Bruce Arians received one whale of a birthday present this week, as the Colts offensive coordinator became their interim head coach in the wake of Chuck Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis. While Pagano’s form of leukemia is treatable, he will be hospitalized for at least six to eight weeks, and has stated that he will probably be unable to coach the rest of the season.
Arians, who will turn 60 this Wednesday, has previously been the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, and as WR coach and OC of Pittsburgh won rings for Super Bowls XL and XLIII. This week it was revealed that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was still using some of Arians’ old plays in the no-huddle offense. It was only about a week after Arians retired from the Steelers that he became the Colts’ OC.
The Colts are in the midst of a rebuilding process, which takes some pressure off of Arians. No one expected a rookie coach like Pagano to immediately bring the Colts back to dominance, even in the relatively weak AFC South. Having Arians as both the OC and the head coach also smooths the transition for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who should already be comfortable with Arians.
While this is Bruce Arians’ first NFL head coaching job, he was the head coach at Temple University from 1983 to 1988, during which time Temple running back Paul Palmer finished second in the 1986 Heisman Trophy race. It is also important to note that Bruce Arians has been a running backs, wide receiver and quarterbacks coach at one point or another in the pros. In fact, Arians was the Colts’ quarterbacks coach during Peyton Manning’s first three seasons.
Bruce Arians has a lot of work cut out for him, but in many ways it is better than replacing Sean Payton (and Mike Vitt) in New Orleans. And not only is Arians experienced as a head coach, he is also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago. Lowered expectations and previous experience with both coaching and cancer will ensure that Bruce Arians’ interim coaching tenure will bring stability to an unthinkable situation.