David Johnson’s wrist is healed, with his strength and full range of motion having returned, and he’s anxious to play again given that he doesn’t even feel like he played football in 2017. And like everyone else, the running back is paying attention to the Cardinals’ current search for a head coach.
“I’m definitely staying aware but I don’t know what (GM) Steve Keim and (president) Mike Bidwill are thinking,” Johnson said on the PFT PM podcast. “I know they will get a coach that fits the team and is going to be ready to elevate this team and get us to that Super Bowl.”
Johnson touched on a few subjects, including the possibility of a new contract. The 2015 third-round pick has a year left on his rookie deal and now is finally eligible for an extension. The collective bargaining agreement prevents extensions for players on rookie deals until after their third season.
“I hope so,” Johnson said about talks for a new deal. “But I’m really focusing more on getting this injury (healed) and making sure I’m ready to play in 2018, that I am healthy as possible. Especially with so much going on in the offseason with the coaches and the quarterback and stuff, I can’t really focus too much on the contract talk.”
— On the subject of Larry Fitzgerald’s potential return, Johnson was blunt. “Larry is going to come back,” Johnson said. “He’s still playing at a high level.”
Johnson rattled off Fitz’s stats, including another year of more than 100 catches and more than 1,000 yards. “He’s gotta come back,” Johnson added. “He’s got to help us get us to that Super Bowl we’re trying to get.” Along those lines, Johnson had been hoping quarterback Carson Palmer wouldn’t retire and tried to “recruit him to come back.”
— Johnson said he was “hit hard” by the retirement of Bruce Arians, and that he believes he and Adrian Peterson “can really elevate each other’s game” if they play together this season.
— The running back said he has no idea who the quarterback will be, but that he has confidence in both Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton if one of them is the starting signal-caller.
— His injury and season on the sideline left him more grateful to play the game. “Football can end in the blink of an eye,” Johnson said. “So I feel more grateful to where I’ll do as much as I can to stay on that field as long as I can.”
Tags: coaching staff, contract, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald
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The Cardinals, Giants, Lions and Colts still have coaching vacancies, but this morning, the Titans added themselves to the list when they and coach Mike Mularkey agreed to part ways. The rules say coaches still in the postseason can only interview again next week if they had been interviewed once already, but Ian Rapoport tweeted that meant any coach who had been interviewed period, not just by the Titans. So they have a small window for the Super Bowl coaches. Obviously, by next week, there will be only two teams left playing.
Also Monday came a bunch of reports of coaches heading places, none official yet but certainly more strong than previously. With those reports, Pats DC Matt Patricia will coach the Lions, the Giants have Pat Shurmur as their frontrunner and the Colts would get Josh McDaniels. There have been no such reports on the Cards (or the Titans, obviously). Patricia and Shurmur were both on the Cards’ candidate list and it was reported that the Cards like Shurmur. It will be interesting to see if the Cards get any more clarity this week.
Tags: Budda Baker, Chandler Jones, coaching staff, Colts, Giants, Josh McDaniels, Lions, Matt Patricia, Pat Shurmur, Titans
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Michael Bidwill said he isn’t in any rush to hire a new coach, nor did he want to be. It’s not so much about going slow as much as not speeding into the wrong decision. Since I started covering the Cardinals full-time (at the time, the Tribune) back in 2000, this will be the fifth head-coaching hire. Vince Tobin was in place when I got the beat covering the team. He didn’t even last until mid-season before he was let go and Dave McGinnis was made interim boss. Here are the dates on which the hires of the four previous head coaches were official:
— McGinnis, Dec. 19, 2000 (He had the interim tag removed before season’s end.)
— Dennis Green, Jan. 7, 2004
— Ken Whisenhunt, Jan. 14, 2007
— Bruce Arians, Jan. 17, 2013
Every search is different, obviously. Of that list, only Arians was coming off a staff that had made the playoffs — and the Colts had lost Wild Card weekend — so they were all available fairly quickly. Of the current list of coaches the Cardinals have talked to, most (as of today) are still in the playoffs, and it’s possible the desired choice will remain in the postseason beyond this weekend. One interesting date to consider coming up: Senior Bowl week begins Jan. 22. Will there be Cardinals’ coaches there, or just scouts?
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Dave McGinnis, Dennis Green, Ken Whisenhunt, Michael Bidwill
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The Cardinals are basically going to be set up the same next season — OK, we wait for official word on what Larry Fitzgerald is going to do — because after almost all of the vacant head coaching jobs have been filled, Harold Goodwin remains in Arizona. The Cardinals’ offensive coordinator had three head coaching interviews, but those teams all went with other candidates: The Jaguars with Doug Marrone, the Bills with Sean McDermott, and the Rams with Sean McVay.
