Seeing as how the Minnesota Vikings and the Cleveland Browns have now been charmed by the man behind the number one run defense of the 2013 NFL season, I figured it would be a good time to take a look back at what the Arizona Cardinals Defensive Coordinator hath wrought. Shall we?
To begin, we must first go back a bit farther than one might think. Not to the beginning of this years football season, not to the beginning of Training Camp for the Cardinals, not even the day Bowles was brought into the fold by mentor and friend Bruce Arians. No, we must go back to the beginning of the 2012 season. A beginning that at first seemed so promising for the Arizona Cardinals but ultimately turned out to be a mirage.
The start to 2012 for all of the teams in the NFL was a strange one. For an entire month of games our players were taking the field with Replacement Referees officiating. In fact, there was even a female Ref on call for one particular Cardinals game. It’s impossible to tell if it was the shoddy job the Replacement Refs did on calling the games or whether the Cards actually were as good as their record stated that month, but one thing’s for sure. Ray Horton’s defense was a force to be reckoned with.
Even throughout the rest of the 2012 season Horton’s boys were a serious threat. And I do mean “boys”. It seemed almost immediately that Ray had little to no use for veteran players already on the defense. Some of them, like Defensive Tackle Darnell Dockett, are not afraid to be vocal about it.
Personally, I had nothing against Ray, but I hated that scheme. I really hated it. I played it because I needed to. – Darnell Dockett
Players like Daryl Washington however thrived under Horton. Daryl had his best season that year with 134 Tackles, 9 Sacks, 4 Passes Defended and an Interception. You weren’t hearing him complain about his production and the production of some of the other younger players like Sam Acho or O’Brien Schofield. But no matter how much production Ray was able to get out of his younger guys it didn’t stop the Cardinals from ending 2012 with a 5-11 season and an off season full of change.
Whisenhunt was axed and ended up in San Diego and Horton, after being passed over for the Head Coach position here in Arizona, took his bag of tricks to Cleveland. Then Bruce Arians was hired. And soon after Bowles rolled in. At first glimpse Todd seemed a strange fit. Not just for the Cardinals but for football in general. Bowles is a soft spoken character. He’s often got a wry smile when speaking to the press that at first left some with a gut full of worry. How was this gentle man going to carry the flag of Horton’s hard nosed defense? Was it even possible for this guy to lead a group of men, much less seasoned NFL veterans? Well, as we quickly learned, all concern was for nought.
His quiet demeanor during press conferences speaks little about how he runs a defense. His approach to the game is equal parts physical as it is strategic. His halftime adjustments are masterful, engineering complete shut downs of opponents in the second half of games. In short, what we saw form Todd Bowles in the beginning was not what we got by the end of the 2013 season. Not at all.
And now that his squad is off the field the scavengers (The Vikings, The Browns and more I’m sure) have come crawling around looking for their next head coach. And though it’ll be hard to to see him go, especially for Head Coach Bruce Arians, it’s something we’ll have to accept as part of the game. After all, that’s why Bruce brought him here in the first place. He knew that Todd was going to make a great Head Coach someday. He just need the right opportunity.
There’s always the chance Todd returns in 2014, however. And if we’re lucky enough to get a second act out of him we better appreciate it. Because football minds like his don’t come around often. Much less two seasons in a row as a Defensive Coordinator.
So that’s it. Like the 2013 season the defensive review is finished. And it’s time to check the wires and keep our ears to the ground for early post season shake ups, additions and subtractions. We’ll watch the draft, monitor the OTA’s and maybe even make it to some open Training Camp practices. And by this time next year, if fortune smiles on us, you won’t be reading another Year in Review. You’ll be buying groceries for a post season Arizona Cardinals game.
That’s all for now. Until next time, stay ornery Arizona.