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In Search Of A Quarterback

Posted Jan 23, 2013

Arians' long history of working with QBs will help Cardinals

New Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians has worked with quarterbacks like Andrew Luck (left) and Ben Roethlisberger (right).

Behind door No. 1 stands three quarterbacks with their jobs on the line.

Behind door No. 2 could be his replacement.

Bruce Arians knows his options at quarterback. Beyond that, the newly minted Cardinals coach doesn’t know much about Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley. And that’s how he likes it.

“I came with no preconceived notions about the quarterbacks who are here,” Arians said. “I’m going to give them all a shot.”

Just because they’re on the roster now doesn’t mean they’ll be there when the season starts. Arians made that clear.

“I’m sure that (general manager) Steve (Keim) and (vice president of player personnel) Jason (Licht) are going to be looking behind door number two,” Arians said. “If door number two is a better option, we’ll go to door number two.”

Arians built his reputation on developing young quarterbacks. Among others, he worked with Peyton Manning during his first three seasons in Indianapolis, helped groom Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and then ran the offense Andrew Luck executed this past season in Indianapolis.

If there’s one coach who can make a quarterback better, the Cardinals found him. But Arians isn’t about to tackle the quarterback situation alone.

Whatever doubt there was that Arians was committed to erasing the memory of last season’s offensive debacle came Sunday when Tom Moore was introduced as the Cardinals’ assistant head coach/offense. Moore is best known around the NFL for being Manning’s mentor in Indianapolis for 13 years.

With two great offensive minds now leading the charge, the Cardinals’ incumbent quarterbacks are keenly aware of the opportunity in front of them.

Lindley thought Arians’ success in Indianapolis makes the Cardinals’ situation promising. And Skelton, who won the starting job out of training camp last season, said on Twitter he’s excited to work with Arians.

“Great track record with QBs,” Skelton tweeted.

Arians has watched film of Kolb and Skelton throwing, but hasn’t taken a good look at Lindley, “the young fella,” as he called him. When he watches film, Arians is first looking at fundamentals and then asking himself and his staff a series of questions.

“Can I correct things? Can we correct things, their quarterback coach and offensive coordinator?” Arians asked. “Is he salvageable? Has he been hit out?

“Those are the things you look at and try to evaluate off the film.”

Arians, who left for the Senior Bowl in Alabama soon after being named coach, said he’s looking forward to meeting with all three quarterbacks but isn’t in a rush to evaluate their chances.

The beating Kolb took last season isn’t a secret around the league. Arians even said he knew about it. Kolb was sacked 27 times in the equivalent of about five games.

“I know he’s tough,” Arians said.

But that only goes so far.

“I’m sure he’s more than willing to put in time to get better,” Arians said. “If he’s our guy, he’ll be a better player, I promise you that. Like I said, if it’s not, we’ll have a better option. As a football team and organization, we’ll make that decision.

“I’ve seen Kevin. He can spin it. He’s had his moments, and he’s had some not-so-good moments, but he’s also had the crap knocked out of him a few times. That happens.”

Arians is entering his 38th years of coaching. That’s four decades worth of quarterbacks. He knows by now what kind of quarterback he wants. If Arians’ reputation holds true with the Cards, that’s what he’ll get.

He usually includes six home run passes in every game plan and wants to use them. To do so, Arians will need a quarterback who throws an accurate deep ball.

“He also has to be a great third-down manager, whatever the down and distance, to be able to create those tight throws, back-shoulder throws – the things that it takes to win in the National Football League,” Arians said. “On third down and in the red zone, you’ve got to be able to throw it in tight windows, and we want that kind of guy. We want a guy that the entire football team is going to rally behind.” 

That’s important to Arians.

There are the tangibles. Height. Weight. 40-time. Arm strength. Then there are the intangibles. Leadership. Moxie. Smarts. Heart.

Nearly every NFL quarterback has the former. But what separates the good from the Andrew Lucks of the league, are the latter.

“That’s the grit,” Arians said. “When they step in a huddle, the other 10 guys, whatever comes out of his mouth, they believe is going to work.

“That doesn’t mean he’s the most talented player in the world but a guy that has leadership, grit, he’s going to do whatever it takes for his football team to win, as tough as nails, that the guys will follow him into a fire.

“That’s grit.”

That’s what Arians is looking for in his next quarterback.

 

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