Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, one of the straightest shooters in the NFL’s coaching ranks, is retiring. He confirmed reports in a tearful news conference Monday.
“It’s been a great ride,” Arians said. “Family is the big [reason why he’s retiring] … I probably didn’t truly know until that kick went through that I was going to retire. I know everybody speculated for months, everybody had a story – you now have the story. It’s been an unbelievable journey.”
Arians said he was sitting at the lake house he shares with his wife, Christine, noted that their son, Jake, was soon to be 40 years old, and “it hit me like a ton of bricks that I missed all that time,” Arians said. “And that’s coaching.”
Arians thanked Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill, general manager Steve Keim (whom he called a little brother; Keim also was choked up when he addressed reporters), and even the reporters who have covered him for the last several years.
“The tears you see are really tears of joy, and peace,” he said.
The 65-year-old is the winningest coach in Cardinals history and got his 50th win with Arizona on Sunday when the team beat the Seahawks in Seattle, a game the Seahawks had to win for a playoff berth.
The Cardinals were 49-30-1 in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs under Arians.
Seattle’s Century Link Field is listed annually as one of the toughest road stadiums in the NFL, mostly because of the crowd noise level, but under Arians, the Cardinals were 4-1 there; on Sunday evening as he opened his news conference, Arians quietly said “Welcome to my house,” a reminder of how well his teams had played there.
Underscoring how beloved Arians is by his players, beat reporter Kent Somers of azcentral.com tweeted that Arians told players after the game Sunday that he was retiring and players lied to the media because they had his back.
It’s not a surprise that Arians is stepping away; there have been rumors and reports for months that 2017 would be his last season with Arizona, though he shot them down each time he was asked, even calling it “fake news.”
Arians has dealt with several health issues in recent years: doctors discovered he had kidney cancer in December 2016, and he underwent surgery to remove a small portion of his kidney two months later; he also has had a couple of other brief hospital stays in 2016.
He has been coaching for over 40 years, beginning his career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Virginia Tech, in 1975. He had two short stints with NFL teams, in 1989-92, as running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, and in 1996, as tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints, but moved into the league for good in 1998, when he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts as quarterbacks coach; he was Peyton Manning’s position coach for the first three years of his career.
From there, he spent three seasons as the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator (2001-03), then the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he spent eight seasons, first as receivers coach then offensive coordinator.
Chuck Pagano hired him to his staff in 2012 to run the Colts offense, and Arians is thrust into the spotlight when Pagano learned he had leukemia and had to step away from coaching for treatment. Arians spent much of that season as interim head coach, and was hired by the Cardinals the next year.