The move to McVay was an interesting one for the Rams. He’s 30, younger than current Cardinals players Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Frostee Rucker (McVay does turn 31 in a couple of weeks.) He’s an offensive guy, brought in to develop QB Jared Goff and that wretched Rams offense. He did, however, hire one of the best defensive coordinators around in Wade Phillips — a guy McVay can lean on with Phillips a one-time head coach, and certainly a guy who can make the Rams’ impressive defensive talent work. Phillips was excellent in his stint with the Broncos.
In the meantime, the one team without a new coach (and without a GM at this point) is the San Francisco 49ers. Cardinals vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough is scheduled to interview for the GM spot today, although the Niners will have as many as nine GM interviews completed by the time it’s all said and done. The rumor mill has the 49ers eventually hiring Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as coach, although we’ll see how it plays out — the Patriots seem likely to have a few weeks left in their season.
Tags: 49ers, Bills, coaching staff, Doug Marrone, Harold Goodwin, Jaguars, Rams, Sean McDermott, Sean McVay, Terry McDonough
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Former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich is the latest ex-player Bruce Arians has brought in as a coaching intern. Leftwich, who played for the Jaguars, Falcons, Buccaneers and Steelers during his nine seasons — including working with Arians in Pittsburgh — was helping quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens with Jake Coker and Stephen Rivers Friday during rookie minicamp. He also has been out working with the regular roster during the week.
(The Cardinals also have former NFL cornerback Willie Williams working with them.)
“I love the game,” Leftwich said. “This is just the next transition from player to coach and (Arians) allowed me to come down and be a part of it. I’ll take advantage of it, and we’ll see.”
Leftwich will be with the team throughout the offseason and through training camp.
“After that, we’ll see,” Arians said. “Hopefully I can keep him all year. I think he’s got a great, bright future in coaching.”
Leftwich said Arians didn’t really reach out to him to coach since the two talk frequently anyway.
“There’s no reaching out — we’re always in touch,” Leftwich said with a chuckle. “Opportunity came about.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich, coaching staff
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Understandably, there has been a lot of coverage to one of the Cardinals’ new coaching interns and to the new Bidwill coaching fellow. But Jen Welter and Levon Kirkland aren’t the only new coaches the Cardinals will have in training camp and the preseason (OK, Kirkland is around for two years.) There are six others:
— Rashied Davis – WR/Strength & Conditioning. Davis is a former wide receiver with the Bears and Lions.
— Emile Michael Harry – WR. Harry played wide receiver for the Chiefs and Rams.
— Rod Hood – DBs/DL. If you are a Cardinals’ fan, you really already should know Hood (but if you don’t, I wrote about him this summer.)
— David Kelly – RB. Kelly has been a college coach at a handful of stops.
— Keith McKenzie – LB. Played linebacker and defensive end for the Packers, Browns, Bears and Bills.
— Willie Williams – DB/DL. Played cornerback for the Steelers and Seahawks.
Tags: coaching staff, David Kelly, Emile Harry, Jen Welter, Keith McKenzie, Levon Kirkland, Rashied Davis, Rod Hood, Willie Williams
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For the first time at the Scouting combine, Todd Bowles spoke as a head coach when he got on the podium Wednesday. The Jets’ new boss hasn’t forgotten about his old place of business yet. After his spin in front of the cameras, there was a chance to ask him about his replacement as Cardinals defensive coordinator, James Bettcher. Bettcher was the outside linebackers coach under Bowles.
“It could have been any one of those guys (on staff),” Bowles said. “But I have all the trust in the world in Bruce (Arians) as he had in me. So I’m confident he made the right choice.”
Bowles chuckled at the idea Bettcher had a big job ahead of him, saying he was worried about his own big job in New York.
“Bettch is a good football coach, and you’ve got to remember he’s got about four guys he had on the staff last year that are good coaches,” Bowles said. “They’ll work together and they understand what has to be done. I have confidence they’ll get it done.”
Tags: coaching staff, James Bettcher, Todd Bowles
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We won’t know for a few days at least why exactly Bruce Arians picked James Bettcher to be his new defensive coordinator. Arians is on vacation this week, so the press conference to discuss Wednesday’s news is on hold until Arians returns. We know that Arians wanted to stay in-house to keep continuity and the same verbiage. We know that Arians wanted to get a young up-and-comer. He likes how he has his offensive setup with Harold Goodwin the young up-and-comer on offense; I’m still curious to see if the Cardinals eventually come up with a Tom Moore-esque guy for Bettcher. There was an attempt at Dick LeBeau (he didn’t want to be that far from family and took a spot with Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans), there has been contact with former Falcons coach Mike Smith. We’ll see if there is anyone else.
