CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It's going to take some time for Larry Foote, the Cardinals' 34-year-old linebacker with 134 career starts and two Super Bowl rings, to sort out what he is going to do.
After the Cardinals were bounced from the playoffs by the Panthers on Saturday night, the 13-year veteran and longtime Steeler was in no position to make snap judgments with retirement at least an option.
But when asked about Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Foote beamed amid the hushed tones of a locker room processing the finality of a season-ending defeat.
"If you have been around them for five minutes you know (Bowles and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau) are a little different than the average coach," Foote said. "They both have one of those minds. And then from a personality standpoint, Todd has the it factor."
Bowles' name has been associated with five of the six head-coaching vacancies and is expected to begin interviews this week. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Bears, who have requested permission to meet with Bowles, can capture his attention. Interview requests are not always fulfilled. Because the Bears would like to hire a general manager first, it remains to be seen if they can move quickly enough to have a chance at Bowles. Sources indicated Bowles may meet with the Falcons first and some have suggested that is his preferred destination.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Sunday morning that the Falcons and Jets have requested permission to meet with Bowles and a Cardinals source said the Raiders and 49ers are also interested. The Cardinals hope to retain Bowles and made the unusual move of extending his contract through 2017 two months ago.
"Todd is a great defensive coordinator," said Cardinals President and owner Michael Bidwill, who admitted the midseason extension was designed to show Bowles the love. "I am a big fan of Todd Bowles and he's done a great job for us."
Had the Bears hired Arians as head coach two years ago, he would have brought in Bowles, a former Super Bowl-winning safety for the Redskins, as his defensive coordinator. Now Bowles is being touted as a candidate for a top job after the Cardinals won 21 regular-season games over the last two years, playing nearly this entire season without defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and John Abraham and linebacker Daryl Washington.
Bowles has an interesting resume. After his playing days ended, he worked in personnel briefly for the Packers under Mike Holmgren and coached under Bill Parcells, Andy Reid and Wade Phillips, among others, before joining forces with Arians, who was the head coach when Bowles was a team captain at Temple in the 1980s.
"Todd is about being tough and he is about being accountable and I think that is his biggest asset," safety Rashad Johnson said. "No matter who you are, no matter what your status is, your contract is, he is going to hold guys accountable to do their jobs and he's not afraid to let it be known in front of guys: 'Hey, you need to step it up and pick your game up.'
"Ultimately, that makes you want to play more."
Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said he might be out of the league had Bowles not resuscitated him beginning last year. In his ninth season, he had a career year with five sacks.
"You'd be getting a sharp guy, intelligent, any positive words you can toss at the man," Rucker said. "His demeanor and professionalism, his attention to detail. (I'm) playing at a really high level and it's all because of him."
Foote said Bowles' greatest trait is his adaptability while maintaining high standards, the type of pressure players crave in a competitive environment.
"What is unique about him is he can scream, cuss you out, get in your face and two minutes later he's hugging you, laughing with you and joking," Foote said. "That is a special skill. It's kind of like the uncle who chews your butt out but you know he means well. I've been with a lot of coaches that are on one side of that or the other, they didn't have both and Todd has both. That is why guys listen to him. They don't tune him out. They know how good he is."