TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Walk past Todd Bowles’ office and you’ll hear the music.
The Arizona Cardinals’ popular defensive coordinator, a rising star among NFL coaches, wants it playing “24 hours a day.”
“I can’t work without music,” he said. “It soothes me. It calms me. It helps me work. I listen to all kinds. I can go from rap to doo-wop, to soft rock, to blues, to gospel. You’re liable to hear anything from Ice Cube to the Del Vikings to Chicago.”
His aggressive, opportunistic defense is a big reason the Cardinals are 8-1, the best record in the NFL and the franchise’s best in 66 years.
Bowles’ players use the same words to describe him.
“Real low-key, laid-back,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.
“Very laid-back, very mild-mannered,” added cornerback Patrick Peterson.
On the sideline during games, Bowles has no time for outbursts of anger. It’s the way he’s been since his playing days.
“When I get riled up, I can’t think and play at the same time, or think and coach,” he said. “You kind of miss some small things if you get too riled up. You do all your yelling during the week. During the game, you kind of make sure everybody knows what they’re doing.”
There was one notable exception. In the game against Washington on Oct. 12, Arizona had taken a 14-10 lead with 31 seconds to play in the second quarter. The Redskins needed only 29 seconds to move in position for a field goal. At halftime, Bowles blew his stack.
“I’d never seen him that angry or mad,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said.
A tirade, Bowles said, can work occasionally. Just don’t give the players a steady diet of it.
“They go as I go,” Bowles said in an interview with The Associated Press. “If I’m even-keeled, they’re even-keeled. If I get riled up, they get riled up, and that’s not always a good thing.”
The defense Bowles creates is the opposite of his personality.
“He’s very, very fierce,” Peterson said of the style of play Bowles wants from his unit. “He’s going after the quarterback. Very aggressive and he doesn’t mind putting pressure on the secondary.”
Bowles will bring the blitz from a variety of angles. Despite the loss of several key players from last year’s No. 1-ranked run defense, the team is third against the run this season. The Cardinals lead the league in interceptions, are tied for the lead in turnover margin and are third in points allowed — behind Kansas City and Detroit, their opponent on Sunday.
“We love coach Bowles,” Peterson said, “everything about him. He’s a very smart teacher. He understands the game and puts his players in the best position possible.”
Bowles played for Arians at Temple 30 years ago. A standout defensive back, he broke several bones in his hand in a fall during practice and went undrafted. But he played eight seasons in the NFL and was a starter on Washington’s 1987 Super Bowl championship team.
As he worked his way up in the transient world of assistant coaches, he stayed close with Arians. He describes their relationship as “big brother, little brother.”
“He’s almost like the rock,” Bowles said. “If you need advice, you can call and go to him. He’s always been positive. He’s never let me hang my head, not even when I got hurt in college. We kept in touch throughout my playing career. We coached together in Cleveland.”
Bowles had endured what he calls “a train wreck” of a season with the Eagles in 2012. He was defensive backs coach, then took over as defensive coordinator in midseason. Andy Reid and his staff were fired.
Arians, meanwhile, was hired as head coach in Arizona, and one of the first people he called was Bowles. And Bowles was on his way to the desert.
Coaching is an all-consuming profession, so making time for the family is difficult. Bowles, who turns 51 next week, and his wife Taneka have a daughter and three sons, ages 4 to 11.
“Anytime you’re a coach it’s difficult to raise a family because of the hours you put in,” he said. “So anytime you get some time off, you just want to take it easy, go to movies or go to Chucky Cheese.”
This week the Cardinals gave Bowles a three-year contract extension through 2017, reportedly making him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the NFL.
But chances are, his family will be on the move again soon: Most likely, he will be offered a head coaching job.
“Somebody’s crazy if they don’t,” Arians said.
“I’ve heard talk about it, but it doesn’t bother me one way or the other because it’s out of my control,” he said. “If somebody deems to do that at the end of the year, then you deal with that as it comes. Right now I coach the Arizona Cardinals. I love it here. I love the guys, I love the coaches, I love the city. The fan base is great. I’m extremely happy.”
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