2013 has come to a close. It does not feel like we have watched 16 weeks worth of Cardinals football however. Last year, it felt longer than 16 weeks, this year it feels much shorter. This has much to do with how the team played.
Last year under Ken Whisenhunt, this unit fell apart after a 4-0 start, and we had to endure an excellent defense failing because of a lackluster offense plagued by injuries, a horrible O-Line and quarterbacks who could not stay healthy or hit the broadside of a neon yellow barn. The season felt long and miserable.
Changes came in the form of a new general manager and head coach. Steve Keim and Bruce Arians coupled to create a coaching staff infused with brilliance, talent, and a wealth of knowledge. Those factors played into a roster in which 28 of the 53 men were not with this team.
Without further ado, let us grade out the coaches from coordinator, to our head honcho (coaching wise), Bruce Arians.
So if you thought that Bowles would bring success to Arizona stand out of your chair... You can sit down now. When Arians made Bowles his guy following the messy release of Ray Horton, we all yelled unanimously "WHAT THE....?" I tried to convince myself that we had enough talent in Arizona to make up for his lack of success as defensive coordinator. (I even did a piece on him, genius huh?)
However, Bowles put us all to shame, building the sixth best defense in the league, the NFL's
beast best rush defense, and the 14th best pass defense. His unit allowed an average of 20 PPG (Points Per Game), 10 points per 1st half, and eight per second half. The 20 PPG were his best as a Defensive Coordinator.
What is probably even more impressive, is that he did all this with injuries that could very well have ruined a season. In Week 3 against the Saints, the outside linebackers were taken down, with injuries to Lorenzo Alexander, Sam Acho, and Alex Okafor (It's weird typing my first name twice...) He built his game plans around that, and ultimately unleashed the veteran John Abraham onto the opponents, and Abraham was a force, recording 11.5 sacks on the season.
The biggest injury Bowles had to build around, was the loss of rookie standout, Tyrann Mathieu. Losing a player of that caliber surely should have decimated the secondary, and it appeared that was the case, as Ryan Fitzpatrick shredded the secondary the next week. But Bowles fixed it all just in time for the Cardinals upset over the Seattle Seahawks.
For his work this year, in installing a defense that could stop both facets of an offense, I hereby grant Todd Bowles an A+, for showing exemplary leadership abilities, and getting his players to buy into the scheme, quicker than they did for Ray Horton.
To be perfectly frank with you... I hated this signing. I felt like Kevin Spencer was the better option... And to be perfectly frank with you... I still don't like this signing. Special teams was ranked 31st in return yardage. This comes only 3 years after Patrick Peterson was considered one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL. This year, due to both his poor decision making, and his lack of ability to run back because of a) coverage team in his face or b) coverage team in his face, he found nothing going.
Kick returns were even worse... Javier Arenas was brought in to replace LaRod Stephens-Howling and well... didn't come anywhere near replacing him. Arenas consistently put us in horrible field position, running the ball out from deep and barely making it to the 10 or 15 yard line.
Now not all of this is solely on Jones. He does have an excellent punter, three excellent gunners (I count Teddy Williams as one of McCann, and Bethel) and if the coverage unit can protect him better, Peterson can possibly get back to instilling fear in the oppositions punt team.
He fits as both our offensive line coach, and our offensive coordinator. What Goodwin did in one year, Russ Grimm could not in five. That was build confidence in his O-Line, we may bash it, and talk trash about it, but there is no denying that Goodwin built a decent patch work offensive line. Eric Winston filled in for a Bobby Massie, who was struggling to learn the scheme, Paul Fanaika came in to replace Daryn Colledge, who was used to replace first round selection, Jonathan Cooper. Lyle Sendlein was his usual quite, cool self, and we got rid of long time problem, Levi Brown.
Is Brown's replacement a world beater? Not by any means. He's raw, he's inconsistent, but he didn't give up a sack every other play, or a drive killing false start. This O-Line was not perfect, as shown by their 41 sacks allowed, but compared to units under Grimm, there is youth, and developmental talent up front.
The ageless wonder, the veteran, the... Whatever you want to call him. Moore was a driving cog in the Cardinals machine this year. He rejuvenated a Carson Palmer that looked to be dying in Oakland. After every drive, Moore was sitting in his Cardinal red jacket, the film from the previous drive in his hands, talking with Palmer about what he did wrong and right, and how to fix that. Yes Freddie Kitchens is our QB Coach, but Tom Moore is our QB guru. Palmer grew under both of them it seemed, and hopefully that growth will mature in the offseason and come OTA's Palmer, Moore and Kitchens will be ready to shock the world.
He was his regular old self... He draws in players like Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby, and that in turn, draws in the younger players. He has an aura around him that makes the players want to get better. (Hell, he even motivates me to get my butt outside and workout.. Doesn't work though). He kept Daryl Washington, who was suspended for four games, in shape for when he returned. He finally got Dan Williams to check into camp at a good weight. If anything, John Lott got this team better than he had in years past.
Bruce Arians deserves a post all to himself, so that shall be done. But what say you, which of these coordinators are your Coordinator of the Year?