Bruce Arians

Draft Notes: Key, Jackson, Kirk, Price, Patriots

Former LSU defensive end and top draft prospect Arden Key has told teams that he has been sober for more than a year, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes.

This is big news from a player who has been speculated to have off-the-field concerns. Key is supposedly being up front with the teams about his issues, which included taking a leave of absence from the Tigers for four months beginning in February 2017 for personal reasons. He will not disclose the reasoning for that absence with the media — which is his right — but is reportedly laying it all out in front of teams.

Rated as one of the top prospects before the start of the 2017 season, Key is now viewed mostly as a potential late-first-round pick, but more likely to go off the board on second day of the draft.

Noted pass rush coach Chuck Smith is a big fan of Key, saying he is a threat to challenge for double-digit sacks the moment he enters the league. His honesty with teams and ability to stay sober for more than a year could put teams more at ease about taking a shot on the talented pass rusher.

Here’s more surrounding the draft:

  • Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk visited with the Steelers on Friday, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Kirk has also visited with the Seahawks and Panthers, a pair of teams in need of a receiver. The Steelers seem set at the position with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster but have not been shy about adding to a loaded receiver position in the past.
  • Former Cardinals head coach and quarterback guru Bruce Arians is a big fan of Louisville product Lamar Jackson, Bob McManaman of AZ Central writes. “I think Lamar puts the time in. He’s going to get better, and he just brings that unique ability to break the game open with his legs. Because he does it. He sits in there and flips it up the field,” Arians said. “He’s been in a pro-style offense. He’s more of a scrambler with designed runs. I don’t think I’d design runs for him. I would just let him, a la Russell Wilson, take what’s there, and whoosh, take off running.” The Cardinals could have interest in Jackson at the No. 15 spot in the upcoming draft.
  • In a panel piece on ESPN, a host of writers tabbed left tackle as the position the team should focus on in the first round if everything were to fall perfectly. With the team owning the 23rd and 31st picks, New England could potentially address the position by taking Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey late in the first round. The tackle is rated by many pundits as the best at the position this year.
  • Ohio State center/guard Billy Price had his NFL Combine medical recheck on Friday, Darren Wolfson of KSTP 5 News reports (Twitter link). He notes the potential first-round pick is expected to receive full clearance soon.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks

New Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks offered James Bettcher the opportunity to stay on as the team’s defensive coordinator, but Bettcher ultimately decided to move on, according to Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link). Bettcher, who interviewed for the Arizona head coaching job, accepted the Giants’ DC job late last night, so he’ll now go to work under new New York head coach Pat Shurmur. The Cardinals, meanwhile, lured former Panthers linebackers coach Al Holcomb to the desert in order to become the club’s next defensive coordinator, although it doesn’t sound as though Arizona will change much of Bettcher’s scheme.

Here’s more from the NFC West, with a focus on staff notes:

  • Wilks has made another addition to the Cardinals‘ coaching staff, as former Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt — New York’s longest-tenured coach — will become Arizona’s secondary coach, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Merritt, 46, had been with the Giants since 2004, and enjoyed a short stint with the crosstown Jets prior to joining the G-Men. He’ll now serve under Holcomb, and will have the opportunity to coach one of the league’s best corners in Patrick Peterson. Finding another defensive back to play opposite Peterson will represent Merritt’s most significant challenge in 2018.
  • Former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians released a statement praising the hire of Wilks, but did allow that he preferred other candidates for the position, reports Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com“We built a strong Cardinals legacy over the last 5 years,” said Arians. “I wish Steve Wilks the best of luck. I’m disappointed that [James Bettcher or Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong] didn’t get the Cardinals position. They are both ready. I truly believe they will be an asset to any football organization. Trust. Loyalty. Respect.” Armstrong, who like Bettcher was an official Arians recommendation, interviewed with Arizona twice before the club chose Wilks.
  • The Rams have hired former UCLA offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch as a senior offensive assistant, the team announced today. Fisch, who also served as the Bruins’ interim head coach following the firing of Jim Mora Jr., has served in both served in both the collegiate and pro ranks over the past 20 years. In the NFL, Fisch was the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator from 2013-14, and has also worked for the Texans, Ravens, Broncos, and Seahawks, mostly as a quarterbacks or wide receivers coach. He interviewed for the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach job earlier this year.
  • The Seahawks are making yet another change to their defensive staff, as defensive line coach Dwaine Board will not return to the club in 2018, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Board is a longtime NFL coach, as he first entered the league in 1990 with the 49ers. He’s made other stops in Oakland and Cleveland, and started his second stint with Seattle in 2015.

