His eyes red and the tears flowing, Bruce Arians said goodbye Monday.
A day after the Cardinals got him his 50th win– the most of any coach in franchise history –Arians announced his retirement at age 65.
"The tears you see are really tears of joy and peace," Arians said. "I'll miss the players. I'll miss coming out of the locker room and hearing the national anthem because it still gets me.
"But somehow, someway, I'm going to stay in touch with the game."
Arians said he "probably didn't truly know" he was going to retire for sure until after Phil Dawson's field goal Sunday, a score that ultimately boosted the Cardinals to a win. Originally, Arians planned to tell his players Monday, but he broke down in the locker room and explained how it had been his last game.
"We built this program on three words: Trust, loyalty and respect," Arians said, choking up. "I told our team last night I was done, and they lied to (the media). There is no greater feeling in the world than to know your players have your back."
Arians took no questions, instead delivering a monologue about his five seasons with the Cardinals and an overall coaching journey that dated back to the mid-1970s.
Arians was 60 when the Cards hired him for his first-ever NFL head coaching job after 20 years as an NFL assistant, and he took advantage. He arrived with a swagger and the plan to do it his way, weaving his "no risk-it, no biscuit" and "coach 'em hard, hug 'em later" philosophies with his "cool uncle" persona.
"His mentality from day one, he held everybody accountable, including Larry (Fitzgerald) at times," said quarterback Drew Stanton, who not only played for Arians all five years in Arizona but also the year before in Indianapolis. "He kicked Larry off the practice field, we were joking about it the other day, for not having the proper practice attire on. That's the beauty of B.A., that you see is what you get. That's refreshing in this business. You don't get that sometimes."
He stressed that it was family above all else that prompted the choice, telling a story about how his wife Chris had mentioned to him this summer that their son, Jake, was turning 40.
"It hit me like a ton of bricks," Arians said. "I missed all that time. (But) that's coaching."
Arians called team president Michael Bidwill the "best owner, I think, in the league, by far." He said General Manager Steve Keim was like a little brother to him.
Bidwill said he did not try to talk Arians out of the decision, saying he respected the coach's choice.
"We're going to miss him," Bidwill said.
Like Arians, Keim too choked up while talking about the coach's time in Arizona.
"I don't think there is any doubt it will be hard to replicate the relationship we all had with Bruce," Keim said.
The Cardinals reached double-digit victories in each of Arians' first three seasons, winning a franchise-record 13 games in 2015, when the team won the NFC West. He finished with a 49-30-1 record, along with a 1-2 mark in the postseason. The Cards' 26-24 win in Seattle Sunday to close out the 2017 season snapped a tie in victories with former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt.
He could be and was often blunt in his assessment of players and performances.
"Obviously, he always had a couple things to say," cornerback Justin Bethel said. "He was a guy that would tell it how it is and let you know how he felt. I think that's something a lot of guys can appreciate from a coach."
The retirement was not altogether unexpected, the first domino in what could be an offseason of significant change for the franchise. Bidwill said the search for a new coach would get underway immediately, although he stressed the Cardinals want to find the right candidate and did not look at it like a race against other teams with vacancies.
Arians, meanwhile, said he would still be spending time in the Valley, especially working with the Bruce Arians Foundation and the CASA program that is so important to both he and his wife. He said he would not only miss the game but even the media.
"Hell, I might be on your side (working)," Arians said. "I don't know."
He has time. There's no football left to coach.
"It's been a great ride," Arians said.
Images of coach Bruce Arians during his five years leading the Cardinals