Last month, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians made it clear that he’s not going to take just any NFL coaching job, even though there are only 32 of them.
“I’m not just gonna run away to be a head coach, I’m not gonna do that,” Arians said. “I want to make sure they have a chance to win and see what the situation is, what city it is in.”
Though there’s nothing wrong with the city in which the Cardinals are located, the team over which Arians will take charge plays in a suddenly stout division, with the two-time NFC finalist 49ers, the surging Seahawks, and the up-and-coming Rams. Complicating matters for Arians is the fact that the Cardinals have a horrible quarterback situation and an even worse offensive line.
Sure, the veteran assistant likely believes he can fix Kevin Kolb or coax a more consistent level of play from John Skelton, or maybe pilfer Alex Smith from the 49ers. Still, of the eight jobs that needed to be filled, the Cardinals’ situation was among the worst available — possibly tied with the Jaguars when it comes to the size of the mountain that needs to be climbed to transform the team into a winner.
Maybe the 60-year-old Arians realizes if he didn’t pounce on the only offer he ultimately received he’d possibly never get another chance to run a team of his own. A year ago, Arians working as an NFL head coach would have been unthinkable. The Steelers, weary of his close friendship with Ben Roethlisberger, fired Arians and clumsily tried to make it look like he had retired.
Arians landed on his feet in Indy, and when leukemia struck coach Chuck Pagano, Arians received an opportunity to show, for a three-month period, that he could get the job done. And get the job done he did, lifting the Colts to the postseason and likely positioning himself for a share of the AP coach of the year award, with Pagano.
In Arizona, there will be no Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning or, barring a trade, any other great quarterback who will help Arians overcome the trio of tough teams in the division. Sure, he has receiver Larry Fitzgerald and an underrated defense. But there are many holes to fill on the offensive side of the ball — and ownership hasn’t exactly demonstrated patience with its coaches. The Steelers have had three since 1969; the Cardinals have now had 15.
Still, for Arians, it may have been now or never. And the odds he helped the Colts overcome in 2012 are even longer than those he now faces with the Cardinals.