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Bowles: Bettcher the “right choice”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2015 – 1:34 pm

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.”

Todd Bowles

 


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In little time, Bettcher has left big impression

Posted by Darren Urban on February 4, 2015 – 3:55 pm

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.

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A DC announcement and Super odds and ends

Posted by Darren Urban on February 2, 2015 – 12:15 pm

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.

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Mathieu has confidence in new DC, same scheme

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2015 – 5:29 pm

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.

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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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