Glendale, AZ. - When Todd Bowles gazes across the field on Monday Night, he will be staring at a familiar face in a red or black Kangol with touches of gray in his goatee. Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and New York Jets' coach Todd Bowles are more than friends. They are family. It is a relationship that has brewed for three decades and has no signs of stopping. For the first time - Monday Night - the two will put their brains to the test when their respective teams go head-to-head on primetime.
What started 33 years ago is now stronger. At the time - in 1983 - Bowles was in his redshirt sophomore season at Temple University in Philadelphia. Temple had just selected a new coach by the name Bruce Arians. There was something about the Jets head coach that Arians could not get over. He loved Bowles' grit and intelligence, his attention to detail - the way he was a leader on and off the field. The safety loved his coach's passion and wisdom. The feeling was mutual.
"He probably was fiery every second," Bowles told AZ Central. "Now, he probably can go every five minutes, but he's got the same fire, wisdom and intelligence."
It was a playful shot at his old friend. That will happen time-to-time. But, it is all in good fun.
Arians - 12 years older than Bowles - had always reached out to go the extra mile for Bowles. He became more of a mentor than a coach as the two could see eye-to-eye and discuss anything that was on their minds. The perfect example came when Bowles suffered a major injury to his wrist in his senior season at Temple. Arians took him by the shoulder and instructed his star safety to possibly weigh different options like coaching. It was not Arians saying Bowles was not good enough to compete; he was looking out for his player - like any coach and friend would.
"At the time, I was too immature to probably realize he was being honest with me, but I realized that later in life," said Bowles. "I was hard-headed and wanted to play anyway."
Bowles made his decision and Arians was there every step of the way. After playing eight seasons in the NFL with one Super Bowl ring, his long-time friend hired Bowles as a defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. In their first year together, the friends teamed up to coach the NFL's sixth ranked defense and top overall run defense. Bowles and Arians' unit allowed the fewest rushing yards in Cardinals history (1,351 yards), had 47 sacks (third in team history) and 30 turnovers (sixth in the NFL) with 20 interceptions - talk about historic.
Since the two met, Arians took Bowles under his wing. They learned plenty about one another and from one another that shaped who they are today. Arians became Bowles' big brother.
"[The relationship] went from father-son to uncle-nephew to brothers now," said Bowles. "Anything he can help me with - he does. Anything I can help him with - I do."
When asked what Arians truly meant to Bowles, the Jets head coach smiled and looked down. It was to reminisce about the last three decades. He could not describe the relationship in one simple answer. As Bowles continued to talk about Arians and his impact, his demeanor changed. It went from light-hearted to serious and nostalgic. You could tell the type of impact the Cardinals' head coach had on Bowles was monumental.
"I learned a lot from him. He's a great guy to learn from," said Bowles.
While both schedules are understandably busy, the friends continue to keep in touch. While their wives regularly gossip, the coaches do not talk during game weeks and text sometimes during the regular season. The offseason is a different element. In the past, Bowles and Arians talked about spending time during the summer at Arians' Georgia lake house.
"In the offseason, we talk quite a bit and spend a lot of time with each other," Bowles said with a smile.
During primetime, the two will meet face-to-face miles away from Arians' lake house. They will meet face-to-face instead of conversing through phone screens. Monday Night, when Bowles takes a look on the opposite side of the field, the Jets head coach will see a coach, mentor, friend, and brother.
"I can't say enough about him."
Joe Barone is a staff writer at JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email (email@example.com)