Bruce Arians Announces Retirement

The Cardinals will be looking for a new coach. Bruce Arians announced he will conclude his five-season tenure in Arizona and retire from the profession.

Michael Bidwill said (via Kent Somers of AZCentral.com, on Twitter) Arians informed him of this decision on Sunday. The search for Arians’ successor will begin immediately.

The 65-year-old Arians has been a coach for more than 40 years and first coached in the NFL in 1989. Only five of those seasons came as an NFL head coach, but Arians spent nine seasons as an offensive coordinator in the league — the last of which (2012) earned him the long-awaited opportunity to lead a team.

In Arizona, Arians steered the Cardinals to two playoff berths. The 2015 season was his unquestioned masterpiece, with the Cardinals gliding to the NFC championship game. He will finish with a record of 49-30-1.

Arians cemented himself as a high-end coaching candidate by winning NFL coach of the year honors leading the 2012 coach while Chuck Pagano underwent cancer treatment. Prior to that season, Arians operated as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator during a period that saw the franchise win its sixth championship (2008) and reach its most recent Super Bowl (in 2010).

Arians coached Carson Palmer during his entire Arizona stint, one that revived his career, and his offense helped Larry Fitzgerald further place himself among the league’s all-time greats at his position. Neither are guaranteed to return in 2018, so this decision could be a seminal one regarding how the Cards’ cornerstone players proceed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bruce Arians Expected To Retire

Ending weeks of speculation, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is expected to retire, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (Twitter link). Bruce Arians (vertical)

In five seasons with the team, Arians went 49-30-1 and cracked 10 wins with Arizona in each of his first three seasons. In July, Arians said he would like to finish out his contract with the team that ran through 2018 with a team option for 2019.

I hope not,” said Arians when asked if 2017 could be his last season (via ESPN.com). “That’s going to mean I’m not healthy.”

Health concerns have been at the forefront of Arians’ tenure in Arizona. In 2016, he was hospitalized with symptoms of diverticulitis, and in February he had surgery to remove a cancerous piece of his kidney.

Arians gained fame for his work with quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. In 2012, he filled in for Colts head coach Chuck Pagano after he was diagnosed with leukemia and powered the team to an 9-3 mark down the stretch and helped Indy secure a playoff spot. The following year, Arians took the job in Arizona and turned the 5-11 team from 2012 into a 10-win team in his first season. He then advanced to the playoffs in each of the following two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Gruden, Lewis, Joseph

The Raiders‘ firing of Jack Del Rio less than a year after signing him to an extension would have come as a shock at this season’s outset, when the team was picked by most to win the AFC West. But now that Jon Gruden‘s name is in the mix, the franchise is operating like it has a real shot to lure him back to Oakland.

In firing Del Rio, the Raiders are confident they can bring Gruden back to Oakland, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The Raiders doing this looks indeed to be for a Gruden landing, with Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News hearing (Twitter link) the Gruden buzz is legitimate. This comes shortly after Gruden’s name was connected with the Buccaneers. But the Bucs kept Dirk Koetter after a less successful tenure compared to Del Rio’s Oakland run. The Gruden noise appears louder regarding the Raiders. He was the most recent coach to receive a four-year opportunity coaching the Silver and Black, doing so from 1998-2001 prior to being traded to the Bucs in early 2002.

Here’s the latest from the coaching carousel.

