Ari­ans, Bowles friends for decades

The New York Jets face the Ari­zona Car­di­nals tonight

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Bob Baum

Three decades ago, as Todd Bowles was wind­ing up his fi­nal sea­son as a de­fen­sive back at Tem­ple, his young coach Bruce Ari­ans had some ad­vice.

“I ac­tu­ally told him: ‘I don’t think you’re go­ing to be mak­ing it in the pros. You might want to start coach­ing,”’ Ari­ans re­called. “He only played for about 11 years and got two Su­per Bowl rings.”

Ac­tu­ally, it was one Su­per Bowl ring in eight NFL sea­sons, but ob­vi­ously, Bowles didn’t take the ad­vice.

“I had a bro­ken wrist at the time and I couldn’t do a pushup,” he said. “They told me I’d have arthri­tis later on in life, and he was just be­ing hon­est with me. At the time, I was too im­ma­ture to prob­a­bly re­al­ize he was be­ing hon­est with me, but I re­al­ized that later on in life. But, I was hard-headed and wanted to play any­way.”

The two men grew to be great friends.

“It went from fa­ther-son to un­cle-nephew to we’re al­most like broth­ers now,” Bowles said. “Any­thing that he can help me with, he does. Any­thing I can help him with, I do . ... He taught me so much in life and in foot­ball. Words can’t de­scribe how I feel about him.”

The two will be on op­po­site sides of the field Mon­day night, when Bowles’ New York Jets face Ari­ans’ Ari­zona Car­di­nals.

Bowles was a team cap­tain at Tem­ple, “one of the smartest play­ers I’ve ever seen,” Ari­ans said, and he seemed des­tined to be a coach.

“You knew right away be­cause of the type of per­son he was and the type of player he was,” Ari­ans said, “if and when he de­cided to coach, he’d be a hell of a coach.”’

Back in 1986, Bowles went un­drafted, signed with the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, and played seven

sea­sons there. Then came the coach­ing. Both men climbed through the ranks.

Ari­ans served as an as­sis­tant coach for 37 years. He was of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor with the In­di­anapo­lis Colts in 2013 when Chuck Pagano con­tracted leukemia and had to leave the team. Ari­ans took over as in­terim coach, di­rected the Colts to an 8-2 record to be­come NFL Coach of the Year. At age 60, he was hired as head coach of the Car­di­nals.

His first hire was Bowles as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor.

Bowles had come up the hard way, too. He spent two years in Green Bay’s player per­son­nel de­part­ment, had

de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor gigs with More­house Col­lege and Gram­bling State be­fore go­ing to the NFL as de­fen­sive backs coach of the Jets in 2000.

He and Ari­ans were to­gether on the staff of the Cleve­land Browns for three sea­sons. From there, Ari­ans went to the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, where he won two Su­per Bowl rings, be­fore be­ing forced out of the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor’s job and go­ing to In­di­anapo­lis.

Bowles moved on to Dal­las and Mi­ami, where he served as in­terim head coach af­ter the Dol­phins fired Tony Sparano with three games left in the sea­son.

When Ari­ans was hired in Ari­zona, Bowles was com­ing off a dif­fi­cult sea­son on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadel­phia. Bowles be­gan the year as se­condary

coach and was pro­moted to de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor when Juan Castillo was fired six games into the sea­son. The Ea­gles fin­ished 4-12 and Reid and his staff were out, just in time for Bowles to join his old friend and men­tor in the desert.

While Ari­ans con­cen­trated on the of­fense, Bowles took over the de­fense. He built an ag­gres­sive, blitz­ing unit and es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion for mak­ing the right ad­just­ments at half­time.

Ari­ans was elated when Bowles got the Jets job.

“I take great pride in that phase of rais­ing young coaches,” Ari­ans said. “With the help of (Car­di­nals Pres­i­dent) Michael (Bid­will), we’ve been able to start the Bid­will Fel­low­ship pro­gram. Watch­ing Day­lon McCutcheon and Mar­cel

Shipp (now Jets as­sis­tants) come here as in­terns and get full-time jobs.”

Bowles went to New York and the Jets were 10-6 in 2015, nar­rowly miss­ing the play­offs. Ari­ans’ Car­di­nals were 13-3 and made it to the NFC cham­pi­onship game.

This year. both have had prob­lems. The Jets are 1-4 and Ari­zona, ex­pected to be a Su­per Bowl con­tender, is 2-3.

Through it all, Bowles and Ari­ans have kept in con­tact, mostly in the off­sea­son, when Bowles has vis­ited Ari­ans’ lake­side re­treat in Ge­or­gia. Dur­ing the sea­son, they still stay in touch.

“We’ll text back and forth,” Ari­ans said. “Our wives talk more than we do, but I’ll text him ev­ery other week or be­fore games.”


In this file photo, New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles stands on the side­lines dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NFL pre­sea­son foot­ball game against the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins in Lan­dover, Md.

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