After 13 seasons as an assistant coach in the NFL, on the heels of eight seasons as a player, Todd Bowles isn't surprised by much. So when he was called into head coach Andy Reid's office early Tuesday morning following his 5:30 AM workout session with fellow coaches Duce Staley and Mike Caldwell, Bowles was ready for anything. Anything, Reid would tell Bowles, meant that Bowles would be taking over for Juan Castillo as the Eagles defensive coordinator.
"He said, 'We're going to go with a change,'" Bowles recalled of the conversation. "He's going to go with his gut and he felt it was the right thing to do."
For the second time in the last 10 months, Bowles was promoted mid-season. Last December, after the Miami Dolphins parted ways with then-head coach Tony Sparano, Bowles was named interim head coach. He would lead the Dolphins to a 2-1 record over their final three games.
"I've sat in (coach Reid's) seat for three games last year," Bowles said. "Being a head coach is not easy. You have to make unpopular decisions at the time and hope they become popular. It's no different than anybody else who has to make those decisions when you're in that seat. You have to make that call. That was the call he made and I don't think he had any help from anybody.
"Shocked in this game, you kind of see things every year that kind of make you surprised until you stop being surprised. It's the profession we choose. You win, you're great, if you lose, you stink. That's the profession of our business and you have to understand that going in."
Bowles just so happens to have a pretty solid grasp on the profession of coaching in the NFL. During his playing career with the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, Bowles learned under former Redskins defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, former Eagles defensive coordinator (then-Redskins defensive backs coach) Emmitt Thomas and former Eagles head coach (then-49ers defensive backs coach) Ray Rhodes.
"Emmitt was a technician," Bowles recalled. "He was fundamentally sound. Richie Petitbon was the X's and O's coach and Emmitt was always, 'You have to have your feet here, you have to see this, see that.' So he and Ritchie taught me scheme and fundamentals and they harped on it every day and you couldn't help but learn football. (Thomas) was a bright coach. He made people try to beat you left-handed.
"He was very good at relating to players and he understood what made people tick and he got the most out of them."
Upon entering the coaching profession himself, Bowles learned from the likes of Bill Parcells and Mike Nolan, whom he'll square off with next week when the Eagles play the Atlanta Falcons.
"When I first got the job (as defensive backs coach for the New York Jets in 2000), coach Parcells taught me, 'Don't learn just one position,'" Bowles said. "He said, learn the entire defense, then you learn the entire team, then you learn the entire roster, so in case these things come up it's not a shock for you. You have to always be prepared in this business."
Following the end of the 2011 season, Bowles was in contention to become head coach of the Dolphins following his successful stint as the interim head coach. Though Bowles ultimately did not get that job, his experience in that role should serve him well now that he's been charged with another in-season role change.
"It teaches you you have to adjust and you have to be ready on the fly," Bowles said of what he learned last year. "This is no different than a game plan changing at halftime or (playing) the next week with different players. I've been on a defensive side of the ball my whole life, so this is not a big change for me in that regard."
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