Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (right), talking with linebacker Larry Foote, is leaving the Cardinals to become head coach of the New York Jets.
The day Bruce Arians announced he was bringing in Todd Bowles to be his defensive coordinator, the new Cardinals head coach said the idea was to get Bowles his own head coaching job.
It took two seasons.
Multiple reports – including one from ESPN's Josina Anderson quoting Bowles in a text message – had Bowles accepting an offer Tuesday night to coach the New York Jets. It leaves the Cardinals looking for a defensive coordinator, something Arians said he was prepared for given the likelihood Bowles would get a promotion somewhere.
"There are enough people available, and we have guys who are more than capable of filling it," Arians said prior to the playoffs.
That was before the stunning resignation of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who has known and coached with Arians for
years. LeBeau has talked to Arians about a spot on the coaching staff, although it isn't known if it would be as coordinator or perhaps a similar defensive role like Tom Moore, who helps with the offense along with offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin. Arians could potentially name a younger coordinator and pair him with LeBeau.
Up until this point, Arians has played close to the vest his post-Bowles thoughts.
While Arians said – albeit with a smile – "none" when asked how many coaches from the Cardinals' staff Bowles would be allowed to take with him to his new staff, some other Cardinals' coaches are expected be on the move to the Jets. One possibility is inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell.
Bowles had been interviewed with multiple teams for their vacant head coaching jobs. Two teams were bringing him back for second interviews – the Jets and Falcons. The Falcons were supposed to meet with him first this week, on Wednesday.
Instead, Bowles changed his schedule to visit the Jets Tuesday, with the meeting going into dinner. Before the night was over, Bowles decided to coach a team that he had once served as an assistant back in 2000 under Al Groh. Bowles is also from nearby Elizabeth, N.J.
Under Bowles, the Cardinals had the best rushing defense in the NFL in 2013 and were among the league leaders this season before
late-year struggles. His ability to make adjustments at halftime and his maneuverings with his personnel as key players were missing drove him to the top of head coaching candidates.
The Cardinals were fifth in scoring defense this season, 13th in rushing defense and 24th overall. That was in a season without defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and linebacker Daryl Washington, safety Tyrann Mathieu didn't regain his rookie form and defensive end Calais Campbell had to deal with injuries. Yet it was Bowles' defense that was the backbone of the Cards' 11-5 record.
"He doesn't do a lot of yelling and screaming like a typical coach," defensive end Frostee Rucker said during the season. "He's an educator. They always say it trickles down, and the captain, the quarterback of our defense, is Todd.
"He can dial the game up and make sure we are technically sound, and before you know it, we're right where we need to be."
His players knew by midseason, when the Cardinals gave Bowles an extension in an effort to make it more attractive to stay, that they would likely lose him after the season. Many took to Twitter Tuesday night to voice their congratulations.
"Great two years with one of the best in the game. Congrats Coach Bowles jets are lucky to have him represent them," safety Tony Jefferson tweeted.
"Big Dawg. Congrats to coach Bowles. Great coach, innovator & teacher," tweeted Mathieu.
Tweeted cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who played for outgoing Jets coach Rex Ryan in New York, "Coach Bowles is a very smart coach. 1 of the smartest coaches I've been around. Has a very similar scheme 2 Rex so the defense won't change"
Now the players wait to see how much the Cardinals' defense might change depending on his replacement.