True to Himself
New Cardinals Coach Says He’s Too Old to Change
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, left, talks with Rob Housler (84) at NFL football training camp practice on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches practice prior to the Cardinals Red & White NFL football training camp practice scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Glendale, Ariz. — The revelation last fall that Chuck Pagano had leukemia was unsettling to say the least for the Indianapolis Colts. Fortunately, they had Bruce Arians to help turn a potentially chaotic situation into a winning one.
Arians’ ability to keep the Colts focused in an emotionally trying time netted all sorts of positive results. The team made the playoffs. Pagano got better. Arians earned Coach of the Year honors and the big break he’d been seeking for decades.
Arians wouldn’t be where he is today — coaching the Arizona Cardinals — if he weren’t true to himself. What helped him the most during the demanding stretch that changed his life was that Arians didn’t change.
“I think that’s what guys respected the most,” said cornerback Jerraud Powers, who followed Arians from Indianapolis to Arizona. “He didn’t try to act different because he had a higher position of power. He made sure he kept the locker room strong and made sure we still had our goals in front of us. Guys went out there and had a reason to play and had kind of a magical season.
“Because we were such a young team, it could have easily gone in a million directions. He made sure everybody stayed focused on the task at hand.”
When he got the Cardinals’ job — his first full-time NFL head-coaching position after almost 25 years in the league — Arians vowed to do it his way. He would be aggressive. He would be a little unorthodox. And the man they call B.A. wouldn’t B.S. anyone.
“I’m too old to change,” Arians, 60, said in a corridor outside the Cardinals’ locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium. “I’m hard-headed. The guys who have been around me, who are here now, coaches and players, I’m hoping they don’t think I’ve changed. I’ve hollered and screamed since I started coaching and hugged every guy in the locker room afterwards.”
Powers provides confirmation: “He’s the same guy.” So does Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who worked with Arians in Pittsburgh and Indy.
“He is who he is,” Goodwin said. “And he’s going to stay that way.”
Who is Bruce Arians?
He’s someone who doesn’t waste time. If you were starting your dream job at age 60, you wouldn’t either.
The Cardinals do not stretch as a team at the start or end of practice. It’s up to each player to get himself ready so the squad can maximize every second it has together on the field.
“With our time limits now ... 10 minutes is a lot of time,” Arians said. “That’s a lot of teaching time to be wasting stretching.”
Arians borrowed that nontraditional tradition from Pagano. The Cardinals universally approve.
“You show up on the practice field, you’re either ready to go or you’re not,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We have plenty of time to get warmed up. So once we’re on the field, it’s go time. I like that mentality.”
Who is Bruce Arians?
He’s someone who has faith in his players.
Arians isn’t just paying lip service to the idea of using Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson on offense. Arians has devised an entire package of plays for Peterson, who has excelled as a receiver during Cardinals camp.
The fact that he’s unafraid to try something others might consider risky says as much about Arians as it does Peterson.
“It says he believes in me,” Peterson said. “It’s telling me he’s going to let his athletes play football.”
Who is Bruce Arians?
He’s someone who’s willing to let his staff have a life.
Arians doesn’t believe his coaches should be sleeping on couches in their offices, as many are wont to do in the uber-competitive NFL. If you’re efficient, Arians reasons, you’ll have more time for the truly important things.
“Too many coaches over the years have lost their children and lost their families over this job that’s not that hard,” said Arians, who has two adult children. “If you’re up at 2 in the morning, either you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re searching for something.”
Of course, if the Cardinals don’t win, critics will ridicule Arians’ methods. The former college quarterback is willing to take a hit to make a statement.
As Luck Would Have It
Arians became a fall guy in Pittsburgh, briefly retiring when the Steelers declined to renew his contract as offensive coordinator after the 2011 season. Goodwin, also part of that staff, described the situation as “weird.” But if you believe everything happens for a reason, it becomes weird in a good way.
If Pittsburgh hadn’t let him go, Arians wouldn’t have landed in Indianapolis. If Pagano hadn’t gotten sick, Arians wouldn’t have gotten this chance.
“There’s no doubt,” Arians said. “Even if we’d have had the same record, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten an interview to be a head coach. It hadn’t happened when I’d been to two Super Bowls, (so) I don’t think it would have happened coaching a bunch of young guys. In that regard, I’m very fortunate.”
Arians isn’t football’s version of Andy Enfield, who parlayed two hot weeks into the USC basketball job. Arians put in the time. He just didn’t get recognized for it until, as he put it, he got to “practice-coach” for 12 weeks in Indianapolis.
Arians guided the retooled, post-Peyton Manning Colts to a 9-3 record. They were bad enough the year before to have the No. 1 pick in the draft. Arians entrusted the team — and, it turns out, his future — to that No. 1 pick, quarterback Andrew Luck. Arians didn’t play it safe then, and he isn’t about to now.