Regardless, Arians has long thought highly of Bettcher. When Arians was in his Coach of the Year season in Indianapolis, it was Bettcher who was in the middle of the drama that played out with Chuck Pagano’s cancer. Bettcher was not only the outside linebackers coach in Indy, he was also Pagano’s right-hand man.
“It was a role I will never forget,” Bettcher told me in 2013.
Bettcher is from Indiana and Pagano was “like a second father to me in many ways,” he said. Working with the Colts was a dream job. That’s why Bettcher’s move with Arians after one season is so important; As close as Bettcher and Pagano were, you have to assume Bettcher and Arians forged an important bond too as they maneuvered through such an emotional season. Maybe Arians always knew Bettcher was on the rise. Arians always targeted Todd Bowles to be his DC when he got the Cardinals’ job but if Arians believed Bowles was going to be a head coach sooner rather than later, maybe Bettcher was long the next in line. (Kind of like Goodwin, who was immediately installed as offensive coordinator under Arians/Moore.)
Are there questions about Bettcher, at 36, getting this job, especially after what Bowles was able to accomplish? Sure. There’s no arguing that. But Arians (and Bowles) had to have seen enough of Bettcher the past two seasons to feel comfortable with this ascension. Bettcher is a good guy who, from my vantage point, has respect of the players. Just last week, safety Tyrann Mathieu said “I think I’ve heard enough and I’m confident enough to know we’ve been playing too well to have the scheme change. We look forward to one of our position coaches being DC.”
The way Mathieu was talking, he knew Bettcher was the choice already, so I read the comment through that prism.
— Bob Sanders has a long history of coaching some pretty good linebackers — Kahlil Mack had a very nice rookie season this year under Sanders with the Raiders — so that looks like it could be a promising hire. He also spent some time as defensive coordinator with the Packers, so that puts someone else on the staff who is experienced in such a role. Even without a direct “mentor,” Bettcher could use that to his advantage.
Tags: Bob Sanders, Bruce Arians, Chuck Pagano, coaching staff, Colts, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, Tom Moore, Tyrann Mathieu
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That’s it. The NFL season is over.
It’s a weird feeling here at the Cardinals’ Tempe facility, because the Cards have been done for a while — yet with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in town (not to mention the many appearance opportunities for various players, Bruce Arians and Michael Bidwill) it ramped up quickly around here. And then, quiet. The Scouting combine starts two weeks from Wednesday, and free agency will start a couple weeks after that. Roster moves will begin to happen. The 2015 season will be on us quickly.
— Bruce Arians told me Friday he expects to make an announcement on the new defensive coordinator this week. But that’s all it will be, an announcement, because Arians is out of town this week so he wouldn’t be at any press conference. Arians also said all the changes to the coaching staff aren’t quite done, so maybe he’ll just wait to talk about it once that all is settled. As I’ve mentioned, all signs point to the promotion of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher to DC.
— The decision to not run Marshawn Lynch was not smart. (I do get trying to beat a goal-line defense, but again, you have the best battering ram in the league.) That said, how does a defense that is that good allow two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter? Can’t happen, and is as big of an issue in my mind as the offensive failure at the end.
— The Cardinals’ facility is now 3-for-3 in Super Bowl winners. The Cowboys (for Super Bowl XXX), the Giants (Super Bowl XLII) and now the Patriots all practiced at the Cards’ Tempe home the week of their games in Arizona.
— Speaking of the facility, more makeovers are underway. The new weight room and cafeteria are closer to being finished, and now that the Patriots don’t need it anymore, the locker room is being torn down for renovations.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, James Bettcher, Marshawn Lynch, Patriots, Seahawks, Super Bowl
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Tyrann Mathieu chose his words carefully — no reason to want to undercut the announcement sometime next week of the new defensive coordinator — but the Cardinals safety seemed comfortable in the plan for the Cardinals’ defense going forward and who will be leading it.
“I think I’ve heard enough and I’m confident enough to know we’ve been playing too well to have the scheme change,” Mathieu said during a trip around the Super Bowl’s Radio Row. “We look forward to one of our position coaches being DC.”
Coach Bruce Arians has already said the DC position will be filled in-house by a young coach. All signs point to outside linebackers coach James Bettcher. It won’t be the only coaching hire, not with inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell leaving to join outgoing defensive coordinator Todd Bowles with the New York Jets. Putting an experienced coach with the linebackers makes sense, and Arians has promised he will get the new DC “help.” I will not be surprised to see at least one defensive hire to have NFL defensive coordinator experience.
There will be an understandable wait-and-see approach with a new defensive coordinator, but that was there with Bowles too.
Tags: coaching staff, James Bettcher, Mike Caldwell, Todd Bowles, Tyrann Mathieu
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