It’s been four years since Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he and quarterback Carson Palmer were “going out to the desert, off in the sunset together,” and excerpts from Arians’ newly released book, “The Quarterback Whisperer,” give the impression that the old gunslingers are about to disappear into the horizon.
Back then, Arians said, “It’s an old cowboy movie.” Today, the only remaining question is how it ends.
An ultrasound revealed renal cell carcinoma on his kidney. Arians found out in December. He had surgery in February.
“Now I feel great. My energy has returned. I’m told I’m cancer-free again,” he writes. “I’m ready for at least one more season of NFL football — maybe more.”
That reads like an acknowledgment that it’s now or never for this group.
End of the trail
Arians is 64. Aside from the cancer, he’s been hospitalized recently for colon inflammation and chest pains. Can you imagine a scenario that keeps him in charge beyond next season? I can’t. And the more time I spend thinking about it, the less likely it is that I think he returns.
At this point, we can’t know for sure. Arians wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, and the Cardinals declined to speculate on the coach’s future. Arians went on SportsCenter early Thursday as part of a media tour promoting the book. He shared a few anecdotes but didn’t talk about his future on the field.
Arians said the structure of football helped him fight the kidney cancer. “Just took my mind off of it,” he said.
But that’s not sustainable. The NFL is too grueling, too competitive for anyone in declining health to suffer through another sub-.500 season like last year.
On the other side, if the Cardinals win the division and make a playoff run, it could position Arians to ride off into glory as the best coach in franchise history. If he leads the team to a Super Bowl title, he might be tempted to call it quits before passing off the Lombardi Trophy.
Inspiration and higher calling
Aside from urgency, Arians seems to have found a source of inspiration and even a higher calling.
“I now realize more than ever nothing is guaranteed in life,” he writes. It comes after noting that he lost both his brother-in-law and his longtime agent to cancer around the time of his own diagnosis.
“Every day needs to be enjoyed and celebrated to the fullest. Roses need to be smelled, sunsets savored, time with family cherished.”
He also writes, “I’m not coaching for myself in 2017. I’m coaching for everyone who’s dealing with cancer.”
None of this sounds like something a hungry, young rustler would say, but it’s perfect for one last stand.
Arians seems to have discovered balance and purpose. There’s a whole genre of self-help and pop psychology books based around these concepts. If any of it is to be believed — and, hey, why not? — this can build mental toughness.
Football is a sport built on emotion. The season is short, but it lasts all year. Players need motivation wherever they can find it. Even from moment to moment.
Resilience at the top
That’s already showed up on the field, with players talking about having fun and showing life and energy during otherwise mundane summer practices and organized team activities.
Palmer even spoke about that in a news release that came out with the book.
“We’re a resilient group,” he said. “I think that trickles down from the head coach.”
He went on to say “really good teams, and hopefully great teams, take on their coach’s mentality.”
In keeping with the Old West theme, Arians displayed “True Grit” in getting through last season without complaints or excuses.
Adding that mindset to this group — stocked with players who remember being a game from the Super Bowl 17 months ago, and flirting last year with a playoff run despite a 1-4 start — could provide the sort of intangible that makes all the difference in football.
But the urgency Arians has created with his book has sparked an energy that can do as much harm as good: It can fuel championship aspirations, but it can also warm a hot seat.
If the team gets off to another slow start, how long before folks such as myself start calling for Arians to step aside? Or for him to sit Palmer and play Drew Stanton? To think about the future for the sake of the fans?
The ride into the sunset could quickly turn into a run for the hills.
And if Arians does move on after next season, what are the chances Palmer sticks around for a regime change? He forced his way out of Cincinnati. It was clear he wanted out of Oakland. And he took about a month before deciding to return for this season.
None of these details lead me to think the 37-year-old Palmer wants to play into his 40s.
Training camp is less than two weeks away. Let’s appreciate this as probably the last time we get to see Arians and Palmer together in the saddles.
Reach Moore at [email protected] or 602-444-2236. Follow him on twitter.com/writingmoore.
MORE CARDS: Single-game tickets on sale Saturday
Kent Somers of azcentral sports sits down to talk with new Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker at the team’s Tempe training facility. Baker played college ball at the University of Washington. | Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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azcentral sports; Kent Somers discusses what we learned from the Cardinals minicamp.
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azcentral sports’ Kent Somers breaks down the Cardinals second day of minicamp on June 7, 2017.
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azcentral sports’ Kent Somers wraps up the Arizona Cardinals’ first day on minicamp on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Kent Somers discuss Blaine Gabbert’s role with the Cardinals and LeBron James’ performance in the NBA finals.
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azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and Bob McManaman discusses another week of the Cardinals’ OTAs. Patrick Breen/azcentral sports
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Bob McManaman of azcentral sports wraps up the Arizona Cardinals practice at their Tempe facility, Tuesday, May 30, 2017..
Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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Azcentral’s Kent Somers and Bob McManaman catch up during second week of OTAs at the Cardinals Training Facility.
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Coaches and players talk about the importance of head coach Bruce Arians’ family fundraiser at Top Golf in Gilbert. (Michael Chow/azcentral sports)
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How has free-agent QB Blaine Gabbert adjusted so far to the Arizona Cardinals? (Michael Chow/azcentral sports)
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss the NBA MVP, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers and the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive backs.
