Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Jan 2013

Cardinals Hire Bruce Arians as Head Coach

It looks like the last piece of the puzzle has fallen into place, as the Arizona Cardinals will hire Bruce Arians away from the Indianapolis Colts to be their new head coach. You know, the guy who was interim coach this year with a 9-3 record, and led the Pittsburgh offense to top 10 rankings in DVOA the three previous years. Wait... why did the Steelers get rid of him again?

No, I'm serious, I'm not sure why they did it.

On the other hand, it's a little weird that the Cardinals just replaced Ken Whisenhunt with the guy who replaced Ken Whisenhunt when the Cardinals originally hired Ken Whisenhunt.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 17 Jan 2013

40 comments, Last at 23 Jan 2013, 2:43pm by Dean


by dbostedo :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:15pm

Hmm... another way to look at it would mean that in two years the Cardinals will be hiring Todd Haley...

by Nicholas Ray (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:44am

I remember hearing a couple weeks ago that the Cardinals were, in fact, thinking of hiring Haley. The NFL is hilarious sometimes.

by Purds :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:47pm

Damn it!

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:25am

You knew either him or Pagano was gone. Frankly, I think the Colts kept the wrong guy.

by Pied :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:42am

Well, they sure weren't going to fire Pagano after leukemia, so it only could have been Arians.

by Guido Merkens :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 11:47am

I think Anonymousse was implying that the only way Arians would have stayed in Indy is if Pagano had to resign permanently for health reasons and Arians took over as HC of the Colts.

by Pied :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:20pm

I don't think "kept the wrong guy" implies that myself.

by Purds :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 8:30am

Originally I thought he was a goner, but then the NFL was down to only one open head coaching job, so I had hope. N luck.

by turbohappy :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 11:25am

Yeah me too. And it looked like the Seattle guy was going to get Arizona and I was so stoked. Alas, it was not to be.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:54am

It is simple, they fired him because Pittsburgh fans are spoiled idiots.

by Jerry :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 9:13am

As best we can tell, Tomlin told Arians a few times that he'd be back in 2012, then called to say he wouldn't be. Art Rooney II was supposedly unhappy about how close BA was to Roethlisberger.

by Guido Merkens :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 11:47am

Wait, having an OC and QB who enjoy working with each other is a bad thing?

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 9:24am

As a Colts fan, I wish great success for Arians in AZ. Would have preferred him to stay, but he earned the opportunity. Frankly, IMO he deserved a better opportunity than this one. The AZ situation appears set up to fail, at least in the short term, which is all most AZ coaches get.

Colts fans -- any thoughts on the OC backfill?

by apbadogs :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 9:44am

I think they are a serviceable QB away from being pretty good...of course, in the same division as SF and SEA is not a good thing. Those 2 teams are set up to dominate this division for years.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 11:24am

Yes, by "set up to fail", I was referring to both the AZ QB situation and the relative positions of SF and Seattle. When 3rd place in the division is your ceiling for the next couple years, getting into the playoffs is nearly impossible. (Not literally impossible, but just about.)

You're also more optimistic than I am about what effect a serviceable QB would have on this team. My $0.02 is they're a serviceable QB away from being a serviceable team, not a pretty good team. This team was not a Kyle Orton trade away from the playoffs this year.

by Guido Merkens :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 11:51am

They're slated to pick seventh in the draft, which is reasonable territory for picking Barkley/Glennon. They have a pretty good defense and good WR and RB talent. Their offensive line is possibly the worst in the NFL, but if they draft a QB in the first round and a few good OL later on, they could be pretty good in a couple seasons.

Barring a Mularkey-like implosion, Arians will get at least three years to turn Arizona around. Who knows how good San Francisco or Seattle will be in three years, once some of their better players hit free agency? I think Arizona is a better job right now than, say, Jacksonville or Tennessee.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:23pm

"Arians will get at least three years to turn Arizona around"

Probably, but the flip side of that is he'll get no more than 4 years, because it's a 4 year contract. Obviously one can't know the future, but SF and Seattle both look very well positioned to be strong for the next 3 years.

