Bruce Arians, NFL Coach of the Year.
Is it possible? Sure. If Arians isn’t in the conversation, something is wrong. The question is how much Arians would be hurt with a lack of a playoff appearance, which probably remains the most likely scenario. But let’s say the Cardinals finish 11-5, tied with the 49ers (although out of the postseason) in the division. This is a team that went
4-12 5-11 (how quickly I forget) last year and had a big season in a brutal NFC West. The way Arians has brought his team together, the way he built his staff — he was the one all in on defensive coordinator Todd Bowles when few others were — has made for a quick renaissance in Arizona.
Who would be Arians’ competition? These are the coaches I think would be considered:
– Carolina’s Ron Rivera. No one expected the Panthers to be where they are and he’s done a nice job revamping that defense. It still feels like there isn’t a ton of Rivera belief out there, though, and that might hamper him.
– Kansas City’s Andy Reid. The Chiefs were 2-14 last season and are now 11-4, in a similar switch to the Cards. Reid’s problem is the late season slide (they started 9-0) that makes that early-season record feel more like a product of a easier schedule. That said, if the Chiefs go from 2-14 to 11-5 or 12-4, that’s a pretty amazing turnaround. He’s got to be one of the favorites.
– New England’s Bill Belichick. The Patriots have been shredded by injuries and yet keep winning. That Tom Brady guy tends to be an ace in the hole and probably undercuts Belechick’s candidacy.
– Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly. The Eagles could go 10-6 and win the division, and his offense has been effective. No one expected Nick Foles to play so well at quarterback and it’s hard not to credit Kelly for that. Kelly’s problem is that division. The NFC East is wretched.
As Cardinals VP of media relations Mark Dalton noted, no coach has ever won back-to-back Coach of the Year honors with different teams (Arians, of course, won it last year as the Colts’ interim boss.) Three coaches all-time have won it in back-to-back seasons: The Giants’ Allie Sherman (1961 and 1962 ), the Colts’ Don Shula (1967 and 1968, although he shared the 1967 award with the Rams’ George Allen) and the Redskins’ Joe Gibbs (1982 and 1983.) It would be fun to see Arians set a little history if he could be named again.
UPDATE: Arians has his own platform for which he is stumping: GM Steve Keim as NFL executive of the year. “I want to say this publicly: If he doesn’t get exec of the year, something is wrong,” Arians said. “People want to talk about about coach of the year. S***, I just coach the team. He deserves to be executive of the year because what he did in his first year is phenomenal. I’ve been around a little bit, now. It’s a great job. The players he has brought in that have contributed this season.”
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