  • Marvin LewisBengals played a spoiler in Week 17, knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs. The coach’s future in Cincinnati remains murky, however, as his contract expires. Lewis made an interesting comment postgame regarding his status. When asked if he would accept Mike Brown‘s offer to remain the Bengals’ HC in 2018, Lewis replied (via Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com), “It’s a little more complicated than that.” A report emerged last week about Lewis stepping down from his 15-year post. He has yet to confirm that.
  • Vance Joseph‘s Broncos tenure is also up in the air. However, the rookie head coach said he “absolutely” expects to be the team’s coach in 2018 and said (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, on Twitter) he has not been informed of a decision yet. Joseph said he will meet with John Elway tonight or Monday. The Broncos have never fired a coach after one season. However, this is only the second time in 27 seasons they’ve won five or fewer games. Mike Klis of 9News reports (on Twitter) Elway will not make the decision tonight, planning to sleep on it. Klis adds that it shouldn’t be a surprise if Joseph is given a second season.
  • Bruce Arians met with Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill on Sunday morning, Laura Okmin of Fox Sports reports, adding a decision on whether or not he will step down could come by New Year’s Day (Twitter link). Arians has said himself his decision could come as soon as Monday, or as late as February, although Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes he’s likely to leave.

Rapoport’s Latest: Mularkey, Arians, Rodgers

It’s a busy day in the NFL, as some teams fight for the playoffs while others prepare for the offseason and their next head coach. Let’s take a look at some of the latest reports from NFL.com scribe Ian Rapoport on the eve of Black Monday:

  • Despite the fact that the Titans could clinch a playoff spot today, Rapoport says that head coach Mike Mularkey is in trouble, and if Tennessee loses to Jacksonville this afternoon, Mularkey could be fired. Indeed, he could be canned even if the Titans make the playoffs but lose in the wildcard round. Apparently, ownership is frustrated with the development of Marcus Mariota, and if the Titans dismiss Mularkey, they could go hard after Patriots OC Josh McDaniels.
  • Rapoport tweets that the Cardinals have not given up hope of enticing head coach Bruce Arians to return, though ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Arians is likely to step away from coaching after Arizona’s season finale today.
  • The Packers recently extended Davante Adams, and Rapoport tweets that the team will make an extension for Aaron Rodgers its top priority this offseason.
  • There are expected to be two head coaching openings in the NFC North, with the Bears and Lions preparing to look for their next sideline general this offseason. Rapoport names Patriots DC Matt Patricia as a top choice for Detroit, while the Bears could look hard at a QB guru for young signal-caller Mitch Trubisky. Rapoport tweets that the SaintsPete Carmichael, the longest-tenured OC in the league, could get a look for the Chicago job.
  • Both Cowboys coordinators (DC Rod Marinelli and OC Scott Linehan) are on the hot seat and will be thoroughly evaluated, per Rapoport (video link).

Breer’s Latest: Black Monday Preview

With the final week of the NFL’s regular season approaching, that only means two things; 12 teams will soon be focusing on reaching the Super Bowl, while the rest will start to look ahead to next season. One major part of looking forward is addressing who on the coaching staff will be returning in 2018. Many of these coaching questions are answered on the day following Week’s 17 conclusion, conveniently called “Black Monday”.

Veteran reporter Albert of Breer of Sports Illustrated, gave a preview of the coaches he expects to stay and the ones that will likely be shown the door in his most recent column. Breer ranked the potential firings as “Likely/Done”, “We’ll See”, and “It’s Complicated”. In total, there were 15 head coaches mentioned who could see their situations change starting next week.

