the three top assistants. Usually the team likes to wait until everything is finalized with everyone before putting out the full list, as opposed to putting it all out piecemeal. But that doesn’t mean word hasn’t gotten out here and there as coaches are at the Senior Bowl or talk to hometown newspapers or the like. So, from that, here are the names circulating in various spots:
– Wide receivers: Darryl Drake, long-time receivers coach for the Bears;
– Running back: Todd McNair, former USC running backs coach who played in the NFL and for Arians at Temple;
– Tight ends: Rick Christophel, who had been head coach at Austin Peay;
– Defensive line: Brentson Buckner, a former 12-year defensive lineman in the NFL in his first NFL job (he interned with the Steelers from 2010 to 2012, and Arians was there a couple of those years);
– Linebackers: Mike Caldwell, who had been on the Eagles’ staff with new DC Todd Bowles and played for the Cardinals in 1997;
– Pass rush: Tom Pratt, who has been working with potential draftees at IMG in recent years;
– Defensive backs: Nick Rapone, who had been DC at the University of Deleware and coached with Arians at Temple;
– Special teams: Amos Jones, who worked with Arians in Pittsburgh;
– Offensive quality control: Kevin Garver, formerly of Alabama.
There is also holdover coach Freddie Kitchens, who was coaching tight ends but now is expected to coach quarterbacks. Kitchens played quarterback at Alabama and was a senior starter there when Arians was offensive coordinator in 1997. There are other spots still open, too, obviously, as we wait for official word.
Tags: Amos Jones, Brentson Buckner, coaching staff, Darryl Drake, Freddie Kitchens, Kevin Garver, Mike Caldwell, Nick Rapone, Rick Christophel, Todd McNair, Tom Pratt
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