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A statistical look at Bruce Arians-led offenses

They don't put up points you might think, but they hold on to the ball.


One of the best things about the off season -- a coaching change, and a top 10 draft pick is the optimism that comes with the newness of all of it.

Over the history of the Arizona Cardinals, this has been an all too common occurrence, unfortunately. Since the team's move to Arizona, the Cardinals have had seven head coaches come in, I'm not counting the already employed Gene Stallings and his interim replacement Hank Kuhlman.

Joe Bugel had two top six picks in his ghastly four season run. Buddy Ryan had a top ten pick in his first year as coach. Vince Tobin was blessed with five top ten picks, or in other words, picked in the top ten all five years he was head coach (to be fair one of those seasons that top ten pick belonged to another team). Dave McGinnis had two top ten picks, and the 12th overall pick, in his three years as head coach (again not counting the interim year when he replaced Tobin).

Then you have more recent history, and you have Denny Green who came in and with one draft turned around the foundation of the Arizona Cardinals, taking Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith all in one draft, but that still yielded Green top ten picks every year he was the coach.

Ken Whisenhunt came into a similar situation that Bruce Arians has inherited from Whiz, a roster of misled talent, an early round draft pick spent on an offensive lineman, and a talented, yet forgotten journeyman quarterback who's looking for one last shot to prove everyone wrong.

We saw what Whisenhunt did with Kurt Warner at the helm, leading the Cardinals to a 27-21 record, albeit spliced in with a little Matt Leinart in 2007. Now it's Arians' turn.

Arians has a track record of winning as an offensive coordinator, helping the Steelers to two Super Bowl appearances and the playoffs in every season but one during his five year run as their offensive coordinator, helping the Steelers average a sparkling 11 wins a season.

We all know the story of what happened in 2012, as Arians stood in for the Colts cancer stricken Chuck Pagano, and did so admirably, helping lead the Cols to an 11-5 record and an unlikely playoff appearance before being dispatched by the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Now Arians has his own team, is calling all the shots on the offensive side of the ball, and is doing so with a host of old and new faces.

What have the Arians offensive systems produced over his six seasons as an offensive coordinator and interim head coach? Let's dive in (all numbers in parenthesis are overall NFL Rankings) (Score % refers to how many drives end in an offensive score):

Time of Possession



Rushing attempts

Passing attempts



Total Pressures

Score %



30:46 (13)

22.3 (18)


27.5 (t14)

39.2 (6)


244 (1)

33.3 (18)

13.9 (10)


32:33 (2)

20.3 (21)


27.1 (19)

33.7 (19)


162 (t12)

33.9 (14)

16.7 (4)


32:24 (5)

23.4 (12)


29.4 (8)

29.9 (27)


184 (t6)

36.9 (8)

9.5 (26)


32:52 (3)

23.0 (12)

371.3 (7)

26.8 (18)

33.5 (18)


138 (20)

35.5 (9)

12.6 (21)


31:41 (6)

21.7 (20)


28.8 (9)

31.6 (20)


186 (4)

32.6 (21)

12.6 (17)


33:29 (1)

24.6 (9)


31.9 (3)

27.6 (31)



37.7 (7)

11.4 (27)

The first thing that stood out to me on the Arians offensive chart is that Arians is wildly consistent with what he likes to do.

Even in his "air it out" year in 2012 Arians still ran the ball 41% of the time, leading to 27.5 rushing attempts per game, that's pretty equivalent to what we see throughout the chart, or just below it, and that means that a semblance of balance is important.

For all the talk of Arians liking to throw the ball around the field, he sure does a good job of winning the time of possession battle and keeping his defenses off the field and fresh.

This will be an important storyline to follow early in the season, as the defense begins to mesh without their leader in the middle, figuring out a new scheme, and seeing the field less could be a nice boost to the beginning of the season.

The thing I noticed though (and you can call this negative if you choose too but it was surprising to me) Arians offenses are not prolific in any department at all, except time of possession.

I left out the breakdown of yards per game in each category because I felt it didn't hold as much merit as overall yardage, and points per game, but for those curios his offenses best seasons throwing the ball yardage wise was 2012 and his offenses best rushing season yardage wise was 2007, finishing seventh and third, respectively.

That's not to say that this Cardinals offense won't or can't be better than any of the Arians offenses in the past, that's why I didn't include the yardage breakdowns because the personnel is completely different than what Arians has had in the past.

My biggest takeaway from this chart is the consistency in points scored over the last six seasons, with two different sets of players, and three if you consider the huge turnover in Pittsburgh; you can basically pencil in Arians coached teams for 21 points per game, which we haven't seen in the desert since 2009, but there are some concerns.


Arians' offenses have only finished in the top ten in scoring once, and as Arians has gone to a more passing based attack, the percentage of turnovers in his offense has increased.

While Palmer’s accuracy is undeniable, he is prone to making bad reads and trying to fit the ball into tight spaces down field too often, six of his fourteen interceptions were on passes ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage, in only 201 attempts.

In 2011, an offense that is more in line with what Arians will run vertically, Palmer threw nine interceptions on only 140 attempts beyond ten yards of the line of scrimmage, but I think both 2011 and 2012’s numbers can be taken with several grains of salt due to circumstances.

All in all I think this season brings with an abundance of excitement, but the idea that Arians and Palmer can come in and make this team a top ten offensive unit right away may be asking too much.

As long as Arians and Palmer can get the offense into the top 14 in points per game, who cares about yards as long as you score points, I think this season has a chance to be a successful one, and the Arians/Palmer combination is one that intrigues me greatly, but more than that, the consistency of Arians approach, and the results he garners is what I look forward to most this season.