The Arizona Cardinals formally introduced Bruce Arians as their new head coach Friday, putting an end to a nearly three-week search for Ken Whisenhunt’s replacement.
In Arians they found a man who is experienced, well-liked and motivated.
“I’ve been looking forward to this a long time,” an emotional Arians said at his first meeting with the media as the Cardinals’ head coach.
Indeed he has.
Arians has been coaching for more than 30 years, and while he’s had great success as a coordinator, he had never been given an opportunity to be an NFL head coach.
That changed in 2012 when he guided the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record as an interim coach. Not only did Arians prove to himself that he could lead a team, but the rest of the league, too.
“The last 12 months have been quite a ride,” Arians said. “Here we are.”
The Cardinals are coming off a 5-11 season that saw them score — by far — the fewest number of points in the league. Given Arians’ track record on the offensive side of the football, it’s fair to assume the team brought him in because they believe he can fix things.
And Arians — who has coached quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck — understands the Cardinals will need improved play out of that position.
“I know there’s some really good quality guys,” Arians said of who the Cardinals have. “If they’re our quarterbacks, we’re going to coach them up and they’re going to play their tails off.”
Arians said he knows general manager Steve Keim and director of player personnel Jason Licht will continue looking for help at the position, and if that’s where the answer lies, so be it.
“If door number two is a better option we’ll go to door number two,” Arians said, adding that it is something that will play out in the future.
The future is what this hire was all about, which is part of the reason Arians said he did not want to retain defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Horton was also interviewed for the top job, and while Arians said he values the defensive coordinator as a friend and a coach, he felt it would not be best to keep him on board.
“Having it for my first time, this is a direction I feel very strong about,” Arians said, adding he wishes Horton the best and believes will be a head coach in the league very soon. “It needed to be a football team that was directed by me, and anytime there’s carryover we don’t want guys being able to go somewhere else to voice their opinion.
“I didn’t want to put Ray in that situation; that’s not fair to him. If a guy’s got a gripe or concern, come to me, and that’s just the way we’re going to do business.”
As of now there should be few gripes. Arians said he’s talked to both Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson, both of whom expressed excitement over the hire. This is the honeymoon period for the coach, and as of this moment he has yet to lose a game in Arizona. He said the plan is for his team to play smart and disciplined football, which would go a long way towards helping the team be successful.
“A short time ago this organization was 37 seconds away from the Super Bowl trophy,” Arians reminded those in attendance. “I just happened to be calling plays on the other side. Got real lucky, too.
“That’s the excitement that we want to bring back. That’s our goal and our only goal.”
Arians said Cardinals fans deserve that, and he believes it can happen in Arizona.
He’s officially on the clock.