"seventh in the draft, which is reasonable territory for picking Barkley/Glennon"

7th really isn't that great of a place to be if you're in the market for a franchise QB. Consensus franchise guys are gone before #7. After that, you're more likely getting a "talented with question marks" guy. The QB you can get at #7 is often times not much different than the QB you could get at #22, and sometimes it's literally the same guy (I'm talking about you, Brady Quinn).

by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:34pm

"This team was not a Kyle Orton trade away from the playoffs this year."


This team was 4-2 in games Kevin Kolb played in significantly; they really had earth shakingly terrible quarterback play. It may be that even with a full season of Kolb or (better yet) a full season of Kyle Orton, the Cardinals fail to go 10-6 with good tiebreaks to get into the NFC playoffs this particular year. But it is far from untenable that they go 11-5 if they have a quarterback who can get the ball to Fitzgerald. Orton has had decent years throwing to Brandon Lloyd and Greg Olsen as #1 receivers.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 01/19/2013 - 9:46pm

See, I'd look at it as being the Cardinals were 3-0 in games with the replacement refs, and 2-11 the rest of the season. Kolb just happened to be under center for the replacement ref games.

by Briguy :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 1:44pm

Colts fan here, and my first thought was "nooooooooooooooo"

There are, however, a couple decent choices for OC from head coaches who just got fired. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'd love to see Norv Turner work with Luck. That would be my first choice. And honestly, if you want to go down in history as a great QB guru, wouldn't you jump at that opportunity? Also, Norv's Coryell offense is probably more similar to Arian's offense than most coaches could offer.

by bernie (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 2:03pm

Yeah, I'd like to see Norv Turner os the next Colts OC. I'd also like to see them take a shot at Lovie Smith as the next DC. Greg Manusky is a fucking awful DC.

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 2:27pm

Norv's in Cleveland. Pep Hamilton is a rumor. I'll throw out Hue Jackson as a possible name.

by rageon :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 9:44am

No coaches from the final four teams got head coaching jobs, right? Seems like the way to get hired is to be the coordinator of a really good unit, make the playoffs, but then get eliminated right away.

by Guido Merkens :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 11:56am

The only coordinators from those teams that were reasonable candidates, though, are Vic Fangio and Greg Roman from the 49ers. The Patriots' only high-profile coordinator is Josh McDaniels, who might need a few more years of success to freshen up the stink of his Denver days. The Ravens don't have any high-profile coordinators after losing Pagano last year. Dirk Koetter of the Falcons might have had a chance, but he's only been there for a year, and Mike Nolan isn't exactly a hot name.

That said, I don't understand why teams are so eager to hire head coaches in the first few weeks of January. Even if they wait until after the Super Bowl, there is plenty of time to implement a strategy and evaluate players before the draft.

by Gus (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:39pm

As someone who lives in Patriotworld, let me say that I'm really, really sure that no one should EVER hire Josh McDaniels again. His mediocre playcalling was part of the reason for the Pats slow start, and if you look up tape from his Denver days...the man is just a Singletary-level ass. Without the HoF player resume.

by Dean :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:44pm

Even after only 1 year, he'll never work in St. Louis again, either.

by apk3000 :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:44pm

Isn't the Senior Bowl around the corner? Might want a coach to have a staff in place to evaluate talent.

by Mash Wilson :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 10:18am

The Steelers fired Arians to make room for Todd Haley, as a personal favor from the owner. Didn't really have anything to do with Roethlisberger, though Roethlisberger was and is pissed off about it and spent the season sniping at Haley in the press on a weekly basis.

Actually I think from the Steelers' standpoint, calling Arizona and seeing if they're willing to overpay for Roethlisberger would not be a bad idea.

by Go pats (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 3:09pm

Really, a two time SB winning QB, those are not a dime a dozen. As long as RGIII stays fairly healthy in the future, the Redskins won that trade hands down. Who would you rather have, RGIII or Bradford and a bunch of high draft picks? I would take RGIII everytime. Bradford may turn out to be as good as Alex Smith or Matt Schaub, but those guys are not bringing you a SB anytime soon.

by Mash Wilson :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 3:57pm

YMMV, but my own opinion is that John Elway is a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback too, and about as useful to a team right now as Roethlisberger. I think the odds are long against Roethlisberger ever starting 16 games in a season again. Or even 12 or 13, for that matter.

