HEISER: Tough times nothing new for Bruce Arians

Steve Heiser
  • Bruce Arians' Arizona Cardinals are 5-7-1 this season and likely won't make the NFC playoffs.
  • Before this season, the Cardinals had enjoyed three straight winning seasons under Arians.
  • Arians is a York High graduate who has been in coaching for more than four decades.

The road of life rarely follows a straight path for very long.

For weeks, months, or even years, you can cruise serenely on an unswerving highway of uninterrupted success.

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians watches Sunday's loss to Miami. The York High graduate has endured a trying season as the Cardinals' head coach.

In the seeming blink of an eye, however, you can suddenly find yourself facing unexpected twists, unknown detours and unpassable roadblocks. Soon you're forced into a blind alley plagued by potholes of failure.

That's why it's more important to enjoy the journey, rather than fret about the destination.

York High graduate Bruce Arians knows that better than most.

Arians has taken a very long and winding route to the pinnacle of the NFL.

He's fully aware that the trip down from the peak can often arrive much quicker, and much harder, than the arduous climb to the top.

Until this season, Arians had been enjoying a four-year run of uncommon football achievement. Of course, that followed a four-decade trek filled with more than his fair share of disappointments, including multiple firings.

So Arians understands both sides of success and failure, and he realizes the thin line that can separate the two. Right now, Arians' Arizona Cardinals are unexpectedly on the wrong side of that line.

Season of great expectations: The Cardinals entered this season as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

They had reached that status largely because of Arians' blood, sweat and tears over the previous three seasons, when he transformed the franchise from a desert laughingstock into an NFC West champion. A franchise that had recorded exactly three winning seasons in the 29 years before his arrival had enjoyed three straight winning seasons (10-6, 11-5, 13-3) since he took over.

That followed a 9-3 stint as the Indianapolis Colts' interim head coach in 2012. He was twice named the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year.

Suddenly, Arians was a coaching rock star. National media outlets stood in line to sing the praises of the entertaining, tell-it-like-it-is, journeyman NFL assistant who finally got his big-time shot at age 60 and made the most of it.

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His friends and family back here in York celebrated each of his triumphs every step of the way.

A season gone wrong: Then, a 2016 season that possessed so much promise was surprisingly derailed.

The first warning sign came in August, when Arians suffered a health scare that sent him to the hospital. Arians recovered quickly, but that turned out to be a harbinger of misfortune to come.

The Cardinals never found their footing this season and stand at 5-7-1. Their NFC playoff hopes are on life support.

A few weeks ago, the 64-year-old Arians spent another night in the hospital with one more health issue. He again returned almost immediately, but it sparked speculation that Arians might retire in the offseason — a rumor he quickly quashed.

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Still, Arians' health has been a recurring problem. He overcame prostate cancer in 2007. He missed a Colts playoff game in January 2013 with an inner-ear infection.

Like their coach, the banged-up Cardinals have suffered multiple health problems this season. Injuries have taken a severe toll.

There's also no denying that the team has underachieved this season.

Then this week, one of the team's better players, wideout Michael Floyd, was arrested for driving under the influence.

Battling Mother Nature: Now, even Mother Nature seems to be working against the Cardinals.

The Cardinals dropped a 26-23 decision at Miami on Sunday in a game played in near-monsoon conditions. Arizona turned the ball over four times, but Arians and his players believe the weather favored the Dolphins.

"We practiced with a wet ball on Wednesday and didn't have any problems," Arians told the AP. "But when it continually pours when you have the ball, which was kind of odd, it's tough."

Arians wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Quarterback Carson Palmer said the timing of the showers was curious.

"Every time we had the ball, it just started turning on and staying on," Palmer said of the rain. "Then it would stop (when Miami got the ball)."

When it rains, it pours, and right now it's pouring on Arians and the Cardinals.

Tough times nothing new for Arians: Of course, Arians has endured many tough times before during his 40-plus years in the coaching game. It's nothing new to him.

Hopefully, however, his health will allow him to fulfill his vow to return next season.

Then he can continue to revel in an unlikely coaching journey with a yet-to-be determined destination.

If that happens, his many followers here in York will certainly keep tagging along for the ride.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at