Cardinals reportedly were too far along in coaching search to consider Bruce Arians; or were they?

Would things have been different had the Cardinals known Arians, who retired following the 2017 season, was available?
Bruce Arians looks on during a 2017 game between the Cardinals and Washington in Landover, Md. [AP Photo/Mark Tenally]
Bruce Arians looks on during a 2017 game between the Cardinals and Washington in Landover, Md. [AP Photo/Mark Tenally]
Published January 10
Updated January 10

While the Bucs largely were lauded for their choice of Bruce Arians as head coach, a similar announcement by Arians' former employer was met with a collective, "You did WHAT???!!!"

Four hours before the Bucs announced the Arians hire, the Cardinals named former Southern Cal offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury their new coach.

Would things have turned out differently had the Cardinals known Arians — who retired after the 2017 season with one year remaining on his contract with Arizona — was available?

Not according to owner Bill Bidwill.

"We were already well down the process before we realized Bruce was potentially serious about (coaching again)," Bidwill told the Arizona Republic. "There was a lot of talk about Cleveland, but when the Tampa thing started looking real, we were already well down the process here. I wish him all the luck in the world."

However, a Sports Illustrated story published today suggests the Cardinals might not have had interest in Arians, anyway.

Albert Breer writes that the Cardinals were seeking a successor to Arians even before the coach announced his retirement in January 2018.

"Steve Keim always was on the lookout, given how the Cardinals GM's head coach at the time, Bruce Arians, would ruminate on retirement," Breer writes. "And three or four years ago, he found the man for the job."

That man was then-Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay.

But Arians decided to coach one more season, and McVay eventually landed the head-coaching job with the Rams.

A few months later, Breer writes, Keim, Arians and quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich traveled to Lubbock, Tex., to look at Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. While there, Keim seemed to hit it off with Kingsbury, the Red Raiders' head coach at the time.

"As strong as the impression the Cardinals GM made on the coach, Kingsbury evidently gave Keim just as much to think about as he left town," Breer writes. "That's why this off-the-wall Cardinals hire really has been more than a few weeks in the making.

"And maybe quietly being proven right on McVay steeled Keim's resolve to follow his instincts and hire a guy whose record raises lots of legitimate questions."