The 2012 head coaching carousel finally came to a halt Thursday evening when the Arizona Cardinals announced Bruce Arians as the team’s new head coach. While Chuck Pagano, understandably, was the overarching story in the Indianapolis Colts season, it was Arians’ leadership as Indy’s interim head coach that helped the Colts’ overachieve.
It might take something special to get that same level of success from a Cardinals’ offense that was an unadulterated mess this past season. Arizona gained just 4,209 yards all season (worst in the NFL), and scored just 250 points — only the Chiefs scored fewer. Many of those issues began at the quarterback position, where the QB quartet of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer combined to throw just 11 touchdowns while tossing 21 interceptions. No one was more affected by this than Larry Fitzgerald. One of the league’s top receivers was held to a career-low four touchdown receptions while being limited to just 798 receiving yards — the lowest total since his rookie season in 2004. Arizona did discover a new weapon in Andre Roberts, but the passing game overall did little to inspire fear in opponents.
The running game wasn’t any better. The Cardinals rushed for just 1,204 yards (again, a league-worst) with LaRod Stephens-Howling leading the way with a mere 357 yards. While it certainly didn’t help that Beanie Wells missed eight games with injuries, it was in many ways par for the course for a back who has topped 200 carries and 800 rushing yards just once in his four NFL seasons.
Arians did wonderful things this past season, relying heavily on a talented crop of rookies that included Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard and Dwayne Allen. The Cardinals don’t appear to be quite as offensively blessed. This turnaround will have to begin with a change under center — a task that won’t be easy with an underwhelming list of signal-callers highlighting both free agency and the draft. If Arians can achieve the same results in Arizona that he did in Indianapolis, he will truly be deserving of heavy praise.
– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG