TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals 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 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 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. news conference today.
The team posted a photo of Arians getting a congratulatory call from Cardinals 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 finished 5-11 for the second time in three years.
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 Indianapolis 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.”
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.
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.