A year ago today, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians sat at a press conference with the Arizona media, like Bengals OC Jay Gruden and Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell had done in the days before, talking about his interview with the Cardinals, how it went well, and how he thought he was ready to become a head coach. Later that evening, Arians — unlike Gruden, Bevell and a handful of other candidates to replace Ken Whisenhunt — signed up to be the Cards’ next head coach.
It’s been quite the year. “It’s going to be a great team,” Arians said a short time after taking the job. “Team is what it takes.” Arians never wavered in that belief, pushing it on the players. “Coach ‘em hard and hug ‘em later” was the motto taught to Arians by legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant (for whom Arians coached the last two years of Bryant’s career) and that remains his philosophy. Arians could shred a player on the field during practice and laugh with that same player moments later when practice was over. He was intense, admittedly emotional, yet had fun not only with his team but talking about his team. Most importantly, he said from the start his team would compete with NFC West powers Seattle and San Francisco, and he was right.
“There is no question Bruce has a unique skill,” General Manager Steve Keim said. “I haven’t been around many coaches during my time in this business that have the ability to drive players to almost a breaking point and yet at the end of the day these guys love him and want to play for him. I think these players respect him, respect the coaches that he has hired, and know that he is just trying to put them in position to succeed.”
Arians had 10 wins in his first year as Cardinals coach. Only Norm Barry, who had 11 back in 1925 when the NFL wasn’t quite the NFL yet, had more in his rookie season coaching the Cards. The day of Arians’ official he’s-now-the-Cards-coach press conference, Keim said he and team president Michael Bidwill liked Arians’ personality and energy. It permeated the building from the moment Arians arrived. A year in, it was exactly what the Cardinals needed.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim
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