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The Nomadic Life Of NFL Coaches

Cross-country move nothing new to Cardinals assistants


Cardinals senior assistant/defensive line coach Don Johnson has made numerous stops in his 39-year coaching career

Coach Steve Wilks introduced his defensive and special teams assistants to the media on Wednesday afternoon.

While the bevy of faces was almost completely new, a familiar one sat at a middle table in the team's cafeteria.

When Larry Foote entered the coaching profession, he fully understood the instability associated with the job, and Bruce Arians' retirement put his employment in peril last month. But after a fruitful interview with Wilks, Foote was retained as the linebackers coach, which was a sigh of relief for his family.

"My wife and kids were searching the internet every day," Foote said. "My daughter and her best friend have been on the internet since October, trying to see if B.A. was going to retire. 'Do I have to move?' They were definitely excited when I called and said Wilks offered me the job."

Foote was among six coaches who were retained from Arians' staff, the precious few who didn't have to uproot their lives in a transition to a new locale. For those leaving, and those coming, a familiar process has returned.

"It's a little bit of a nomadic existence," defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said. "Obviously for a coach's wife or coach's family, it can be stressful at times. It's very demanding. Number one, from the mere fact that you're always at the facility or the office working. And then sometimes you miss some important times in your children's lives – a basketball game or something of that nature. But hopefully going into it, you've developed that communication between you and your family. These are kind of the ropes and this is how it's going to be. Sometimes we have to make tough decisions."

The new coaches are in the midst of a whirlwind. The NFL Scouting combine is next week, followed by free agency and the draft. They are trying to learn the existing personnel all while dealing with the realities of moving across the country.

"You're spread pretty thin at this time of year with the transition," special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said.

But there is a rhythm to it. Rodgers said each coach generally knows somebody from one of the previous two staffs and will call for advice. Senior assistant/defensive line coach Don Johnson said the coaches' wives play a critical role in the search for housing, school districts and other important factors to suit the family's needs.

"They have their own little system," Johnson said. "Facebook. Twitter. Remember, there are only 32 guys in the positions that you normally coach. There is kind of a bond between those guys and their families. Those wives do a great job."

Some of the coaches need two hands to count how many times they have moved in the past 14 years. Incredibly, new defensive backs coach David Merritt, Sr. spent that entire stretch with the Giants.

"I had the opportunity in New York to have my family go through elementary, junior high and graduate from high school," Merritt said. "That's unheard of for a lot of coaches."

Merritt, a former Cardinals player, is eagerly awaiting this new chapter. He still keeps in touch with former teammates like Kwamie Lassiter, Tyronne Stowe and Anthony Edwards, so there is a built-in social scene. And his children are on board provided he comes through in one important way.

"I'm excited," Merritt said. "My wife is excited. My kids are excited because I promised them a swimming pool. So I have to find a home with a swimming pool."

The coaches coming to town have leaned on Foote for advice about Arizona. If he stays in the profession long enough, it's a virtual guarantee Foote will one day be asking the same questions about a new state. But for now, he remains settled.

"That was my first rodeo," Foote said. "Other coaches I knew around the league were calling (after Arians' retirement). I was like, 'Hey, man, I don't know.' I got a little taste of it … I was fortunate that I got to stay here, especially for my young kids."

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