Cardinals hire Bruce Arians: Former Colts OC earned chance with 2012 success

Jared Wickerham

Bruce Arians is finally getting a shot at head coaching in the NFL. Can he turn around a struggling Cardinals team?

Bruce Arians began working in the NFL back in 1989 as a running backs coach. Fast forward 23 years and he's finally landed his first head coaching job. Arians accepted a four-year deal from the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night, putting him in charge of the struggling team heading into 2013.


Complete Cardinals coverage at Revenge of the Birds


"I never thought it was going to come," Arians told Darren Urban in an interview after he accepted the Cardinals offer. After years and years as an assistant, this one might be the most special for the 60-year-old coach

The Indianapolis Colts' fabled run in 2012 certainly boosted Arians' stock in the eyes of everyone around the league. With Chuck Pagano undergoing cancer treatment, Arians led the Colts to a 9-3 record and a playoff berth as interim head coach.

It was his first season in Indy, but he made in worthwhile. The Colts offense finished 10th in the league, averaging 362.4 yards per game. No one gave them a chance heading into the season, even with Andrew Luck taking over under center. With so many young players on offense, Arians still managed to fuel this team to success, utilizing the passing game and attacking defenses vertically.

During his lengthy NFL tenure, Arians spent time with the Chiefs, Saints, Colts (twice), Browns and Steelers. He won two Super Bowls in Pittsburgh, one as a wide receivers coach in 2005 and one as the offensive coordinator in 2008. While 2012 didn't match that level of success, it was still one of the most memorable runs for a team enduring hardship.

The Colts rallied around Pagano while he was out, and Arians was able to harness that emotion to create a dangerous, young offense that constructed several late-game comebacks. Luck also set a rookie record for passing yards, finishing the year with a whopping 627 attempts.

Arizona was the last team to fill its vacant head coaching position. Offensive coordinators Mike McCoy and Jay Gruden were recently in the mix for the job, along with Darrell Bevell. It was clear the Cardinals wanted an offensive mind leading the way in 2013. They just waited until their last interview to wrap up the search.

Arians was clearly excited about the task in front of him after the news broke.

"The more I got to meet with everyone here the more I got excited for the opportunity. I knew it was the right fit for me," he said.

He may not be as thrilled once he realizes what his depth chart looks like, but they'll get to that later.

Previous head coach Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for the Steelers while Arians served as the wide receivers coach. They may share some similarities in coaching philosophies, but Arians' scheme developed differently as time went on.

Arians spoke about breaking down simple ways to teach young quarterbacks and wide receivers, and how he helps them in that process. "When a quarterback calls a play, he's got to see a picture. To help him rewrite that, with Ben, rename some patterns to where they made sense to him," he said. "I think that's the quarterback-coach trust relationship that has to be developed. As a head coach or an offensive coordinator, you're tied to that guy. Your future is him."

Who will be under center for the Cardinals next season? That remains to be seen. Kevin Kolb already doesn't appear to be a good fit in Arians' offense, or any offense for that matter. Arizona can be pleased with signing Arians for now, but finding the future of its franchise is certainly a challenging next step.

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