TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals offense was a mess last season, a fact beyond dispute. The defense, on the other hand, played well for the vast majority of the year.
Mindful of the talent he inherits, new Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles says there will be no dramatic changes to the 3-4 scheme, just "some minor differences here and there," and he anticipates no problems gaining the loyalty of players who thought so much of his predecessor, Ray Horton.
"The fact that things are going to be a lot similar should only help out," he said. "We'll teach a few different things. I thought Ray did a good job when he was in here and I thought the players did a good job. We're just going to try to add on to that."
Bowles, speaking to reporters for the first time since he was named to the post by new head coach Bruce Arians, said Thursday that players know change is common in the NFL.
"Players go and coaches go," he said. "We all have our favorite players and our favorite coaches. But they know it's part of the business just as we do and we'll continue to work together. I'm going to coach them hard and make them play better and they're going to work hard and we'll get it together."
Bowles was a team captain for Temple in 1985, with Arians as his young head coach. Their relationship has developed from there.
"I've watched him grow as a player, one of the best, smartest defensive backs to play in this league," Arians said, "and then as a coach, watching him grow and see the people he has been around who have won championships. There was never a doubt if I ever got a head coaching job, that's who I was going to first."
Horton, highly popular with the players, fans and media, was a finalist for the head coaching job in Arizona after Ken Whisenhunt was fired at the end of last season, and he did not take it well when the job went to Arians. By the next day, Horton was the new defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns.
Bowles played eight seasons in the NFL with Washington and San Francisco, appearing in 117 games. He was part of the Redskins team that beat Denver 42-10 in the Super Bowl in 1988.
He began his coaching career as defensive coordinator at Morehouse College in 1997 then was defensive coordinator/secondary coach under Eddie Robinson at Grambling State in 1998-99. His pro coaching career started as a secondary coach with the New York Jets, then with the Cleveland Browns. He moved on to coach the secondary for the Dallas Cowboys for three seasons then became assistant head coach/secondary with the Miami Dolphins in 2008. Bowles was interim head coach for the final four games of the 2011 season after Tony Sparano was fired.
Bowles was interviewed by Whisenhunt for the defensive coordinator job that eventually went to Horton in 2011.
In 2012, Bowles joined the ill-fated staff of Andy Reid in Philadelphia as secondary coach and moved up to defensive coordinator after Reid sacked Juan Castillo in mid-October. The difficult Eagles season was a challenge.
"You just have to stick with your morals," Bowles said. "I don't think one year makes you a bad coach or a good coach. You go by your body of work. ... If you're in it long enough, you're not going to have success every week or every day, and you try not to get too high or too low."
He was asked if he thought some players quit on him as the Philadelphia season disintegrated.
"It's fair to ask but I couldn't answer for them," he said. "You would have to ask some of those guys. I would say some people didn't play well. I really can't say whether some quit or didn't quit."
Bowles said he had yet to watch much film of the Cardinals or speak to any of his players.
But, he said, he knows "they're fast, they get after it. They like to play football and they're hungry."
Taking over a confident unit is a plus.
"It's always half the battle when you've got guys that want to and we have a lot of guys that want to," Bowles said.
Arians said Bowles "has one of the brightest defensive minds that I've ever been associated with as a player or a coach."
And the results, Arians said, won't be determined by yards surrendered.
"The only ranking that matters is wins and losses," he said. "Yes, we want the No. 1 defense in the league, but is that in yards? No. I want the best third-down defense, the best red zone defense, the best two-minute defense. I don't really care about yards. I think that's a bogus stat."
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