When the names for the Arizona Cardinals coaching search began to come out, there were two that didn’t register right away.
Oh sure there were plenty that I had no interest in, but more so, Brian Flores and Keith Armstrong were complete unknowns to me.
Oh, I knew who they were within the scope of the NFL, Armstrong is one of the longest tenured coaches for the same team in the league, but why were they on the Cardinals radar for being a head coach?
Thursday, we found out why Flores is on the short list, today we look at Armstrong and what could make him a viable candidate.
Armstrong is a football junkie, but has been stagnant in his position for two decades.
He started off as a grad assistant on an up and coming college coaches staff in 1987. That coach was Bruce Arians, in his fourth season as Temple Head Coach, Arians brought on Armstrong to his staff.
In 1988 Armstrong moved to Miami under Jimmy Johnson and was an assistant defensive backs and special teams coach.
In 1989, Armstrong got his first positional coaching job as the wide receivers coach for Akron. From Akron, he would head to Oklahoma State as the secondary coach from 1990-1992.
1993 he got a big gig, taking over as linebackers and special teams coach for Notre Dame and the number two Fighting Irish.
His overall work throughout his career in college propelled him to his first NFL gig with the Atlanta Falcons as the safeties coach in 1994-1995 before being elevated to secondary coach.
In 1997, he took the job he’s held for the last 20 seasons in the NFL, special teams coach. First, it was with the Chicago Bears from 1997-2000, then the Miami Dolphins from 2001-2007. Then, in 2008 he was hired by the Atlanta Falcons as special teams coach and has held that post since.
If you’re keeping score, Armstrong got his break at 24, became a special teams coordinator at 34 and has been that since, now at the age of 54.
You may be thinking, why the hell is this guy in the running?
When you look at the blueprint for success if an NFL head coach, there’s no real right or wrong answer.
However, it’s unconventional for a special teams coordinator to get a head coaching job, only John Harbaugh of the Ravens took that path.
From a FoxSports.com article in 2015:
The duties inherent in leading those units far better mimic the responsibilities that come with being a head coach.”You get to work with the entire team,” DeCamillis said. “That’s the biggest thing. You’re not just an offensive or defensive guy.”
It’s something that I’ve always thought was important, knowing how to handle an entire team, not necessarily just one side of the ball.
Armstrong has been doing that for 20 years.
In fact, it’s why Bruce Arians has been lamenting Keith Armstrong as not being a head coach for a while, including in an interview with ESPN this year:
”People get all hung up in these offensive and defensive coordinators, and special teams coordinators work with the entire team,” Arians explained. “So they have that presence and that connection with offense, defense, everybody. To me, it makes more sense. Plus, he’s had background in both offense and defense.
”He’s a leader of men,” Arians said. “He’s got grit, toughness. He’s a great family guy. His time will come, yes indeed.”
Sometimes, all you need is a push, an opportunity. It was something that worked out well for the Arizona Cardinals the last time. Yet, Armstrong’s teams have struggled the last couple of seasons, which actually had David Choate of The Falcoholic a little less sure of Armstrong’s return, despite his ten years on the staff:
It should be noted that special teams has been a genuine issue for Atlanta at times this year, outside of Matt Bryant, so I can’t say Armstrong is safe with the 100% confidence I’m accustomed to.
Is this another favor for Bruce Arians on his way out, or is Armstrong a legitimate candidate for the Arizona Cardinals head coaching position?