The Jets and Cardinals are poised for a very interesting Monday night matchup (8:30 p.m., ESPN) in Arizona, mainly because both teams are desperate for a win following disappointing starts.
But a great sidebar to the game is the familiarity of the two programs, both led by friends of 30 years -- Jets head coach Todd Bowles and Cardinals lead man Bruce Arians. The two have known each other since 1983 when Arians was the head coach at Temple and Bowles starred at safety. They later reconnected while serving on the Cleveland Browns staff from 2001-03 when Bowles was a defensive backs coach and Arians the offensive coordinator.
Their ties run deep and the bond is strong, as Bowles noted, which should make for an interesting chess match considering Arians directs the Arizona offense and Bowles co-runs the New York defense alongside coordinator Kacy Rodgers.
“I’ve known Bruce since 1983, so we go back … he’s not old enough for me to call a father figure, but as an uncle or a bigger brother, from real life to football, he’s taught me a great deal,” Bowles admitted.
The Jets’ current lead man also served on Arians’s staff in Arizona when he was the defensive coordinator during the 2013-14 campaign. That defense was so successful that it lead to Bowles being among the hottest names on the head coaching wish list.
Last season’s 10-win euphoria has given way to this year’s 1-4 malaise, but Arians deemed the Bowles-led Jets a very dangerous opponent for his Cardinals (2-3), and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“It was always fun [when Bowles was in Arizona]. He always had a surprise [play call]. He’s one of the smartest football minds I’ve ever seen. He’s not a guy that you can just pin down and say, ‘This is what he’s going to do,’ because he thinks outside of the box. And he’s very, very good at it,” Arians said. “He’s always had a great feel. He was smart and tough as a player … his teams are, too, just like he is as a coach now.”
The Cardinals’ philosophies on both sides of the ball haven’t changed much since Bowles departed. But he reasoned that as well as he knows Arizona’s system, it also means they know him very well, too. He deflected any thought that he has an advantage heading into Monday night.
“They know me as well, so it’s not an advantage one way or the other. Just because you know the personnel doesn’t mean anything is going to get done one way or the other. Whether they know me or I know them, we just have to go out and play our game,” Bowles said. “We know their players, but that doesn’t mean schematically. … I’m sure there’s a little tweak in the system since the last time I’ve been there.”
The backdrop of the coaches’ relationship should be a great sidebar to the game, but more importantly, the Jets need to get a win any way possible, whether Arians and company know what’s coming or not.
Metro takes a look at other key storylines to follow, as Gang Green seeks to end its three-game skid.
What to Watch for:
Next man up – No Eric Decker means that someone within the rather anonymous group of wideouts needs to step up and help Brandon Marshall. Decker (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve which means an inexperienced receiver needs to pick up his slack. Bowles said there was “initially” a psychological blow upon hearing about Decker, but no one on the Cardinals is going to feel sorry for them. Someone new just needs to step in and perform.
“Anytime you lose one of your star players, you’re going to have an impact and it’s going to be an adjustment period for everybody else until we can get everybody else involved and find out exactly what they can do … everybody has to chip in,” Bowles said, adding it may take more than one of his neophytes to fill the void. “Not one guy. ... It’s going to have to come from a bunch of guys.”
Where’s the rush? – The Jets have 12 sacks, but seven of those came in the opener. Since then, opposing passers have torched the banged-up and underperforming secondary and have been kept relatively clean. Bowles said there are a lot of factors, but added his defense needs to find a way to get to the immobile Palmer.
“It’s not just a matter of touching the quarterback. Kansas City got rid of the ball fast. Pittsburgh got rid of the ball quick or they max-protected at times. We schemed Buffalo [and mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor] to try to keep them in the pocket,” Bowles reasoned. “It doesn’t mean they [defensive line] are playing bad. They’re playing very well and I’m very happy with them. It’s just a matter of what we try to do that week as far as scheme.”
Best friends till the end – Palmer played with Ryan Fitzpatrick when the two were in Cincinnati and considers the bearded one a true friend and great professional. The Cardinals signal caller obviously wants his defense to have success against Fitzpatrick, and warned of the hot hand that his friend can get at any time.
“Unfortunately, that [slumping] is part of the game. Ryan is a great player and leader, and I feel fortunate and blessed to have been able to play with him. He’s always up [and] always believes he has a shot, no matter if he’s down seven or 47,” Palmer said. “I know Ryan as good as anybody, and we do not want to let him get going. He can rip off a bunch of touchdown passes and take off and run for first downs. … Unfortunately, he’s had a couple bumps in the road early, but he and I have the same kind of mindset. You know you’re going to bounce back -- we just don’t want him to bounce back against us because if he does our secondary is in for a long day.”