If they could get someone to overpay--and Arizona is a prime candidate to overpay--I think the Steelers would probably be wise to send him on his way before this becomes obvious to everyone.

by Jerry :: Sat, 01/19/2013 - 4:37am

You know what odds are longer than Ben starting 16 games in a season? Finding another championship-quality quarterback. See, for instance, the 1983-2003 Steelers.

by Mash Wilson :: Sat, 01/19/2013 - 7:28am

Couldn't agree more. Which is why it's so important the Steelers start their search for another one now. Roethlisberger won't be healthy enough for a playoff run again.

by jackiel :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:06pm

Due to his size and style, it's a big if that RGIII can stay healthy. I really think there's an argument to be made that 16 healthy starts from a solid, slightly above average QB is better than 10-12 starts from a spectacular, injury prone QB. The reasoning is that the margin of error between playoff and non-playoff teams is so slim and the dropoff between #1s and #2 QBs is so large that consistency (the ability to stay healthy at QB position) puts you in the best position to succeed.

Just like Smith and Schaub, if you surround Bradford with a running game, good receiving threats, and an excellent defense, your team can be a legit SB contender. Remember, SF was a couple of plays away from the big game last year and Houston likely would have been in the AFC championship game last year if Schaub had been healthy. While they won't remind you of Hall of Famers, they can win you games.

Pittsburgh is crazy to trade Big Ben without a heir apparent already in place. Though I do think that his injury history would give me pause in Pittsburgh.

by Mash Wilson :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 5:26pm

Actually I looked up Pittsburgh's cap situation and it's pretty bad. I'm not sure it's possible for them to trade Roethlisberger and absorb the cap acceleration even if they decided they wanted to. So my point is moot.

by Dean :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:42pm

Except that it's not that simple.

If the Rams draft Griffin, they cut/trade Bradford. The cap accelleration means they can no longer afford to sign Chris Long and James Laurenitis to contract extensions. So the choice isn't between 5 draft picks and RG3. The choice is between 5 draft picks PLUS 3 franchise cornerstones, or Griffin.

Now add some hindsight and see that Griffin is already injured and may never recover 100% vs the draft picks turning into Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Isiah Peed, and two pending extra first round picks.

The Rams could NEVER have picked Griffin. Yet they managed to get a kings ransom for him anyway. The Redskins, on the other hand, got a year of astonishing productivity for him after which he promptly suffered a major injury.

It's clearly a win for the Rams, and may turn into a win-win if Griffin recovers.

by MehlLageman56 (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2013 - 2:22am

You're better off being the Seahawks or the 2001 Patriots, taking a flier on a guy in the third or 6th round and having him turn into The Guy. Perhaps the Rams should take a couple of shots at guys like that in the next couple of drafts.

by Andrew Potter :: Sun, 01/20/2013 - 2:36am

Teams who take this approach to finding a quarterback are more likely to end up like the 2012 Cardinals than the 2012 Seahawks or Patriots.

by Jerry :: Sun, 01/20/2013 - 5:12am


by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Sun, 01/20/2013 - 2:30pm

I'm not so sure.

Part of me thinks that the quality of the coaching and development and surrounding talent may matter as much as, if not more than, the actual guy you pick.

Matt Cassel looks terrible as a chief, but he looked just fine as a patriot. Brady has consistently gotten better as a Patriot. Hes a drastically better quarterback than he was when he was young. Some of this is probably work ethic, but I have a hard time believing that none of it is coaching.

Frankly, Cassel's story is awfully similar to Brady's up until you get to the point where the Patriots traded him.

by Dean :: Wed, 01/23/2013 - 2:43pm

Not gonna happen. In 20 years, Jeff Fisher teams have drafted exactly 3 QBs. Steve McNair and Vince Young both with the 3rd pick overall, and once in 20 years he took a late round flyer on Kevin Daft in the 5th round back in '99. It's just not his philosophy. He'll sign a guy off the street and hope he has the next Billy Volek, or he'll sign a veteran and hope it's the next Neil O'Donnell.

*And all of this ignores the fact that a large factor in why he took the Rams job in the first place is the fact that they have Sam Bradford already in place.