When the Arizona Cardinals host the New York Jets Monday night, it will mark a special occasion for a long-time assistant coach turned head coach who wanted the opportunity to build his own coaching tree.
For the first time in his career, Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians will face off against a former pupil, as Arizona will battle former defensive coordinator and current leader of the Jets, Todd Bowles.
Bowles served as Arizona's defensive coordinator during the first two seasons of Arians' tenure as head coach, earning Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the Associated Press for his efforts in 2014.
The relationship between Bowles and Arians goes much deeper, though, as Bowles played under Arians when the Cardinals' fourth-year head coach was the top man at Temple University in the mid 1980s.
"I always felt like he would even in college," Arians said when asked if he pegged Bowles becoming a head coach. "I actually told him I don't think you're going to be making it in the pros, you better start coaching. He only played for about 11 years and got two Super Bowl rings but you knew right away because of the type of person he was and the type of player he was, if and when he decided to coach he'd be a hell of a coach. The first coach that I'll coach against that was with us and we feel like we had a part of it because he did such a great job here and earned the right to get that job. Not just him, but seven or eight other guys that are on that staff, five of them were here."
Arians has coached against his former boss, Chuck Pagano, during his time with the Cardinals, but Monday's matchup marks the first time a member of Arians' coaching tree will square off against the root from which the branch derives.
While Bowles has implemented his own offensive philosophy in New York, the second-year Jets' head coach has a defense that looks awfully similar to the one that current Cardinals' defensive coordinator James Bettcher runs, and there's good reason for that.
"This one goes back 30 years," Arians said. "I've known Chuck (Pagano) a long time and the thing that we went through was totally different. They didn't run our offense and defense, and obviously Todd knows everything we do and we know a lot that he does, but not their offense. But you take all those emotions and put them away until after the game."
A season after leading the Jets to a 10-6 record, Bowles has stumbled out of the gates and New York stands just 1-4 through its first four games. The Cardinals also struggled out to a slow start, but Arians is hoping a win over San Francisco on Thursday evening and a long week of rest has his team prepared to work its way back to .500 on Monday night.
Even after starting just 2-3, Arians gave his players a few extra days off in the wake of their victory, meaning Cardinals players didn't hit the practice field for the first time after their Thursday win until Wednesday morning.
"Good start, looked like a team that had a couple of days off, a little raggedy," Arians said. "A couple guys had a good practice, Chandler Jones had a great practice. I thought Jermaine Gresham had a great practice. A couple guys, especially the young guys looked like they had five days off but this was a bonus day and this really starts tomorrow. Good to be back to work."
The Cardinals were greeted with good news at practice as starting quarterback Carson Palmer was a full participant after missing Thursday's game with a concussion. Had the Cardinals played Sunday instead of Thursday, there was a possibility Palmer could have played, but with a midweek game, Arians said there was no reason for Arizona to rush its quarterback through concussion protocol.
"Once he (Palmer) cleared, he was fine," Arians said. "He was lifting weights Saturday, Sunday, he was in the building almost the whole time, and I think he probably, had he wanted to, they could have cleared him last Saturday, but just took our time cause there was no hurry."