Bruce Arians wasn’t sure when he was going to get a chance to even interview for a head coaching job, which finally came this year.
It’s probably not a coincidence his opportunities – he was runner-up for the Bears job that went to Marc Trestman and Thursday was in Tempe interviewing for the vacant Cardinals opening – came after a season as Colts offensive coordinator that included 12 games as interim head coach once Chuck Pagano was sidelined battling leukemia.
That chance “answered all the questions I ever had” about being a head coach, Arians said. “I hope it answered the questions that everybody else has had for all these years.”
Being a head coach, Arians said, “is really not as hard as it’s supposed to be.”
“It’s really not,” he added. “I think it’s all about building relationships.”
Arians would like to have a chance to build those relationships in Arizona. He wouldn’t have Andrew Luck at quarterback, like he did in Indianapolis. But he felt confident in his ability to help a team like the Cardinals rebound from a 5-11 record, noting that at each of his NFL stops, his team made the playoffs by at least the second year.
As for the Cardinals’ quarterback situation, he shrugged off the idea it might be daunting.
“I’ve gone through this so many times at different places with quarterbacks,” Arians said. “I think guys can improve. Guys can be coached to be better. There is a door number two somewhere. (General manager) Steve (Keim) and all the guys, they’ll find door number two.
“If not, you take the guys you’ve got, you coach them as hard as you can, and make them better.”
Arians was the second coaching prospect to interview this week, after Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell came through Wednesday. Last week Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was interviewed, and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton also remain known viable candidates.
There remains the possibility Horton – under contract another year – could stay as defensive coordinator under Arians. The two worked together in Pittsburgh from 2004 to 2010. Arians was asked about the possibility of working together again, but said he couldn’t comment on current staff.
“Right now it’s way too early in the process,” Arians said. “Obviously I know Ray. I’ve got a history with Ray. But all those things would be way down the road.”
Arians would have an offensive coordinator, he said, but would maintain playcalling duties. Ken Whisenhunt did the same when he arrived with the Cardinals in 2007 with offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Speculation last year was that Arians, let go as Steelers offensive coordinator in favor of Haley, might join Whisenhunt’s Cardinals’ staff. There was also a report that Whisenhunt would have been Arians’ offensive coordinator in Chicago had Arians landed the Bears’ job (Whisenhunt was named Chargers offensive coordinator Thursday.) Obviously, Whisenhunt wouldn’t have returned here.
Arians also made clear that, even though he and Whisenhunt worked together three seasons in Pittsburgh – Whisenhunt was offensive coordinator while Arians was receivers coach – the offense he would employ more closely resembles the one he worked with in Cleveland before his Pittsburgh stint. That system was a descendant of former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore.
“It was the simplest way to teach young wide receivers and quarterbacks pictures of how to line up,” Arians said. “When a quarterback calls a play, he’s got to see a picture.”