Bruce Arians, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year who is just less than two seasons removed from taking the Arizona Cardinals to the NFC title game, will agree to part ways with the Cardinals next week, multiple sources tell Pro Football Weekly.
Arians is 48-30-1 in five seasons guiding the club and was 10-6, 11-5 and 13-3 in his first three seasons, from 2013-2015. But he faded to 7-8-1 in an injury plagued 2016 season and struggled to get to 7-8 this season with five of those seven victories coming against Indianapolis, San Francisco (2), Tampa Bay, and the New York Giants.
Arians is a prostate cancer survivor who has battled various other health issues in recent seasons, and the prospect of a possible rebuild for the Cardinals with no apparent answers at quarterback on the horizon is apparently enough for Arians to decide to call it quits, or at least take a hiatus from coaching.
Our sources are saying it will be an amicable split and that Arians is not being fired, but that Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim support Arians' decision and aren't overly upset they will be able to start fresh with a new coach as they reshape their roster.
Keim was promoted to Arizona G.M. in 2013 after spending almost a decade-and-a-half in the Cards front office, and Arians was the first and only head coach he has hired. Their three-year run together from 2013-15 was the strongest period of sustained success the Cardinals have enjoyed since moving to Arizona — though they were unable to match the club's one Super Bowl run in 2008 following a 9-7 regular season under Ken Whisenhunt.
A key piece of their success was the arrival of quarterback Carson Palmer as an unrestricted free agent in 2013. But Palmer broke his arm in Week 7 and has been on injured reserve ever since. He turned 38 on Tuesday, and it is uncertain whether or not Palmer will return or retire and how much he has left in the tank if he does try and play again.
Following a 34-7 loss to the Eagles in Week 5, Keim expressed his frustration with his team's play in a regular weekly radio interview, saying the Cardinals hadn't played as poorly since getting destroyed by the Panthers in the '15 NFC title game.
While Keim hasn't openly expressed any concerns with the job Arians has done this year, and our sources tell us behind the scenes and off the record the working relationship between the two is still solid, there is no sugar-coating that there is disappointment for both ownership and management with the team's 7-8 record and struggles with quality teams.
The loss of their best offensive weapon, David Johnson, following the opening week of the season and subsequent season-ending injuries to a decimated offensive line that has seen both tackles D.J. Humphries and Jared Veldheer and guard Mike Iupati land on I.R., as well as outside linebacker Markus Golden and safety Tyvon Branch, have been particularly frustrating and reportedly made the season that much tougher on Arians.
The loss of four starters on defense to free agency — Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor — and key reserves —Marcus Cooper and D.J. Swearinger — prior to the beginning of the season also made the job that much more taxing on the coaching staff this season.
Adding to the intrigue of Arians' possible departure is that the same sources telling us he will be leaving are reporting that even though future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed a contract extension earlier this year, he has remained undecided as to whether to play another season, and the departure of Arians would significantly increase the odds that Fitzgerald would hang 'em up as well.
In a best-case scenario with Arians and Fitzgerald back and a healthy Palmer attempting to give it one more go along with a healthy Johnson, the Cardinals could make one more run at a title with the current roster.
But if our sources are right and Arians has already decided to move on, with Fitzgerald likely to follow, let the rebuilding in Arizona begin.