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Breaking down Bruce Arians on Arizona Sports

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What did you take away from the former Arizona Cardinals head coach?

Arizona Cardinals vÊSeattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Friday, Bruce Arians spoke at length with Burns and Gambo. Did you hear the interview?

First of all, BA sounds great. He’s been catching up on his sleep, which, as those of us who are retired or semi-retired know, is a panacea. BA said that he’s been interviewing for TV jobs as a studio analyst or color commentator---that he would relish a shot at MNF and the chance to work with Sean McDonough, brother of the Cardinals VP of Player Personnel, Terry McDonough. While BA concedes that ESPN isn’t likely to pick him right away to replace Jon Gruden, it is very likely that BA will wind up in the studio or in the booth with ESPN, Fox, NFLN or NBC.

As for his outlooks on the Cardinals’ HC search, BA has been heavily promoting James Bettcher and Keith Armstrong. BA avows that Bettcher has the “complete trust of the organization,” that “he has a great presence in the locker room,” and that he’s very “bright” and very “ready.”

BA lauds Armstrong, his one-time assistant at Temple, for being able to command the respect of an entire football team, as ST coordinators are challenged to do, seeing as STCs have to work with the entire roster. BA alluded to Armstrong’s passion as once evidenced on Hard Knocks and feels that Armstrong is ready to be a great head coach.

Here’s a thought, however. Or maybe it’s more of a question. Why did BA choose to recommend two candidates and not be adamant about one? It feels as if this is a concession that OK if you don’t think Bettcher is ready to make the leap, then why not go with Armstrong and you can keep Bettcher as the DC.

Dan Bickley made an interesting comment yesterday in challenging BA’s assertion that the players love Bettcher and that he commands their total respect. Bickley said that this was true of Todd Bowles---he could see it in the way the players gravitated to him and how they looked up to him. Bickley said he has never really seen that kind of reverence from the players toward Bettcher.

OK--so if Bettcher is not ready to be the HC, then BA wants Armstrong as HC and Bettcher to remain as DC...and he thinks Drew Stanton would be the “perfect mentor” for a rookie QB. Now, that likely means that BA thinks Stanton should be the bridge starter while the coaches are grooming the QBOF.

At the Arizona Sports radio station they conducted a poll yesterday asking the fans whether or not the new Cardinals HC should be tied in some way to BA. At the time when the interview with BA was aired, the poll results were that 88% said no and that 12% said yes. They wondered whether BA’s interview would change some people’s minds.

I can only speak for myself obviously, but it did not change my mind. BA said that one of his main reasons for wanting Bettcher or Armstrong is that he really wants to spend time at Cardinals’ training camp and have a chance “to hang out with Michael and Steve.” Rightfully so, BA remarked that with a new HC who doesn’t know him, he wouldn’t want him to have to “look over his shoulder.”

BA very much wants MB&SK to see in Bettcher what he sees in Bettcher---and in that way, it would vindicate him for making such a surprising choice three years ago when BA decided that Bettcher, despite only 3 years of NFL coaching experience, would be the best candidate to succeed Todd Bowles.

As for Armstrong, what’s so hard to figure out is if BA was so close to him and speaks so highly of him, why in the world didn’t he find a way to add Armstrong to his staff? Well, clearly BA had a greater allegiance to Amos Jones (who was just hired by the Browns---amazing, isn’t it?). It just feels so odd that after the repeated STs debacles and shortcomings we have witnessed over the past three years that BA has a pet candidate as his successor who happens to be a top-shelf ST’s coach. The irony of this “hits with the force of a cartoon anvil” (to quote J.K. Rowling).

BA went on to reiterate that going into the 2016 season as one of the favorites to contend for the Lombardi Trophy that the whole season hinged on the opening night loss to the Patriots and that the team “lost its swag” after that game and while the team “fought back” it never could recover it---and that then “the injuries set in.”

When asked whether he would have changed anything about his pre-season approach to the 2016 season in retrospect, BA said no, that he felt he had a veteran team and that he just wanted to make sure everyone was healthy going into the season.

As for the QB situation, BA started out by lamenting how he and Steve Keim narrowly missed out on taking Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson when the Chiefs and Texans traded right up in front of them. Then, BA raved about the 2018 QB draft class saying that “Baker’s (Mayfield) enthusiasm is sincere and would be well received in an NFL locker room” and that Mason Rudolph excelled over BA’s Hokies in the bowl game by “dropping deep TD passes on us.” He went on to say that, while he has not studied any tapes of the QB prospects yet, that this year’s crop “has 8 QBs who have the stature and arm strength” to be great pros. He said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Cardinals’ 2nd interview with Keith Armstrong started in the morning and carried into the afternoon, Then, Steve Wilks arrived for his 2nd interview which included a full FO gathering for dinner at Steak 44. Usually when pretty much the entire brass is attending the dinner (including Adrian Wilson), that’s a signal that a deal is on its way. Thus, it would appear right now that Steve Wilks is the heavy favorite in the clubhouse while the Cardinals are waiting to meet next week with John DeFilippo and Brian Flores.

Some are hoping for a Steve Wilks hire with John DeFilippo as OC. The Titans, who had interest in Wilks, were also interested in meeting with DeFilippo. One has to wonder then, what Steve Wilks’ plan B on offense is, if DeFilippo is hired elsewhere as an OC (where he potentially will garner a frenzied interest from a number of teams).

DeFilippo remains the only offensive coach and QB guru the Cardinals have on their short list.