The Arizona Cardinals and their juggernaut defense received plenty of attention over the course of the season and rightfully so. From scoring defense to total defense to rushing defense to passing defense, the unit was among the NFL's best across the board.
The Cardinals defense finished the season first in rushing defense, fourth in takeaways, fifth in passing defense per attempt, sixth in total defense and seventh in scoring defense. Two of the defense's members -- linebacker John Abraham and cornerback Patrick Peterson -- were named to the Pro Bowl while three others were named alternates.
And the players themselves aren't the only ones reaping the benefits of, and getting recognition for, a great season. Their leader, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, is becoming an increasingly hot head coach candidate, with more than five such jobs expected to open over the course of the offseason.
Bowles helped improve the Cardinals defense from 12th to sixth in total defense from 2012 to 2013 and, much more impressively, 28th to first in rushing defense. Having worked with several NFL teams' secondaries, the 50-year-old former safety also served a three-game stint as the Miami Dolphins' interim head coach in 2011. Last season, he was named Andy Reid's defensive coordinator midseason with the Philadelphia Eagles, following Juan Castillo's dismissal from the role.
What's more? Following the hiring of 14 straight white head coaches and general managers last season, the NFL's newly-created Career Development Advisory Panel is emphasizing the qualifications of minority candidates and Bowles, who is African-American, is likely to make the committee's final list of names, according to MMQB.com.
But Bowles, who once played for head coach Bruce Arians and now gets the privilege of managing a loaded defensive roster, has maintained that he's satisfied in Glendale during conversations with the Cardinals front office.
General manager Steve Keim and president Michael Bidwill nevertheless know the inquiries are on their way, now that the regular season has come to a close. And those inquiries, Keim told Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf Show, have to pass through the Cardinals by rule.
"Michael Bidwill would be the person that they would contact and I have not heard yet," Keim said Monday, while a guest on the show. "I certainly would expect and Michael expects that Todd will get some consideration and deservedly so."
Keim has been outspoken in his praise for Bowles throughout the season and, recently, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald echoed the sentiment when interviewed by ESPN.com, saying that he hoped the defensive coordinator got interviews and that he was "definitely deserving."
"At the same time," Keim went on, "I've had numerous conversations with Todd and he's made it clear to me and to the organization that he's extremely happy here and would love to stay.
Given the fact that Keim considers Bowles' defense the foundation of the team -- "no question" -- you'd have to believe he and the Cardinals will do everything they can to hold on to their prized coach.
"You know, if we come back and put together another good defense next year, that only strengthens his situation," Keim said. "He's at a point in his career where he can be picky."
"That's not to say that he wouldn't take an opportunity that presented itself," he later qualified. "But I think it would have to be a special opportunity."