BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. – Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has been around the game of football for well over four decades now. The game is him, and he’s the game.
So when Arians feels the integrity of the game he loves is being compromised in one form or another, he’s not afraid to stand on his soapbox and fight for it, which he did recently at the NFL Owners Meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., when he sat down with Peter King from The MMQB, and had some choice words for those who take issue with football.
Arians came to football’s defense yet again on Friday here at the Cardinals training facility. He delivered the keynote address to over 130 high school football coaches at the “Arizona Cardinals High School Football Coaches Clinic,” and, as always, Arians was full of passion and energy for the sport, and he didn’t hold back any punches when speaking on stage in front of the men.
“We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked, and we got to stop it at the grass roots,” Arians said. “It’s the best game that’s ever been f—— invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message; because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”
When Arians talked with King, he talked about other sports, particularly girls/women’s soccer, having more documented cases of concussions and knee injuries than the game of football does, especially at the NFL level. He didn’t discount the fact that football is a violent sport, and players suffer horrific injuries, but he did say that the safety of the players continues to be of paramount concern for the league. Arians feels that if players learn how to tackle properly, then the concussion concerns, and cases of them should start decreasing, because the players will know the right way to go about doing it.
“Our job is to make sure the game is safe, at all levels,” Arians said. “The head really has no business being in the game. There’s a lot of different teachers, but when I was taught how to tackle, and block, it was on a two-man sled, and you did it with your shoulder pads. That’s still the best way to do it. There’s really isn’t any place for your face in the game. I would beg all of you to continue to learn more about what they’re now calling rugby style tackling. I thought it was f—– football myself.”
Arians pointed out some new technology to the coaches that he recently had a chance to see, that might aid in what he hopes is a switch to tackling with the shoulder pads, and not the head.
“There are a lot of good innovations as far as sleds, and drill work,” Arians said. “I just spoke at the University of Georgia clinic two weeks ago, and saw a moving dummy that you could tackle. I thought it was one of the best inventions I’ve ever seen.”
Arians switched his focus to a different topic, which he feels is becoming a lost art in the game of football, and that’s fundamentals. He believes that, because of the time constraints coaches and players have nowadays, there’s only time for coaches to teach the players schemes, and nothing else.
“Hit this gap, hit that gap, run and shoot, (and) throw the football here,” Arians said. “(We’ve) got to never forget those times that we have pads on, when we’re allowed to have pads on, (to) teach fundamentals. There’s plenty of time in shorts, (and) walkthroughs to teach schemes.”
Arians says if he was coaching in high school or college, he’d run the spread offense, but not at the professional level, because it’s affecting the way he and his coaches have to approach and teach his younger players.
“I was a wishbone quarterback. I loved the option,” Arians said. “But we had two kids come in last year; two wide receivers. I said, ‘You get in the huddle right here.’ (They said), ‘Coach, (I’ve) never been in a huddle.’ (They’ve) never been in a huddle, (in) high school or college.”
“We’re drafting offensive linemen, paying them a million dollars, and they’ve never been in a three-point stance,” Arians said. “So we’re having to go back, (and) re-evaluate how we draft players, (and) our expectations levels of those players because of fundamentals. Fundamentals – blocking and tackling – still is how you win the game.”
Arians doesn’t talk just to hear himself speak; he’s putting everything he told the coaches into action with his football team. He says the team spends a half-hour every day just on fundamentals. From the quarterbacks’ area – which he calls “the driving range” – to the offensive linemen, who drill for 45 minutes a day, to the defensive linemen, who work for the same amount of time, they’re all working on perfecting the little things that they hope will bring the Cardinals their first world championship come next February at Super Bowl LI.
UPDATE: Arians took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to clarify his comments from Friday:
Just to clear up any misinterpretations, this is my view about football and moms pic.twitter.com/67zGKRyXiK
— Bruce Arians (@BruceArians) April 10, 2016