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What the heck is going on with the Cardinals and Bruce Arians?

Will Arians and the Cardinals part ways after the season? Who knows.

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New York Giants v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A report surfaced on Tuesday that Bruce Arians and the Cardinals would part ways after the season. The rumor was later refuted, but surfaced again on Sunday morning when Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Arians was likely to step away from coaching entirely after this season ends.

The Cardinals were 7-8 and eliminated from playoff contention after their Week 15 loss to Washington. They did beat the Seahawks in Week 17 to finish at .500. But it’s been a rough season filled with extenuating circumstances for Arians.

David Johnson hit injured reserve with a broken wrist he suffered in Week 1. They had to turn to Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert after Carson Palmer went down with a broken arm. Adrian Peterson got shut down for the rest of the season with a neck injury, and guard Mike Iupati and tackle D.J. Humphries are both on IR. The result has been a possibility of finishing with a sub-.500 record for a second season in a row.

So it’s not surprising that Arians’ name gets tossed around with the group of coaches who will probably be looking for new jobs for the 2018 season. But there are conflicting reports out there.

What’s being reported about Arians and the Cardinals?

Arians was clear that a decision has not yet been made when he spoke to reporters after the Cardinals’ win over the Seahawks on Sunday. But he also said the end of the season was encouraging.

This all started when Pro Football Weekly reported Tuesday that Arians and the Cardinals would “agree to part ways” after the team’s final game against the Seahawks in Week 17.

That report was quickly refuted. Arians said in a text to USA Today’s Jarrett Bell that he had never heard of the reporter who broke the story.

ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss said a source close to the situation told him the Pro Football Weekly report “100 percent not true.

Arians called the Pro Football Weekly report “fake news.” He said Tuesday that he is getting a little bit tired of the speculation.

"There will come a time and a place when we decide what we're going to do,” Arians said, according to NFL.com. “I guess Larry [Fitzgerald] has put up with this for eight years so I guess I got to put up with it for one."

And for a few days, that was that. The NFL world was left to speculate on its own about whether or not Arians would be back in Arizona for 2018.

But Schefter’s report, citing health concerns for the 65-year old coach, makes it more likely that this really is his last game on an NFL sideline.

But there’s still a chance it’s not.

Why would Arians and the Cardinals want to part ways?

It’s been a rough couple of years since the Cardinals finished 13-3 and made it all the way to the NFC Championship after the 2015 season. The team finished 7-8-1 last year and, unless they play spoiler to the Seahawks in Week 17, they’ll finish with a sub-.500 record yet again.

In spite of that, the Cardinals would like him to come back for one more season, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Arians hasn’t made a decision, but the team is trying to get him to stick around thru the end of his contract.

Arians had successful surgery after the 2016 season for a form of kidney cancer. He coached the last few weeks of the season after his diagnosis. He has also suffered from diverticulitis. During the season he had chest pains that landed him in the hospital for evaluation. Tests didn’t find anything amiss. Arians returned to the field the following week, telling SB Nation that he was “not on the injury report.”

The team’s struggles and Arians’ personal health are enough reason to consider stepping away from the game. But there’s plenty of uncertainty in Arizona for 2018.

Carson Palmer turned 38 on Wednesday, and Larry Fitzgerald is 34. Both are under contract with the Cardinals through the 2018 season. But it’s entirely possible that both will call it a career after 2017. Arians is also under contract through next season, but if given the choice between leading the team through a rebuild and hitting retirement, retirement might sound more appealing.

But if Arians returns, Palmer and Fitzgerald are more likely to stay and play out their contracts. David Johnson will be back, and the back who put up 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in 2016 will instantly make the Cardinals offense better. Next season could be a turnaround for Arizona.

There’s no guarantee, though. Palmer has played a full 16-game season just once since 2014. The Cardinals’ backup situation — Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert, and Matt Barkley — leaves much to be desired. Unless they land a more viable backup, another injury to Palmer would quickly derail any chance the Cardinals have in bouncing back next season.

Arians said he wouldn’t drag this out, so we probably won’t have to wait long to find out what the future holds for Arians.