The 2013 Arizona Cardinals season kicks off this week.
Finally, Carson Palmer will play a real game as a Cardinal. Rashard Mendenhall will start. And rookie Tyrann Mathieu makes his professional debut.
I’ve managed to mention six of the many Cardinal newcomers in my “New Faces” series this preseason. Time for a seventh and final breakdown. Let’s put new head coach Bruce Arians on the scales.
|“WINNER” – I can neither confirm nor deny that Bruce Arians has tiger’s blood, but, in the unforgettable words of Charlie Sheen, Arians is a “winner!” The Cards’ new head coach has spent 20 years in the NFL. In 15 of his 20 seasons, he’s been part of a winning football team. The only bump in his winning road occurred in Cleveland, and even that stint can be considered a success story, at least by the Browns’ standards. Since the franchise returned to the league in 1999, the Browns have finished .500 or better three times. Arians was there for two of them.||AGE – Eighteen months ago, Bruce Arians was considering retirement. At age 60 and having just been fired at Pittsburgh, he was certain his dream of being an NFL head coach just wasn’t going to happen. Chuck Pagano resurrected Arians’ career. And when Pagano had health problems, Arians proved he can run a successful NFL locker room. However, there must be a reason why Arians was never taken seriously as a head coaching candidate. This year, we’ll find out why he was overlooked or ask how he could have possibly slipped through the cracks.|
|A DEFT TOUCH – When you can list Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck as success stories on your resume, you’ve established you can coach quarterbacks. For Cardinal fans, only three years have passed since Kurt Warner was the franchise quarterback, but since every replacement has been a dog it’s felt like 21 years. Arians plus Carson Palmer may not equal Warner, but improvement seems inevitable.||PLAYER’S COACH – Word is, Arians was let go in Pittsburgh because he was too soft with Ben Roethlisberger. Arians has made it no secret, he is a player’s coach. And in my experience, player’s coaches have shorter shelf-lives than disciplinarians. For a while, players seem to respond well to being treated like men. Then, gradually, they begin to take advantage of their freedoms and the good nature of the coach who took them off the leash.|
|AGGRESSION – The Cardinals are going to throw the ball downfield. Patrick Peterson is going to play some offense. The team won’t even dress a fullback. Bruce Arians may be a grandfather, but he doesn’t run your grandfather’s offense. When Arians was in Pittsburgh, the Steelers became the first team to have a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. Last year, rookie Andrew Luck threw the ball 40 times per game for the NFL Coach of the Year. The Cardinals may not win more than they lose this season, but it won’t be because they don’t take chances.||HORTON HEARS A SNUB – I wouldn’t have hired Ray Horton as the team’s new head coach, but it couldn’t have been easy for Cardinal fans to see him leave. The defense was outstanding under Horton last season, and in a perfect world, the organization could have hired a new head coach and kept the dreadlocked defensive rockstar. That wasn’t going to happen. Horton is in Cleveland now and Todd Bowles gets the crack at being Arians’ defensive coordinator. I’m not saying Bowles won’t work out, but you hate to mess with something that was working so well.
|WHIZ OR GET OFF THE POT – Ken Whisenhunt had a good run with the Cardinals. The fact that he guided the franchise to its first and only Super Bowl appearance chisels Whiz’s face onto a rather sad Mount Rushmore of Cardinal coaches. But it was time for him to go. In the end, Whisenhunt gave his own coaching abilities too much credit. He behaved as if he could plug any quarterback into his system and it would succeed. It didn’t succeed. Whether Bruce Arians was the right or wrong call, the team needed a new direction.||THE KANGOL – Few people have been able to pull off the Kangol hat successfully. Why, you can count them on one hand. Rerun from What’s Happening?, Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch, umm…. OK, there are two. Two famous people have been able to pull off the Kangol. Two! Arians would have a better chance bringing back the stovepipe hat or the Carmen Miranda fruitbasket-on-the-head-thing than he would trying to match fashion with the great Fred Berry. We can only pray that Arians won’t wear his lid of choice during a game.|