Bruce Arians’ successful, five-season run as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals has come to a close, as the 65-year-old on Monday announced his retirement from coaching.
Arians will be hard to replace, given he led the team to a 48-31-1 record, including a wild-card playoff berth in 2014 and an NFC West division title in ’15. His offensive acumen and likeability as an older leader who could relate well to younger players are the two assets that will be missed most.
The short list of the best candidates to replace him (and his Kangol) starts with his right-hand man in Arizona.
Harold Goodwin, offensive coordinator, Cardinals
Goodwin, 44, has operated as a fill-in when needed for Arians, and he is well liked by Arizona players on both sides of the ball. Turning the team over to him would cause the least amount of shake-up in make-up. Goodwin has the play-calling and leadership goods to be around for turnaround, even in a suddenly much tougher division.
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Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator, Chiefs
Nagy, 39, pretty much has to be included in every team’s search. He’s had that great of a season under Andy Reid to be the next Doug Pederson or John Harbaugh, branching out to find his own brand of success elsewhere.
Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator, Panthers
The 48-year-old has had a terrific season replacing Sean McDermott to keep Carolina’s defense strong with a different kind of aggressive approach. He could easily make a McDermott-like jump to a head coaching job soon. His attitude would play well in Arizona.
Teryl Austin, defensive coordinator, Lions
Austin served as the Cardinals’ defensive backs coach from 2007-09 under Ken Whisenhunt. At 52, he is overdue for his first head-coaching job, probably hurt a little by Detroit’s up-and-down results. Arizona is an ideal landing spot for his demeanor.
George Edwards, defensive coordinator, Vikings
Edwards, 50, is a smart play-caller and is right up there with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in having a lot of appeal outside of MInnesota. He’s well respected by Mike Zimmer and well revered by his players. Strangely, he was a head coach in last year’s East-West Shrine Game — opposite Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, who will be a hot candidate soon.
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Todd Haley, offensive coordinator, Steelers
The Cardinals could go full circle here with the 50-year-old Haley, who served as their offensive coordinator from 2007-08. Haley helped lead an NFC championship offense with Kurt Warner then, and after his failed stint as head coach in Kansas City, he has built up his resume again with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Arians, before he was hired by the Cardinals from the Colts, preceded Haley as Steelers offensive coordinator. Haley can’t be ruled out for a happy return.