Wednesday morning, at the Arizona Biltmore, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians chatted with members of the media for roughly an hour.
He was there for the NFC Coaches Breakfast, which was part of this week’s annual NFL Meetings.
Arians touched on a variety of topics — and avoided at least one other — throughout the morning. There were a lot of smiles and laughs, as well as the classic Arians sound bite.
Below is the second installment of our “Breakfast With Bruce” series (the first can be found here), in which we will highlight some of the best stuff the third-year coach had to offer.
On what he thinks his team needs or what he would like to add going forward
“Stay healthy. Stay healthy. Let’s not have any freak injuries this year practicing and just continue to grow. We’ll come back with the confidence we left with adding pieces. Every year is a new, entire — I don’t like to use the word ‘chemistry’ but it’s an accountability to each other that has to grow in that locker room. The type of players we brought in are those type of guys so it should be a really easy mix. Our guys coming back are excited about the guys coming in. Obviously the draft choice will help and it’s fun just to put them all together and watch them grow. I think we should have some really, really quality, competitive practices, which will make us better.”
On whether Patrick Peterson got too much criticism last year
“Not in September. It was probably warranted in September when he was struggling. When you think about Pat, Pat’s our number one. He’s had the number one guy from the other team every week, all over the field. You’re going to lose a few battles. Deion used to lose some battles. He may say he didn’t, but I know he lost a couple against Marvin (Harrison). He gets overly criticized I think because of his stature. But, there was not much to criticize from October all the way the rest of the way.”
On what Todd Bowles meant to him
“I think it took about five years too long for him to be a head coach. I really thought I’d be working for him. When he was an interim coach at Miami, I called him and said, ‘Hey man, I’m going to need a job one of these days. Just keep me in one of those consultant jobs.’ So, he was a rising star a long time ago. It’s good to see him get it. He’s going to do a fabulous job. Like I said, he’s the brightest football player and probably the brightest coach that I’ve ever been around, but he can teach it. He knows how to simplify the game and put you in a position to be successful and that’s what good coaches do.”
On whether he’ll look for more push from Alex Okafor
“Just continue to grow because he has all the skills. The number of sacks he had in limited time was extremely impressive last year and it was good to see him stay healthy. That’s always been his bugaboo. So, he stays healthy with the number of guys we now have to mix packages together, I really like our pass rush. I’d like to have one more speed guy.”
On the change in culture that he and Steve Keim has brought and talking with the front office
“I can only speak for our vision since I’ve known them. I can’t really talk about what went on 10 years ago because I wasn’t here and wasn’t part of it. I know that the first time we met, we all had the same vision, and Michael (Bidwill) wants to win. It’s very evident just in the amount of resources he’s put into our facility. Twenty-six million dollars in two years in upgrading our facility, free agency, everything he does, he wants to win. Steve and I share the same vision on how to do that. So, that culture, that was married at the first dinner. We all had the same vision. I truly believe culture beats talent and I love the culture of our locker room. It’s not a ‘me’ locker room. It’s not a Pro Bowl locker room. It’s a Super Bowl locker room and there’s an accountability factor between every single player and coach that we all share and feel that that’s our job.”
On his approach to finding the best free agents, budget-wise
“It’s always been Steve and mine approach that, again, is it the best player or is it the best fit for our locker room? He’s a quality player, but he’s a great person. He’d play for free, he loves to play. He has a passion about the game, a passion about practice. So, those are the type of guys we’ve been able to get and they fit in your locker room, they become instant leaders because guys embrace that. You keep bringing more of them in and you got that accountability and camaraderie into the locker room.”
On defensive tackle Dan Williams leaving for the Oakland Raiders
“Danny’s an excellent nose guard. He’s going to stop the run. He’s going to give you everything he’s got. He should be a good fit for their defense. He needs to play more, not just 27 percent of the time.”
On whether he would have been a different coach if he was 20 years younger
“Oh, hell yeah. I don’t give a crap. I think that anybody that talked to me — some of the guys from Pittsburgh were here just a minute ago and I don’t think I talked to them any different back then, that’s probably why I didn’t a head coaching job. I think the truth is the truth, and some people just can’t take the truth.”
On being able to tell the truth to players
“It’s easy with players. If it’s not perfect it’s wrong. You do it perfect or you do it again. I think guys want that. They want discipline. They want to be coached. I think Plaxico Burress said it best. I got hired as a receiver coach and he looked at me and said, ‘How are you going to make me better?’ I said, ‘First thing, we’re going to change that damn stance you’re in because it’s terrible. You got your toe pointed this way and you’re trying to run that way. Let’s turn the film on. You’re taking a false step every time.’ So I had him. It was easy. Just coach them up and make them better. Somebody asked me yesterday, when are we going to have female coaches? The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired. All players want is, ‘How are you going to make me better so I can make this living?’ As long as you can do that and teach somebody to get better, I don’t care who it is coaching, they’ll take the advice.”
On sounding resigned earlier that Antonio Cromartie wanted to return to New York
“But it’s still money talks. It was going to come a time when the monies were going to get one way or the other. New York spent more than we were willing to pay. We draw a line in the sand, and we’ll play on from there.”
Would you like to add a veteran corner?
“No, not at all. I’d really like to have a young one. A young, long, fast one because I think we have enough depth with the guys we have. But we’d like to get another young one.
How much did you know about Steve and his ability to evaluate talent before you came here?
“Nothing. I was shocked when I met Steve and knew he grew up 10 miles from me. And the fact that I coached at Mississippi State in the Peach Bowl against him when he was playing at NC State, and they beat us. But no, that’s things you grow and learn together. But the minute we talked and we had the same philosophy, you could tell that he knew players when we started talking about players and what guys have left, what they don’t have left. What you’re looking for. In the interview process we watched film together, and said ‘Your offensive line is not as bad as everyone says it is. Your quarterbacks are holding the ball way too long. Half these sacks are them.’ So yeah, it was that type of thing.
Is Keim better at it than other people you’ve been around?
“I think he has a vision of what his football team should look like, and we share that. I think other guys are just as good but they may not have the companionship. The one thing that he does, and I try to do, you check your ego at the door. Everything is for the Cardinals, and we’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades, but you can’t take them. The entire room got you there and don’t think all of a sudden you’re special. We both laugh about it. He was embarrassed as hell to get his, I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.'”
How do you continue to address the development of your quarterbacks, specifically Stanton and Thomas
“I think Drew proved to everyone what he’s capable of doing this year. Stepping in in New York a half an hour, not knowing if he’s starting and beating the Giants on the road, and then beating the Niners at home. It’s how tough he is — I don’t think anybody in our locker room even questions, if Drew’s in there, we’re going to win the game. So his progress is just going to continue evolving with more reps. Logan is strictly reps. It’s just getting out there and playing, and progressing. Freddie (Kitchens) does a great job with him fundamentally, and he’s improved tremendously fundamentally, getting the ball out of his hand, his footwork in the pocket. They’re going to get all the reps because Carson — he’s way ahead of schedule, but I don’t know how much he’ll get this spring.”
On worry about professing that you have a Super Bowl caliber team
“No, because we talk about it in the first meeting and then we don’t talk about it anymore. That’s our goal every year, last year it just happened to be in our stadium. So it was very easy to look a guy in the eye and say, ‘Who’s dressing in your locker?’ We don’t have that, so I’ve got to come up with a new line this year. But our goal is to go the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. So we won’t shy away. Then we’ll quit talking about it, then we’ll start talking about every day, the process. Coming to work every single day to get there.”
Part III of the series will come out Friday