Old-school Arians feeling young at heart

Posted Feb. 21, 2013 @ 4:51 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Sporting a bright red beret, Bruce Arians looked more like some sort of hipster art dealer than the new head coach of the Cardinals.

But his giant gold Super Bowl ring, the first of two he earned as a successful assistant coach with the Steelers, was a dead giveaway for the 10th of a scheduled 25 head coaches and GMs on the first day of the 2013 Scouting Combine.

Quickly getting very used to the warm-weather comforts of his new environment, Arians, who earned rave reviews as the interim head coach of the Colts in place of cancer victim Chuck Pagano, couldn't be more fired up for his next daunting task: Turning the Cardinals back into a legitimate contender in the vastly improved NFC West.

"I feel fantastic," said the 60-year-old Arians, who was forced to miss the Colts' playoff game vs. the Ravens due to an illness that came out of nowhere. "It was a crazy situation. Inner ear infection. Didn't know anything about it until I got one. I found out I'm really healthy.

"I've had every test known to man."

The one thing Arians made clear quickly is that he is as “old school” as any coach in the league. And arguably one of the biggest reasons he is feeling good about his new gig are the old friends he has hired to help hopefully turn the tide in the desert.

New offensive assistant Tom Moore, best known for working wonders with Peyton Manning as an offensive coordinator with the Colts, is at the top of the list.

“Tom is one of the greatest teachers I have ever known,” Arians said. “He has a way of taking a lot of knowledge and simplifying it. I was elated when he decided to come back. I met with him when we played in Jacksonville, and it was his 74th birthday, and he had just birdied 17 at TPC. He was excited. To see him as healthy as he is, he got his knees replaced, he said, 'I'm getting back in.' I told him, 'If I'm in, you're in.' Because he brings that wealth of knowledge to young coaches. I love the dynamics of our staff.”

Another new valuable old-timer on Arians’ staff is pass-rush specialist Tom Pratt.

“I've known Tom since our days in Kansas City,” said Arians. “Not many guys can say they have a guy who coached in Super Bowl I. Tom has been coaching in Japan, he's been coaching all the pass rushers coming out the past few years, he's on top of every defensive line move.

“He came to Pittsburgh one year with Bill Cowher, as did (new DL coach) Brentson Buckner with John Mitchell. I've watched those guys and Tom Pratt still has a passion to teach, just like Tom Moore. Brentson Buckner had a great passion as an intern. I thought it was a great mix.”

Familiarity was also a key consideration in the decision to hire Todd Bowles as the new defensive coordinator in place of Ray Horton, who has moved on to Cleveland in the same capacity.

“He'll do a great job,” Arians said of the well-regarded Horton. “We won that Super Bowl together and I have all the respect in the world for him. I always felt like, had I got a (head-coaching) job, I wanted Todd Bowles (to be my defensive coordinator). He's a bright young coach, too. Just more history. But I feel Ray is one of the best.”

Arians kept the old-school theme alive when asked about the success of the seemingly new-wave read-option formations this past season, particularly among NFC West rivals San Francisco and Seattle, thanks to QBs Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, respectively.

“Give the defensive coordinators of the NFL some credit,” Arians said. “They will have some time to study this trend that is happening. I'm not a believer in putting my quarterback in harm's way. I believe a lot of harm will come to him.

“I'm more of a traditionalist.”

Arians offered a quick assessment of the NFC West before signing off.

“We played them a year ago with the Steelers,” he said. “We are in a division with two really good young quarterbacks (Kaepernick and Wilson), and they have good defenses, too. In St. Louis, Jeff (Fisher) is doing a fantastic job.

“It's an outstanding division. It reminds me of the AFC North, the way the teams are running the football and playing defense. Each division is extremely difficult, but right now the West is really tough.”