Arizona's Harold Goodwin could be next head coach from Bruce Arians' tree

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Whenever Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin stepped in front of a meeting during training camp, Drew Stanton would start counting.

As Goodwin spoke, the backup quarterback kept track of Goodwin's nervous ticks, as Stanton likes to call them. In particular, he would count how many "umms" Goodwin said every day, and then relay the finally tally to the 43-year-old, who not only welcomed the feedback but asked Stanton for more.

It is all part of Goodwin’s process of becoming an NFL head coach.

It’s been his "end all" goal since he entered the NFL coaching ranks in 2004 as the Bears' assistant offensive line coach. Three years later he began working Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh, a relationship that led to a season together in Indianapolis in 2012. Since coming to Arizona with Arians in 2013, Goodwin has stood on the doorstep of being a head coach as the Cardinals' offensive coordinator.

Goodwin says he’s ready for the job.

"I think B.A. has groomed me, kind of like he groomed Todd (Bowles)," Goodwin said. "Every year he’s given me more and more responsibilities. Obviously I get to see him work every day, how he handles the team, the administrative part of it. I think it’s helped me grow a lot.

"I think, in his mind, that’s what he’s trying to do, trying to force-feed me to know what to do, how to do it and why to do it."

Arians has done this before. He groomed Bowles to be a head coach for the two years Bowles was the Cardinals' defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014. Bowles became the Jets' head coach in 2015. Helping assistants get head coaching jobs is Arians' way of paying the help he received forward.

Now it’s Goodwin’s turn.

But to be a head coach in the NFL, Goodwin has had to spread his wings in Arizona. He’s learned the nuances and intricacies of Arians' complex passing game, became more familiar with other areas of the offense, and focused on improving in areas he knows will help him be successful whenever he gets that call. One of those will be speaking in front of groups, whether it’s his team or the cameras. That’s why for the past two seasons, Goodwin had had his Thursday news conferences recorded for him so he could study the tape, listening to how he sounds while figuring out how he could get better speaking in front of the media.

The result has been a more commanding presence in front of the room, Stanton said.

"Obviously, when you’re the head coach, you got to stand up there and do press conferences and talk with the media, and there’s an art to it," Stanton said. "I think he’s developed that talent through really studying and understanding how he can improve and take an honest assessment of himself."

Goodwin is at a point with Arians where Arians trusts him enough to game plan the blocking and run schemes, while Arians takes the passing game -- his forte. But when Arians spent the Monday after losing to Minnesota in the hospital with chest pains, Goodwin helped game plan the entire offense to face Atlanta.

"We have a protocol on how we do things on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," Goodwin said. "We just followed that, so he didn’t necessarily have to put a whole lot into the game plan. He just has to approve things that we put on the board, and that’s pretty much what he did this week. But he’s always got his hands in red zone, that kind of thing.

"When it comes to protection and the run game, he trusts me and he trusts his coaches, so I think he’s in a comfort zone from the standpoint of he trusts his coaches."

If Arians couldn’t coach for any reason, Goodwin said he feels able and comfortable filling Arians' role.

That’s largely because Arians has prepared Goodwin for the job. Even though Goodwin holds the title of "offensive coordinator" it’s Arians who calls the plays during the regular season.

Starting with the last preseason game of 2014, however, Arians let Goodwin call the plays and draw up a game plan for then-quarterback Logan Thomas. In 2015 and again this season, Arians gave Goodwin the play-calling reigns in three of the four preseason games. This past preseason, Goodwin did the game-planning, as well. Arians has also allowed Goodwin to call plays during training camp.

"You need practice just like anything else," Arians said.

Goodwin has been grateful to Arians for the opportunity.

"I love him for it," Goodwin said. "I’m very appreciative. I’m excited for the opportunity to grow as a coach and as a man, and I just thank him for it.

"For him to do this for me is special. It tells me he thinks a lot about me, and I don’t ever want to disappoint him."

The more Goodwin has been around Arians, the more he’s become like him.

"A lot. A lot. A lot. A lot. A lot," Stanton said with a laugh. "But I think that’s a good thing."

Except Goodwin doesn’t curse as much as Arians, running back Stepfan Taylor said.

Where the two coaches differ slightly are their offensive approaches. Goodwin has developed a personality as a run-first play-caller. Arians is famous for his passing game. But Goodwin has taken his foundation, which is rooted in the ground game as a former offensive lineman at Michigan, and offset it with Arians' philosophy of using the run game to set up the deep ball.

Goodwin has also experienced the benefit of having a star flourish in his scheme, like Arians had with a slew of quarterbacks like Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Carson Palmer in Arizona. Under Goodwin’s direction of the offensive line, running back Chris Johnson was fourth in the NFL in rushing last season when he suffered a season-ending injury, and David Johnson is third in rushing this season.

"As an O-lineman, I like the way he calls plays," center A.Q. Shipley said. "He calls plays because he likes to run the ball. That’s a big facet of what he likes to do. He likes to show who’s the toughest, who’s the most physical group and he does a good job of doing that."

"I think he does a great job of mixing and matching, and picking when and where to choose his shots down the field."

Goodwin has also learned to be hard on players on the field while not sugar-coating his critique.

"I think he’s got everything," Shipley said.

And teams are noticing.

Goodwin got his first taste of life beyond an assistant in January, when he interviewed for the Bucs' head coaching job during the wild-card weekend of the playoffs with Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht, who was Arizona's vice president of player personnel in 2013. Even though Goodwin didn’t get the job, the opportunity and experience of interviewing has prepared him for what could await this offseason.

But he insisted he’s not spending the season thinking about it.

"When Jason called me, I thought about it," Goodwin said. "In my mind I kind of chewed things around in the summer time of how to answer this, how to answer that. At the end of the day, this is my No. 1 priority. If it happens, it happens. The experience last year with Jason, talking about some things and making me think about some things through my interview process, it started to work in my mind a little bit, but it’s not my No. 1 goal in my head."

That interview had another effect on Goodwin, Stanton said. One that made him more head-coach like.

"You can just see going through the interview process last year," Stanton said, "the different way that he carries himself, because he knows it’s a short matter of time until it happens."