BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Bruce Arians was one of 16 NFL head coaches who took the podium on Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
One of the main topics of discussion between Arians and the media was quarterback Carson Palmer and where the Cardinals are heading in the future in regards to that position.
Palmer had one of the worst games of his career against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game in late January. He was responsible for six of Arizona’s seven turnovers in that game.
Arians says the biggest thing Palmer can take away from that game, and use as fuel for motivation (which he already has), is the experience of being that close to making a Super Bowl appearance and failing to do so.
“Last year, the knee was the driving force. This year, he’s (Palmer) already working like crazy, because of the way it ended,” Arians said. “That’s what you want. You want your guys back, and when he’s back working like that, the rest of them will be back working like that. As a coach, you don’t have to say anything, just get going again. (Let’s) see if we can reach that pinnacle again and play better.”
Palmer’s no spring chicken. He’s 36-years-old, and on the tail end of his career. Yes, he had a fantastic season in 2015, but there’s no guarantee he can come back and duplicate that (although that would be a great thing).
Arians, general manager Steve Keim and other members of the Cardinals organization are at the Combine scouting out all types of talent, quarterbacks being one of them. Eventually, they have to find Palmer’s successor, so they’re getting a jump on it right now.
The mentality Arians takes when it comes to drafting a quarterback and working him into his system is for him to play. Arians isn’t one to have his talent stand on a sideline for an entire season and not get any playing time. He feels the only way for a quarterback to learn is to get on the field and see what he’s made of.
“Now, I say that and we might draft one (and) he’s going to hold a clipboard for a year,” Arians said. “I don’t believe in holding clipboards. You learn from practice; you have to get every snap. The trick with a young guy, especially if you’re gonna sit him for a year, is getting him enough practice work, to where he’s improving in your offense, not in somebody else’s offense, so when they’re sitting there, and not playing, it’s very hard to develop them.”
“That’s a really fine line of taking one and playing him, or taking one and sitting him,” Arians said. “In our situation, he’d sit for a year and hopefully be the future.”
When Arians sits down to interview quarterbacks this week, he’s looking to see if these athletes can draw up a two-minute offense that will work in his system. Arians wants these young men to show him they’re Cardinals material.
“I can figure out a little bit about what he knows about his offense, then in a longer interview, you put them on the board, and give me your favorite play, 3rd and 5, (and) the game’s on the line, and what coverage you’re anticipating,” Arians said. “Hopefully that gives you enough information after you do that enough times that the guy’s smart enough to play. We do it with all positions, but quarterbacks extensively.”
Arians was also asked for his thoughts on a few more things Cardinals related:
On J.J. Nelson: “Oh, we just got to get him on the field more. He’s a dynamic young player, and as a rookie, he got better and better. If we can just get him up to 165 (pounds), I think we can get him on the field a little bit more. He is fast.”
On David Johnson possibly being one of the best running backs in the NFL: “I can’t say after one year’s work that he is one of the best, but he’s got a chance to be one of the all-time best.”
On Keim: “He’s great. It’s fantastic. We grew up about 10 miles apart. Same values. He’s a great evaluator of players. As a coach, you have to trust that position that they’re going to give you the best players available at the right price. No one does a better job, in my opinion, than Steve Keim.”
On the quality of cornerbacks in today’s NFL: “They’re some of the greatest athletes to be out there right now. When you look at (Cardinals cornerback) Patrick Peterson, and some of these guys coming out 6’1”, running (a) 4.4 (40-yard dash), the corner position might be the most athletic position in all of sports. I watch (the) NBA a lot, and the guys are great athletes, but the corners, (Panthers cornerback) Josh (Norman), Patrick (Peterson), (Seahawks cornerback) Richard (Sherman), (Jets cornerback) Darrelle (Revis), they’re all so athletic. They could play any position on the field. Patrick (Peterson) could be one of the best (wide) receivers in the league if he wanted to be.”
On what he looks for in players from smaller schools: “Do they dominate? Because they need to dominate at that level. They can’t just be a good player at that level, they have to dominate the competition, and they have to have a swagger about them to be able to come into a locker room (with) SEC guys, and other guys, with a chip on their shoulder. You want that chip on their shoulder, because that’s usually the thing that gets them through. They’re trying to prove it every single day. Some of them keep it for five or six years, and that’s how they make it.”