Arians tearfully walks away from Cardinals

Jan 2, 2018 - 1:50 AM TEMPE, Ariz. -- Bruce Arians on Monday did what not many NFL head coaches get to do: walk away on his own terms.

A day after becoming the winningest coach in Cardinals history, Arians ended weeks of speculation by announcing his retirement following five seasons in Arizona, where he went 50-32-1 including a 1-2 record in the postseason.

The Cardinals finished 8-8 this season despite being forced to place 15 players, including seven Week 1 starters, on injured reserve. They relied on their third-string quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, for five games and won their last two of the season with backup Drew Stanton.

"It's been a great ride," a tearful Arians said. "I will miss the game."

Arians, 65, said he didn't formally make the decision until the end of Sunday's victory over the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, where his team has now won each of the past three years. He said he's leaving primarily so he can spend more time with his family after 40 years of coaching.

Arians said the thought of retiring didn't really enter his mind until this past summer when he was at his lake home in Georgia. His wife, Christine, reminded him that their son Jake was about to turn 40.

"I mean, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I missed all that time," Arians said. "That's coaching. Probably wouldn't change anything."

Reportedly, Arians has hired an agent to represent him in the pursuit of a job in television as an NFL studio analyst.

As for his replacement, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim began their search immediately after meeting with reporters on Monday.

According to various reports, the team has already asked permission to interview several NFL assistants, including Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.

"This is a business where you always have to plan for contingences, whether it's players, coaching contingencies, personnel or others," Bidwill said. "We'll be ready. We are ready. We constantly talk about contingencies, and we've been doing a lot of homework. And we'll be doing more and our due diligence in finding the best head coach to lead this team going forward."

--Head coach Bruce Arians said he informed his players of his decision to retire moments after the Cardinals beat the Seahawks 26-24 at CenturyLink Field, Arizona's third straight win in Seattle. None of his players revealed the news during the course of postgame interviews.

"We built this program on three words: trust, loyalty and respect," Arians said Monday. "I told our team last night I was done, I'm retiring, and they lied to you. There's no greater feeling in the world than to know your players have your back."

--Larry Fitzgerald made headlines on Sunday when he wrote on his Twitter account that Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton played the final two weeks of the season with a torn ACL.

"He has the heart of a champion," Fitzgerald wrote. "Played the last two weeks for his brothers despite an ACL tear. Love ya man!!"

Turns out Stanton doesn't really have a torn ACL. He has a bone bruise.

"There's a lot of different things that went on with medical issues," Stanton said, "but my bone bruise was the biggest limiting factor. ... That was the big thing, was getting the bone bruise to be able to calm down. Everybody's a little bit different because bone bruises are so unique in that sense. They don't get much blood flow.

"So being able to get back out there, I've got to be able to elude guys and protect myself. I got to run away from Michael Bennett yesterday. I told him, I said, 'Thanks for slowing down a little bit for me.'"

--Drew Stanton, who helped lead the Cardinals to back-to-back victories and is now 9-4 as a starter for Arizona, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Asked about his future, he said it's too early to tell.

"There's so much time and so much can change in a couple of hours, let alone days or months," he said. "I've enjoyed my time here. If it's done, then I'll look back on it with really fond memories. If it's not, then I'll come back and get back to work."

--Tackle Jared Veldheer has one year remaining on his contract and although he briefly contemplated retirement back in training camp, he said Monday that he is fully committed to playing for the Cardinals next season and possibly beyond.

"That stuff earlier in the year, I just had to sort through some stuff, but when I came back to the guys it was clear where I wanted to be," Veldheer said. "My mindset hasn't changed. This is the team I've been a part of for the last four years. I love all the guys in this room and going out there and playing with them on Sunday. I get another year to do that."

--Tight end Jermaine Gresham suffered a ruptured Achilles' tendon during Sunday's game at Seattle and his availability for the start of training camp is uncertain.

--Over the final three games of the season, Cardinals' opponents converted just 3-of-35 third-down attempts (6.5 percent). Dating back to 1970 when third-down conversion percentages were first tracked, it marks the first time in franchise history that opponents were held to one third-down conversion or fewer in three consecutive games.

NOTES: K Phil Dawson made all four of his field-goal attempts during Sunday's victory at Seattle and he finished with 32 field goals overall to tie his career high. It was the second-most field goals by a Cardinals' kicker in a single season, trailing only Neil Rackers' 40 in 2005. Dawson closed out the season by making 22-of-24 field goals over the final nine games, including 11 of 40 yards or longer and three of 50 yards or longer. Sunday marked the fifth time this season that he made at least four field goals in a game, becoming the first kicker in franchise history to accomplish that feat. ... P Andy Lee finished the season averaging 47.3 yards per punt, the highest single-season average in franchise history. Over the final eight weeks of the season, he ranked second in the NFL with a 48.0-yard average, behind only the Rams' Johnny Hecker (48.4). ... WR Larry Fitzgerald, 34, tied his single-season franchise record with 109 receptions in 2017. He also had 109 catches in 2015. Fitzgerald now owns the top four single-season reception totals in franchise history, with three of them coming in the last three years. ... OLB Chandler Jones recorded two sacks on Sunday against Seattle to give him 17 for the season, which led the NFL. The 17 sacks are a new franchise record, besting the 16.5 Simeon Rice had in 1999. In addition to leading the league in sacks, Jones also led the NFL in tackles for loss (28) and quarterback hits (38).

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