Here’s a quick look at Breer’s takes on some of the league’s hottest coaching questions:

  • There were five head coaches included in the “likely/done” category including: BearsJohn Fox, BengalsMarvin Lewis, LionsJim Caldwell, ColtsChuck Pagano and and the Giants‘ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. The four full-time head coaches on this list have all had their fair share of success in the league. In fact, three of them led their current teams to multiple playoff appearances during their tenure. However, Caldwell and Lewis have been unable to win a postseason game with Pagano and Fox having failed at continuing the past success they have shown during their careers in football. Breer notes that while the “expectation is that Fox will be gone”, the decision on the fate of general manager Ryan Pace is true question facing the franchise this offseason. There’s been rapid speculation about Lewis, Caldwell and Pagano throughout the year, so their inclusion on this list is no surprise. Finally, the Giants are currently interviewing general manager candidates who will almost certainly be looking to lead their own head coaching search once hired.
  • Breer puts six current head coaches in the ‘we’ll see” part of the list. This portion mentions the CardinalsBruce Arians, BroncosVance Joseph, RaidersJack Del Rio, BuccaneersDirk Koetter, TitansMike Mularkey and the RedskinsJay Gruden. There’s a variety of situations going on here with Breer noting that Arizona could see Arians retire, which could lead them to other current NFL head coaches: Todd Bowles and Bill O’Brien. Del Rio and Gruden have had their fair share of success because of quality quarterback play, but both have managed to decrease confidence because of an inconsistent 2017 season. However, Breer points out that both are signed long-term so their owners would have to eat the remaining years of their current deals. Mularkey and Koetter were rewarded for the relationships they formed with their QB’s, but there’s been disappointment with how this season has unfolded for their teams. Breer notes that should Mularkey lose this Sunday, he could be on the chopping block come Monday morning with the team looking to hire an offensive-minded coach like Josh McDaniels. Finally, Joseph has forced himself to the hot seat even in his first year of coaching the Broncos, though Breer says himself that this situation is “unpredictable” given that team president John Elway is just “not pleased with how the season’s gone”.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and the two previously mentioned O’Brien and Bowles of the Texans and Jets, find themselves on the “it’s complicated” section of Breer’s roundup largely because of just the many factors are at play in regards to their situations. Jackson got a vote of confidence from owner Jimmy Haslam himself, but new general manager John Dorsey could have his sights on implementing his own guy after a winless season. O’Brien has made the playoffs before, but has struggled committing to a QB even after the team selected Deshaun Watson in the first round. Bowles has done a lot with a little in New York this season, but ownership could go in a different direction with a new starting signal caller likely walking into the building next year. Also, there is the potential that all three coaches could move onto new head coaching gigs with the number of openings that could be available this offseason. The final and definitely most surprising inclusion on this list was Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who Breer mentions could retire at age 66 with a roster about to see major turnover in the next few years. Although, I would venture that nothing he’s said this season would indicate that being the case.

Latest On Bruce Arians

Two seasons after leading the Cardinals to their second ever NFC Championship game, head coach Bruce Arians‘ future appears to be up in the air entering the final week of the regular season. In response to speculation that the he could be moving on in 2018, the veteran coach stated that, “Nothing’s changed in the last month and a half.” (via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com).

Bruce Arians (vertical)

Arians made clear to Weinfuss and a pool of reporters after Tuesday’s practice that he would decide on his coaching future between “Monday and February”.

The longtime head coach and offensive coordinator has had health problems in recent years, so it’s fair to ask whether he plans on hanging up his clipboard after the 2017 season is over. However, it appears that the decision to return or leave would solely be up to Arians, according to Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com (Twitter link).

Jurecki heard from sources that “The Cardinals would like to have Arians back next year.” So if this is indeed the case, the front office will plan on giving their coach as much time as he needs to figure out whether he still has the desire to lead the team in 2018.

During his five-year tenure with the Cardinals, Arians has accumulated a record of 39-27, taking the team to the playoffs in both 2014 and 2015. Although, under his guise, Arizona has failed to reach the postseason in each of the last two years thanks in large part to uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La Canfora’s Latest: O’Brien, Arians, Browns

Earlier today, we learned that Marvin Lewis is planning to leave Cincinnati after 15 years as the Bengals’ head coach, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Texans and their head coach, Bill O’Brien, could also be headed for a split after the 2017 season. O’Brien has led Houston to three nine-win seasons and two playoff berths, and if rookie sensation Deshaun Watson had not suffered an ACL tear earlier this season, the team might be in playoff contention yet again. However, La Canfora says the relationship between O’Brien and GM Rick Smith has long been complicated, and sources close to the situation foresee a change sooner rather than later. Houston’s head coaching job is an attractive one, largely because of Watson, and O’Brien would be an attractive candidate for one of the multitude of coaching vacancies this offseason. If O’Brien does leave Houston, La Canfora names current defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as a logical internal candidate to replace him.

Now for more from La Canfora’s Sunday morning output, starting with more out of Houston:

  • La Canfora writes that Texans QB Tom Savage remains in the concussion protocol and is unlikely to play again in 2o17. Houston is under fire for the way it handled Savage’s head injury last week, and Savage will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so it is best for all parties involved that Savage simply sit out the last three games of the year.
  • We head back in October that Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians had not made any decision as to whether his career will continue past the 2017 season, and La Canfora reports that the team is preparing in case Arians decides to call it quits. Sources close to Arians believe he will not be back in 2018, and given the number of teams that will be looking for a new head coach this offseason, the Cardinals must be prepared in case they are also in need of a head coach.
  • The NFL has confirmed the the Browns complied with the Rooney Rule in their hiring of GM John Dorsey, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance is still concerned with how the process unfolded. The Alliance spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell about the matter prior to last week’s ownership meetings, and it emphasized that all interviews with minority candidates should be reported to Alliance or to the league, which Cleveland did not do when it interviewed Doug Whaley for the GM job. Whaley, meanwhile, was reportedly “crushed” by the process, as he believed he had a legitimate shot at the job only to realize that the Browns were interviewing him simply to comply with the Rooney Rule.
  • Goodell’s new extension runs through the 2024 season, but he hopes to have his successor in place by 2020. If that successor has made sufficient progress, it is possible that Goodell steps aside prior to 2024. La Canfora adds that sweeping changes will be made to the league office in 2018, including changes to football operations at the upper-management level across several departments.
  • There is “growing support” among league owners for reverting to the pre-2009 gameday operations schedule, which means that players would not be mandated to be on the sidelines for the national anthem at primetime games. Owners are also considering making the anthem earlier, at a time when the sidelines are often vacant.

NFC West Notes: Cards, 49ers, Hawks, Rams

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has not made any decision regarding whether his career will continue past the 2017 season, sources tell Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. Arizona will now be without quarterback Carson Palmer for several weeks (if not the rest of the year), and given that the Cardinals appear set to miss the postseason for the second consecutive season, there was some thought that Arians could hang it up after the current campaign concludes. But Arians himself tweeted that any such rumors were “news” to him, although Weinfuss added that how Arizona finishes the season could factor into Arians’ decision on 2018.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Offensive tackle Joe Staley‘s name is often tossed out near the NFL’s trade deadline, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan says it would “take a whole lot” for the club to move the veteran lineman, per Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group (Twitter link). As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee writes, the Niners have surely discussed trading Staley, especially now that a contending club such as the Eagles is down a left tackle in Jason Peters. Staley, 33, is still playing well — No. 19 offensive tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus — and is signed through the 2019 season at extremely affordable rates.
  • Conversations between the Seahawks and edge defender Dwight Freeney were initiated after fellow defensive lineman Cliff Avril suffered an injury, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters, including Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). Avril is done for the season as he deals with a neck issue, and could possibly contemplate retirement. Freeney, who says he turned down other offers, will likely serve in a rotational capacity, and is expected to be active when Seattle faces Houston on Monday night. Even after adding Freeney, the Seahawks are still looking for more pass rushers.
  • The Rams picked up $2.5MM in 2017 cap space as a result of extending linebacker Alec Ogletree, according to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). That indicates that Los Angeles reduced Ogletree’s $8.369MM base salary, because his prorated $8MM signing bonus should account for $1.25MM on the Rams’ 2017 books. All told, Ogletree’s four-year extension is worth $42MM and contains $18MM in full guarantees. His $10.5MM average annual value places him behind only Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner among inside ‘backers.