TEMPE, Ariz. – The first step for the Arizona Cardinals to build on their defensive success in 2013 was taken Wednesday morning. And they had nothing to do with it.
The Minnesota Vikings hired Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to be their next head coach, meaning Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will return to Arizona and continue to orchestrate the top-ranked run defense in the league. It’s a position Bowles has no problem being in when training camp opens this summer.
He said throughout the season that he wasn’t going to just take a job for the simple sake of taking a job. It had to be the right situation and neither Cleveland nor Minnesota was that. Bowles withdrew his name from consideration in Cleveland early Tuesday.
Bowles, who has three games of head coaching experience in 2011 when he was interim in Miami, would’ve been adopting a situation in Cleveland that wasn’t stable and he wouldn’t have had the right pieces – read: a quarterback – in Minnesota to put together a contender immediately.
While he waits his turn in Arizona, Bowles will have most of the nucleus of the sixth-best defense in the league returning for 2014. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, safety Yeremiah Bell and outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy are all free agents come March 11, and all three played a significant role in the unit’s improvement. But if Bowles showed anything this season, it was that he could plug in different players and make it work. When Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander were lost, Bowles used Shaughnessy and Abraham just as effectively. And when safety Rashad Johnson went down early in the season, Tyrann Mathieu filled in with a seamless transition.
Bowles is well respected and well liked in the locker room, and the defense wanted him back. And, without any doing of their own, that’s what they got.