NFL: Arizona Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians
With the 2013 season over for the Arizona Cardinals let’s take a look at what head Coach Bruce Arians was able to do with this team in just one season.
Last year at this time General Manager, Rod Graves was let go, as was head Coach Ken Whisenhunt. It was widely speculated that Steve Keim would replace Graves, but we were not sure if Keim was going to be in on the naming of a new head Coach or if Michael Bidwell would make the final decision.
When Keim took over we found out quickly what his plans were for this team. He was going be in charge of hiring the new coach, evaluating players and get key free agents signed to play for the Cardinals.
The fans had several names on their list of potential head coaches, including Ray Horton, who at that time was the Cardinals’ Defensive Coordinator and the fan favorite for the job. Horton had interviewed twice for the position, so we naturally assumed he was going to get the job. Then began the Andy Reid saga and at one point it was a done deal, Reid was going to be the next head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals. It was a big surprise when it was announced that Reid would be the new coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The speculation returned to Ray Horton as the leading candidate. Then, out of nowhere, came the name Bruce Arians. The 2012 interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts, who guided the Colts to a 9-3 record and won the 2012 Coach of the Year award. Arians arrived in town for an interview and was named the Arizona Cardinals’ Head Coach on January 17, 2013. He signed a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year much to the fans surprise.
During his initial press conference Arians made no secret of his direct, blunt and honest style. He said he was that way with his players and he would be that way when giving an interview.
Arians did not start off on a positive note with the fans. Everyone thought he would keep Ray Horton as his Defensive Coordinator. Arians and Ray Horton were assistant coaches together when the Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly defeated the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLVIII. Arians and Horton met and, for undisclosed reasons, Horton left Arizona shortly thereafter.
Another move that the fans were unsure of was Arians naming his friend, Todd Bowles, as his Defensive Coordinator. Bowles was considered a failure in Philadelphia. You might remember that one of the reasons Whisenhunt was let go was that he would not terminate the contract of his friend Russ Grimm.
As Arians started to assemble his staff with the likes of veteran assistant coaches Tom Pratt and Tom Moore, then former Phoenix Cardinals and Arizona Rattlers running back Stump Mitchell, as well as maintaining John Lott as strength and conditioning coordinator, all was quickly forgotten with regard to the new defensive coordinator hiring.
Another move that fans questioned was Carson Palmer instantly being named the starting quarterback. Everyone felt that Palmer’s best days were behind him and he could no longer lead a team.
Early on in the regular season fans and members of the media started to question whether or not Arians knew what he was doing. The offensive line was struggling, giving up sacks and not opening any holes for runners. Carson Palmer was erratic with his throws and had thrown too many interceptions and too few touchdowns. Rashard Mendenhall was struggling at running back, as well as fighting a nagging toe injury. Fans were already talking about another season below .500 and looking at who they would take in the 2014 draft.
The only bright spots for Arians seemed to be that the defensive squad was proving that Bowles was not a failure as a Defensive Coach.
Then at Week 8 of the season, the Cardinals players and coaches seemed to have found their groove.
Arians started to call plays that fit his players, not his scheme. He used Andre Ellington in both running and passing plays and he used the dual tight end option to aid his pass protection. He also began to use chip-blocks from running backs and tight ends, allowing the offensive line enough time for Carson Palmer to make his throws around the middle and sides of the field.
The Cardinals went on and won seven out of eight and, although they lost out on a playoffs bid, finished the season at 10-6. That tied for the most wins by a Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals team and Arians had the most successful first year as a Cardinals head coach, which could lead to him winning another NFL Coach of the Year award. Fans have to agree that Arians is a no-nonsense and hardworking coach who did not pay attention to what others had to say, and in the end leading this team to one of their best seasons ever. Coach Arians is the real deal and is the perfect man for the Cardinals’ head coaching job. His class and sense of humor adds a nice touch to the package.
This season speaks volumes of what Arians did for/with his players, coaches, front-office, and media; and this fan can’t wait for the 2014 season.
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