Arizona Cardinals: Coaching Changes and Anticipated Scheme Changes
Arizona Cardinals Coaching Changes and Anticipated Scheme Changes
There is only one constant in the NFL, and that’s change. For the third consecutive year, 25% of the league’s teams will enter the season with different head coaches — and that doesn’t include Sean Payton, who returns to the head coaching ranks after a one-year suspension. Seven of the eight new head coaching hires are from the offensive side of the ball, emphasizing the NFL’s continued transition to an offensive-friendly environment. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars opted to hire from the defensive side of the ball (Gus Bradley).
As if that weren’t enough change, consider that 27 of the league’s 64 offensive and defensive coordinators were replaced. Including the head coaching changes, 37% of the NFL’s most important coaching positions are different from a season ago. Thinking about this another way, there are only 13 teams that return the same head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators:
The NFL is both a cyclical league and one prone to copy cats. When something works for a team, you can be sure other teams will look to duplicate that success; and it doesn’t always work. Not every iteration of the West Coast offense enjoyed the success of the Bill Walsh 49ers. Not every version of Dick LeBeau’s zone-blitz stopped opposing quarterbacks. With that in mind, today’s trends including the zone-read, spread attacks and no huddle approaches will have a mix of successes and failures. That’s the very nature of the league as success only comes with the confluence of great coaching, great players, healthy players and deep talent.
We will detail each team’s major coaching changes and the schematic implications of those hires. We will update and post our views throughout the preseason as more information is made available in training camp and the preseason.
Today we take a look at the Arizona Cardinals
- Head Coach: Bruce Arians (replaces Ken Whisenhunt)
- Offensive Coordinator: Harold Goodwin (replaces Mike Miller)
- Defensive Coordinator: Todd Bowles (replaces Ray Horton)
What to expect on offense:
Bruce Arians parlayed an inspired season as the Colts interim head coach into his first NFL head coaching job, and will be tasked with improving an offense that ranked dead last in yards (4,209) and 31st in points (250). In an ironic twist, Arians (who will call the plays) is from the same coaching tree as Ken Whisenhunt — the man Arians is replacing. In fact, Arians coached under Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh before taking over as the Steelers OC when Whisenhunt took the Cardinals job.
Arians’ offensive philosophy is one defined by simplicity, this isn’t going to be an offense meant to fool opposing defenses. The Cardinals will try to win by executing the plays called and leveraging the mismatches Arians’ spread formations create. The passing attack is designed to spread out opposing defenses at the line of scrimmage and allow receivers a clean break. One of Arians’ strengths as a play-caller is his ability to break zone coverages by stretching defenses both vertically and horizontally (through crossing routes and comebacks). We’ll see the Cardinals line up in multiple formations, including empty backfield, 4-wide, 3-wide and 2-TE sets. Bunch formations (where a number of eligible receivers line up right next to each other) are a common part of Arians’ game plan. Expect the Cardinals to take a handful shots downfield each game, and new QB Carson Palmer seems well suited to execute the aggressive downfield approach. Larry Fitzgerald and the other wide receivers will see plenty of opportunities to make 20+ yard plays downfield.
The running game will only be as good as the offensive line and stable of backs allow, and Arians’ resume as a play-caller is far more accomplished in terms of the passing attack than it has been establishing the run. One thing is clear, the Cardinals backs will not be all-purpose fantasy producers. Arians expects his running backs to run and pass protect, and views throwing to the RBs as an outlet of last resort.
What to expect on defense:
Todd Bowles was a rising star after a strong showing as the interim head coach in Miami in the final weeks of 2011, but the wheels seemingly fell off last year in Philadelphia. Bowles joined the Eagles as the secondary coach, but replaced embattled Luis Castillo mid-year as defensive coordinator. The results were disastrous (the Eagles allowed 30+ points per game under his watch), but the Cardinals brass believe Bowles was a victim of circumstance, and eagerly named him defensive coordinator in place of Ray Horton.
Bowles will maintain a 3-4 defensive front, but wants the ends (Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell) to be more aggressive. Horton wanted his ends to focus on stopping the run and playing containment first and foremost, allowing the linebackers to flow to the ball. Bowles wants the ends to get upfield, and be playmakers in their own right. Bowles has spent most of his coaching career in charge of the secondary, and favors aggressive man coverage, which should be possible in Arizona thanks to the emergence of CB Patrick Peterson.
Next Up: The Baltimore Ravens
About the author: Dennis is an award winning handicapper, and is regarded as one of the nations most respected race and sports handicappers since 1981. Dennis owns Gridiron Gold, Gridiron Gold Sheet and Horse Race Tip Sheets. You can buy Dennis’ Del Mar and Saratoga Tip Sheets in this website and his Gridiron Gold Sheet Football Newsletter. This year, Dennis’ is giving away the first two weeks of the Gridiron Gold Sheet NFL Preseason newsletter absolutely free. Check it out, and if you like what you see, order at early bird prices.