I had no clue about what to do with my life when I was in high school. One day I wanted to go the Naval Academy. A week later, I wanted to join the IRA. The aptitude test they gave us suggested textile management (it suggested that to everyone because of an error in the program). Indecisiveness shaped another 10 years of drifting aimlessly into a liberal arts degree, a series of entry-level jobs for which I was overqualified and, worst of all, grad school.
That would never have happened if Bruce Arians had been my guidance counselor, the career path he would have chosen if he hadn't become a football coach. He's a man who knows EXACTLY what he wants in all things, which is the opposite of my guidance counselor and probably yours as well.
Right now, Arians wants to win a Super Bowl. He's still smarting from the Arizona Cardinals' loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship and eager to get his team on the practice field again. But first, he has to have breakfast with a room full of reporters.
Breakfast wasn't supposed to start until 7:15 a.m. Arians rolled in at 6:50 holding a plate of food with a summer-weight white Kangol perched on top of his head.
Arians would be the coolest person in a room full of musicians too, covered in a red and a white striped jacket and a shirt with "BR" monogrammed on the cuffs. The table where he's holding court will be a busy place in half an hour, once everyone else has had their fill of non-comments about free agent signings and looming roster competitions.
Arians did not play golf on Tuesday ("too windy"). For this man, a league-arranged golf outing isn't just a thing to do to kill time and hang out with his peers. He'll wait and get his golfing in when he's damn well ready.
And with that, we're off.
The first question is one about evaluating talent and building a roster, which for Arians boils down to finding the kind of players he wants for his team.
"Other people may not have [a player] high on their board. We really don't give a shit," he said. "You draft for your coach and football team, no matter what anybody else grades on."
Remember that next time an analyst suggests which direction the Cardinals should go in the draft.
Next, someone asks about Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from LSU for failing numerous drug tests before entering the draft. That gives us a look at the guidance counselor in action.
"He had reasons for what he did and he had solutions," he said. "I believe in second chances, to a point, when you own up and have a solution to your problems. In Tyrann's case, it's easy. He had passion for the game. He knew he made a mistake and he owned up to it."
You really appreciate Arians' candidness when the subject of the league's confusing rules comes up.
Arians is ready to get back to work, but he can't just yet. NFL rules severely limit the time a coach has with his players. They run into each other at charity events and other unofficial functions, but that's it.
"I don't even think you can escape and do all that Facebook shit," he says.
He was opposed to the rule change that will have players automatically ejected after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game. After pushback from the coaches and some doubt that the rule would pass, it got the votes it needed on Wednesday morning, not long after breakfast.
"The rule doesn't need to be changed. You can eject them now. I don't think they need another rule," Arians said, adding that it's "reactionary."
It's fun that he swears a lot while answering a question because you're not used to people in positions of authority talking that way. The counselor who flipped your Scantron card into the reader to determine your future sure didn't. But he's more than a guy in a cool jacket spitting out cuss words like he was on the practice field. There's substance packed in there too.
Not every coach is intent on feeding you the same old predictable, meaningless platitudes and talking points at these breakfasts. And when it comes to certain subjects, like which draft picks they're eyeing, there's only so much coaches can say. But the majority of what they're serving is the same coachspeak they dole out at the Combine, postgame pressers and pretty much every time a microphone is shoved in their face: The team "needs to execute" better. Players are "good people" who can all have "great careers." They're all very happy with their offseason so far and free agency is never over.
Arians is giving you unvarnished answers and you're having a good time listening to him do it.
The day ends in a hotel ballroom with chairs arranged into neat rows for Roger Goodell's closing press conference. The commissioner is wearing a standard issue dark suit jacket and a striped dress shirt, but he's not wearing a tie. This is laid back Goodell. He's delivering a lot of words that are all positive about what the NFL has done and is going to do. There's not much meaning to any of it.
2015 was "one of the greatest years in the history of the NFL" was his opening line.
He'll take your questions, but you might as well save them because you're not going to get anything but well-crafted remarks designed to provide an answer without actually providing an answer.
Goodell is the high school principal there to remind you that following the rules and doing what the school says you should do is the path to success. Like a principal, his authority is backed only by the fact that someone has given him that authority. Beyond that, he's as meaningless as his message.
Large institutions -- like a high school, the military or the corporation that oversees professional football -- stymie individuality. It's hard to get the answers you need, unless you're lucky enough to find someone in a bright red jacket and mesh driving cap to offer a little guidance.
That's a man whose advice I'd follow any day.