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Arians’ Arizona legacy is about more than wins and losses

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Bruce Arians didn’t field questions from reporters after announcing his retirement on Monday. There was no opportunity to probe the web of reasons behind his decision.

As for the emotional impact of the decision, there was no need for questions. The impact was written all over Arians’ face.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” the Cardinals coach said with his voice cracking and tears welling in his eyes. “The tears you see are really tears of joy and peace.”

Nobody believed him. Arians has been a coach since 1975. He was a player for a decade and a half before that. Football was more than a job. It was a lifelong passion. You don’t give that up with ease, not even at age 65.

The only reason Arians cited for departing was family, noting that his son Jake is approaching his 40th birthday in the blink of an eye, but health and the prospect of an impending rebuild may also have played roles.

“I will miss the game,” said Arians, who plans to stay in the Valley. “I’ll miss the players. I’ll miss coming out of the locker room and hearing the national anthem because it still gets me, but somehow, some way I’m going to be in touch with the game.”

The analysis of Arians’ five-year tenure in Arizona is a mixed bag. He went 50-32-1 and posted three straight seasons of 10-plus wins, something that hadn’t been done since 1974-76 when the team was still in St. Louis.

He won an NFC West title, he retires with the most wins in franchise history, and in a tie game against Seattle in 2016 was a Chandler Catanzaro chip shot away from posting at least a .500 record in every year on the job.

On the flip side, Arians went 1-2 in the playoffs, getting a miracle win over Green Bay in 2015, but losing to Carolina in back-to-back years, including the 2015 NFC Championship.

Bad luck played a role in the Cardinals’ playoff flops. Who knows what might have happened had Carson Palmer not torn his ACL after a 9-1 start in 2014? Who knows how much a dislocated finger impacted Palmer’s throwing ability in the 2015 playoffs?

All of those talking points will be part of Arians’ Arizona legacy, but so will the work that the Arians Family Foundation has done for kids.

So will the humor, candor, color and cussing he brought to his media sessions and the locker room.

“That’s the beauty of B.A.,” quarterback Drew Stanton said. “What you see is what you get. That’s refreshing in this business.”

Perhaps Arians’ greatest legacy will be the impact he had on the men around him.

“A lot like Adrian Wilson’s retirement, you can tell it’s kind of hard not to be choked up,” general manager Steve Keim said, his voice wavering. “It’s going to be hard to replicate the kind of relationship we all had with Bruce, and how special he was to us.

“He’ll always hold a special place in my heart.”

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