Bruce Arians was the Cardinals’ coach for a day or two when I happened to be in his office as he taped a video for a banquet back in his home state of Pennsylvania. I don’t recall who it was for, but I do recall that Arians got choked up delivering the lines. He admitted he was an emotional sort. It was not only an explanation, but it turned into a promise. And there he was Monday, in his final press conference, choking up again. In between, there was plenty of emotion — tears and otherwise.
B.A. had confidence. Whether he would’ve been like that 10 years ago as a coach (I suspect yes) or if it was the fact it had taken so long to get a head coaching job right as he got to the end of his career, he always was going to do it the way he wanted. That’s who the Cards hired. He won games that way, he made gutsy calls, he did things that frustrated fans. Oh, and he was incredibly entertaining all the while.
Just the other day he was talking about how close he had been in Pittsburgh with fellow Steelers assistant Ken Whisenhunt — the man he just happened to surpass as the Cardinals’ all-time winningest coach, and the man who tried to hire Arians on his Cardinals’ staff at one point — and how much he liked to trash talk the Steelers defense in practice. That carried over. When Arians stepped to the podium Sunday night and said with that crooked smile he’d often have, “Thanks for coming to my house,” that was the essence of Arians.
In an article B.A. co-wrote for The Athletic with Lars Anderson — the author of B.A.’s book — he noted he considered many different options for 2018, including coaching:
“I feel like we have so much unfinished business here with the Cardinals—the last two seasons have been major disappointments because we’ve failed to make the playoffs—and I considered renting an apartment next year in Phoenix, living alone, and making one final charge at the Super Bowl.”
Instead, the pull of family, and his grandchildren, were too much, and choosing to retire is a very human thing to do. So many coaches leave jobs claiming family when, in the end, they are just looking for a different job. In this case, it was family that truly pulled Arians from the game.
On a personal level, I have covered and interviewed many coaches (on many levels, in many sports) over the 27 years or so I’ve been writing sports. Some have been difficult, many have been good to work with. But, especially on the professional level, anyone covering B.A. understands it will never get any better. You could ask Arians any question. He may or may not answer or be detailed, although most of the time, he was very good.
In the end, Arians won. The last two years were not what he or anyone in the organization wanted. But that the Cards finished 8-8 given their injuries was remarkable, and it also says something about where the Cardinals are when .500 (or 7-8-1) is such a disappointment. GM Steve Keim said today he expects to make a couple of moves and still compete in 2018. He’s got to hope he brings in a coach that can be as good as his last hire.