BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is at the NFL’s annual league meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., and on Tuesday, he had just enough time to join Mike Florio on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.
Florio and Arians discussed quite a few topics, starting off with the news that the Cardinals would be the very first team to be featured in a cool new series called “All or Nothing,” which will premiere on Amazon Video this summer.
At first, Arians said he wasn’t too keen on the idea of having cameras and microphones all throughout the Tempe training facility, and with them for every single game, and with them in their homes, but NFL Films did a great enough job that the idea grew on him.
“I kind of got used to being miked every day,” Arians said. “So it went pretty easy for us.”
Arians told Florio that one of the ground rules he laid down to the NFL Films crew is that there were to be no cameras or microphones around when the time came for him to release a player.
“Yes indeed,” Arians said. “It was more (filming) the practice stuff, (and) the coaching stuff, but the individual stuff like cutting players, and those types (of) things were not involved (in the filming).”
Florio asked Arians about the NFC Championship Game loss, and how the organization can get past that, and the fact that they have to square up at 0-0 again when the regular season comes around.
“Each team is so different now. Every year’s a different team,” Arians said. “We’ll have the core of our group back, but they’re over it already; they’re ready to go. It takes coaches sometimes longer to get over it than players, but we’ll be ready. It’ll be the 2016 Cardinals, and it has nothing to do with the 2015 Cardinals.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer had one of the worst games of his entire NFL career against Carolina, throwing four interceptions and fumbling the ball away twice. There’s been a lot of concern outside the organization about Palmer, and if that game mentally scarred him, and if he’ll come back and be effective again this season.
Arians told Florio that all is well with his quarterback, and he has no doubt that Palmer will be as good as he’s ever been this season.
“It was just a game that we forced some things,” Arians said. “We got behind, and got out of our game plan because of it. Sack fumbles aren’t his (Palmer) fault, (but) interceptions are. He’s over it already, and we just keep marching on.”
Father Time has already crept up on Palmer. At age 36, even though he had a fantastic 2015 season, the Cardinals have to face the reality that Palmer’s not going to carry them down the road for five or 10 more years. That’s why Arians told Florio that the contingency plan is already in place for when Palmer does decide to retire.
“We already have (thought about Palmer’s replacement),” Arians said. “It was big signing (Cardinals quarterback) Drew Stanton back, and having (a) solid quarterback room. We’d love to find a young guy this year (in the 2016 NFL Draft).”
Arians is a former signal-caller himself. From 1972-74, Arians was the quarterback at Virginia Tech. He was solid enough in that role in Blacksburg, Va., that he was voted as the team’s MVP in his senior season.
Arians would take the knowledge he got from playing that position to Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and finally to Arizona. With the Colts, he worked with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. With the Steelers, he worked with Ben Roethlisberger. With the Cardinals, he’s working with Palmer.
If there’s anyone who knows how to scout out the right kind of quarterbacking talent, it’s Arians.
“The two things that you can’t measure at the (NFL Scouting) Combine are the head and the heart,” Arians said. “You gotta get them on the board, talk football with them, (and) watch film with them. You can judge the arm strength, and their physical attributes, but the two things you win with, they’re hard; the heart is really hard. You have to get a feel for a guy. Does he really have the grit to play the game?”
Tight end Jermaine Gresham shocked a lot of people when he decided to come back to the Cardinals, instead of taking more reported money to go somewhere else. The same goes with running back Chris Johnson, who reportedly turned down twice as much money from another team than the Cardinals offered him.
“Chris (Johnson) was wanting to (come back),” Arians said. “He wanted to be back. He’s a great competitor, (and) a great teammate; loved having him in our locker room.”
Florio asked Arians about the future of safeties Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson. Jefferson’s a restricted free-agent who was offered the lowest tender by the team, while Johnson’s an unrestricted free agent, who’s gotten interest from the Oakland Raiders and had a visit with the Tennessee Titans recently.
Arians told Florio it’s a matter of making “the numbers work” as far as bringing Johnson back. As far as Jefferson goes, Arians said he wouldn’t be surprised if a team made a run at him before April 22 – that’s the deadline for restricted free agents to sign their offer sheets.
Another person who was huge in Arizona’s secondary last season was safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was having a fantastic season before he suffered another ACL injury – his second in three years – against the Philadelphia Eagles in late December.
Talks have been ongoing between Mathieu, his team of agents, and the Cardinals. As Mathieu’s said, he’s just being patient, knowing that everyone involved in the negotiations wants Mathieu to remain a Cardinal, including Arians.
“I think we would love to get that done this year,” Arians said. “Whether or not we can find the numbers, and get them correct for both sides, will (remain) to be seen. (Cardinals general manager) Steve (Keim) does a great job with that. I know Ty(rann Mathieu) loves being a Cardinal. We’ll hopefully get to an (amicable) agreement.”
Lastly, Florio asked Arians what he could do to push the Cardinals even further in 2016.
“Stay consistent,” Arians said. “Stay consistent and don’t push any panic buttons. What we do is bonafide. We got a lot of (Super Bowl) rings on our coaching staff. They know how to do it, and it’s just win one more game and play that (NFC) Championship Game at home. It’s a whole lot easier.”