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Cardinals hire Bruce Arians as head coach

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Cardinals hire Bruce Arians as head coach

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have filled the NFL's final head coaching vacancy by hiring Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

The team confirmed the hiring in a release Thursday night, saying Arians received a four-year contract with a club option for a fifth year.

The 60-year-old longtime assistant went 9-3 as Colts interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was undergoing treatment for leukemia last season.

Arians arrived in Arizona on Wednesday night, had dinner with top team officials, then interviewed on Thursday and met with reporters to indicate his interest in the job.

He was offered and accepted the job Thursday night. Arians also was a finalist for the Chicago job that went to Marc Trestman.

Arians was the sixth known candidate interviewed to replace Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired after six seasons.

Whisenhunt was introduced on Thursday as the offensive coordinator for new head coach Mike McCoy in San Diego.

The Cardinals said Arians would be introduced as coach at a 3 p.m., EST (1 p.m. local time) news conference on Friday.

The team posted a photo of Arians getting a congratulatory call from Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is vacationing in Belize and undoubtedly will welcome anyone who can do something to revive a dreadful offense.

In his meeting with reporters earlier Thursday, before he was hired, Arians said his stint as Pagano's replacement ``answered all questions I ever had'' about whether he could succeed as an NFL coach.

``I hope it answered all the questions everybody else has had for all these years,'' he said.

It apparently did for the Cardinals, who lost 10 of 11 this season to finish 5-11 for the second time in three years.

Arians said there are young coaches for teams still in the playoffs that will be denied a chance to be a head coach now because of their teams' success.

``Maybe I was a victim of that a couple of times,'' he said. ``Hey, I'll take the Super Bowl ring and look back later. You can't worry about why you never got one or why have you got one this time. I'm just happy it happened, and I look forward to seeing what's made of it and what turns out.''

Arians has been a football coach since his days as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech in 1975 and he has 20 years of experience as an NFL assistant. He also was head coach at Temple for five seasons.

Wearing a Super Bowl ring from his days in Pittsburgh prominently on his right hand, he said his stint as head coach in Indy taught him that being a head coach is ``not as hard as it's supposed to be.''

``It's really not,'' Arians said. ``I think it's all about building relationships. Coaching is all about relationships. As long as it's built on trust, loyalty, and respect, anything is possible.''

When the Jacksonville Jaguars hired Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Thursday, Arizona's job was the only one still open.

Arians was wide receivers coach in Pittsburgh and he succeeded Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator there. He was Steelers offensive coordinator when Pittsburgh beat Whisenhunt's Cardinals in the 2009 Super Bowl. Arians left the Steelers to become Pagano's offensive coordinator last year, taking over as interim coach when Pagano left for treatment for leukemia.

``It has been an unbelievable 12 months for me personally,'' Arians said.

McCoy was among those interviewed by Cardinals President Michael Bidwill. Other known Arizona candidates were Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

Horton has a year left on his contract and his future with the organization was in question.

Asked Thursday afternoon if he would keep Horton as defensive coordinator if he got the Arizona job, Arians declined to discuss the prospect.

``Right now it's way too early in the process,'' Arians said. ``Obviously, I know Ray. I've got a history with Ray. But all those things would be way down the road. Guys are under contract. You can't really comment on staff members at this point in time.''

Horton was defensive backs coach with the Steelers when Arians was offensive coordinator there.

The Cardinals had the worst offense in the NFL, and Arians downplayed any similarities to his offensive scheme and the one used by Whisenhunt. He said that after Whisenhunt left the Steelers for Arizona, he and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat down and simplified the playbook.

Arians said his offense has some similarities, but many differences from the one implemented by Whisenhunt.

Arians emphasized the importance of building a close relationship with the quarterback.

``As a head coach or an offensive coordinator, you're tied to that guy,'' Arians said. ``Your future is him. You better realize that, and you better have a heck of a strong relationship so that when it's really tough in the game, he's telling you what he's seeing, not what he thinks you might want to hear.''

Quarterback is a major problem for Arizona. The only one of the four who got a start in the Cardinals' 5-11 season that had any success was Kevin Kolb, and he went down with a rib injury in Week 6 and never returned.

Arians said the Cardinals must either improve what they have at the position or find a new one behind what he called ``Door No. 2.''

He said he would call the plays as head coach ``until I can find someone who is going to do it better than me. I haven't found him yet.''

He said he would not leave Indianapolis for just any head coaching job.

``I said early when some teams contacted my agent about setting up interviews,'' he said, ``I'm going to have a heck of a feeling about that organization, owner, general manager, team, to leave where I am right now.''

Did he have that feeling with Arizona?

``Yes,'' he said. ``I do.''

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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I put out a tweet correcting the Super Bowl ring count to two.

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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