The Arizona Cardinals started the NFL season at 4-0 and looked like they could be the darlings of the league. Instead, the quarterback carousel started churning once again and the team won just one game the rest of the year. The Cardinals went out and hired Bruce Arians — Indianapolis’ offensive coordinator and interim head coach for much of the year — to come in and turn the program around. Bruce Arians joined KTAR in Phoenix with Doug and Wolf to discuss his reaction to landing the head-coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals, his coaching style, the wild ride with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, if he’ll still be a hands-on coach with his quarterback and his philosophy on how to turn things around.
What was your reaction when you realized you were going to be the Cardinals’ new head coach?
“I was very concerned because I had some very dear friends here. I knew, at one point in time, that I was not probably going to keep some of them on staff. I had always said that if I had gotten this opportunity that I had a group of guys ready to go that I wanted to be with. But when the opportunity came, and Kenny [Whisenhunt] said, ‘You need to do it.’ … I had said all along it was going to take a special, special place for me to leave Indianapolis and the things we went through and did this year. It wasn’t 30 minutes … that I knew this team they put together and this vision they have right now is the same one I share.”
Everyone says you’re a great guy. When it comes time to get a player’s face, can you do that and will you do that?
“Yeah, I really can’t say the things I say on-air. I have a different way of communicating with each position. I grew up in the streets of York, Pa. I went to college with the hillbillies at Virginia Tech. I’ve coached down South, I’ve recruited New York City, so I think I know everybody and can communicate the way they want to be communicated to. It’s all about respect. And, hey, if you do it right, I’m not going to call you something ugly.”
How did Leukemia change you?
“Any time the word cancer is spoken to you — being a cancer survivor myself — that changes your life. When I got that phone call from Chuck [Pagano], it floored me. It just dropped me to my knees. Football took a way back seat. … As coaches, we’ve got to have a plan. He loved his doctor … and said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to whip it.’ … When we clinched that playoff game and that mission was accomplished — because the earliest he could come back was going to be Dec. 30 — I had the greatest Christmas I’ve ever had.”
How hands-on can you be with a quarterback now that you’re a head coach?
“I thought, with Andrew [Luck], I had all the time in the world he needed for me. I was fortunate to have Clyde Christensen, what I consider the best quarterback coach in the league right now, on my staff. … We had a system that worked. Obviously I was calling the plays and doing those things, and I’ll call the plays here. And as that developed, it was an easy, easy bond, because as a coach, a head coach, or an offensive coordinator, you’re tied to your quarterback. You’re going to have success or you’re going to be fired.”
Do you have to figure out what went wrong with the 2012 Cardinals as you get started in trying to turn things around?
“No, I think you just go back and evaluate the players, look at the games, see what their talent level is, and erase it, and give everyone a fresh start. I respect the coaching job that was done here. The coach will take the blame and the quarterback will take the blame, but I know Kenny Whisenhunt is a helluva football coach and he’ll coach again soon. We don’t have schemes; we’re not built into a scheme. We’ll build a scheme around what we’ve got. We’ve got a core of great players here and if our quarterback’s on campus right now, we’ll do what he does best. We’re not going to ask guys to do things just because that’s our scheme. That’s just bad ball. We’re throwing it down the field, I’ll tell you that. I coach the way I golf: I ain’t never laid up.”