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azcentral sports insiders Kent Somers and Bob McManaman react to the big news from the first day of Cardinals OTAs. Video: Rob Schumacher
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The NFLPA has released its 2017 Rising 50 list of players poised to break out and rank among next season’s top-sellers in officially licensed merchandise and the Cardinals running back is No. 1.
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Shot Clock: azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Kent Somers discuss the latest on Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer and the NBA playoffs.
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Shot Clock: Colin Kaepernick is better than Blaine Gabbert, right? So why did the Cardinals not sign him? Also, Zack Greinke has his Randy Johnson moment … what does it mean for Diamondbacks?
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With camp starting tomorrow, players reported today and reporter Kent Somers lays out the future and what the team hopes for it.
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Cardinals insider Kent Somers gives some insight into the releasing of Daryl Washington and why it was probably best for both team and player.
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azcentral’s Kent Somers and Dan Bickley talk about the Cardinals decision to release linebacker Daryl Washington.
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Bob McManaman weigh in on the Cardinals’ signing of Blaine Gabbert.
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Cardinals insider Kent Somers talks with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians about mini-camp, his excitement about undrafted rookies, LB Daryl Washington and QB Blaine Gabbert at Steak 44 on Wednesday. Michael Chow/azcentral sports
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Cardinals insider Kent Somers talks with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians about Arians’ annual fundraiser at Steak 44 on Wednesday. Michael Chow/azcentral sports
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The Arizona Cardinals announced Thursday that former St. Louis Cardinals QB Jim Hart would be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor this season.
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Kent Somers discuss what to expect from the Cardinals’ 2017 NFL draft class.
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Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley assess the Arizona Cardinals’ selection of Haason Reddick in Round 1 of the NFL draft and discuss the needs the team still has to address.
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Check out how Cardinals fans were feeling during the team’s 2017 NFL draft party.
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Cardinals insider Kent Somers reacts to the introductory press conference for Haason Reddick and what the Cardinals might do next.
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With plenty of defense options on the table and all the quarterbacks gone, the Cardinals elected to go linebacker and Kent and Bob break down the reasons why.
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The Cardinals have made 18 picks in the first round of the NFL draft since 2000. Take a look at the standouts.
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With the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft, can the Cardinals afford to repeat their strategy with their last two first-round picks?
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Shot Clock: azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Kent Somers have the latest on the Cardinals draft and the reinstatement of Daryl Washington.
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The Cardinals are hosting draft parties Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the Great Lawn outside of University of Phoenix Stadium.
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azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and Jay Dieffenbach discuss possible Cardinals strategy in the NFL draft, views on picking a quarterback and more.
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Bob McManaman ranks the top special teams players in the upcoming draft.
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Arizona Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians have found some of their best players in the third round.
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Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald and Chandler Jones discuss the importance of giving back and some bets amongst Cardinals players before the Larry Fitzgerald Celebrity Softball Game on Saturday at Salt River Fields. Patrick Breen/azcentral sports
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Cardinals GM Steve Keim has a tough task when it comes to finding quality talent and character to add to the team through the draft.
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azcentral sports Cardinals insider Kent Somers talks with Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Fostee Rucker. || Video by Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker discusses learning from last year’s expectations and adding Karlos Dansby and other veterans. Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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Breaking down the top three games of the Cardinals’ 2017 season.
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Shot Clock: azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and Bob McManaman discuss the Cardinals’ potential use (or overuse?) of running back David Johnson.
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss Carmelo, a dancer, and the Cards’ quiet, classy young superstar.
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azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald discuss Fitzgerald’s charity softball tournament on Saturday.
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The Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald joined azcentral sports’ Kent Somers to discuss the team and the upcoming season.
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Bob McManaman and Kent Somers at the NFL owners meetings on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Bruce Arianas likes full-time officials, centralized replay and says there’s 1 QB in upcoming draft who’s plug-and-play. Video: Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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Coaches of the National Football Conference take questions from the media in Phoenix on March 29, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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Cardinals insider Kent Somers and other reporters talk with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Video by Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
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Somers sits down with Cardinals rookie Budda Baker
Kent Somers: Impressions from Cardinals minicamp
Kent Somers recaps Cardinals minicamp Wednesday
Kent Somers recaps Cardinals practice
Shot Clock: Blaine Gabbert a keeper for Cardinals?
Kent Somers, Bob McManaman talk another week of Arizona Cardinals OTAs
Bob McManaman after Cardinals practice Tuesday, May 30
Kent and Bob talk new NFL rules and wide out depth
Arians Family Foundation Fundraiser at Top Golf
Report card on Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert
Watch out for Dodgers; Cards CBs apply for job
What Deone Bucannon’s injury means for Cardinals
David Johnson No. 1 on NFL Players Association list
No throws for Cards QB, cheap shot in NBA?
Kaepernick blackballed? Greinke now trade bait?
Kent Somers talks Cardinals rookies
Kent Somers talks Daryl Washington departure
Cardinals release linebacker Daryl Washington: Somers and Bickley discuss
Shot Clock: Gabbert a terrible fit for Cards
Somers sits down with Arians on Cardinals’ offseason
Bruce Arians talks about his annual fundraisers
Jim Hart to be inducted into Cardinals Ring of Honor
Shot Clock: Cards picks make instant impact?
Shot Clock: Tap brakes on Haason Reddick pick?
Sights and sounds from Cardinals draft party
Somers talks Reddick and possible 2nd and 3rd round picks
Kent Somers and Bob McManaman talk Cardinals draft of Haason Reddick
Cardinals’ top first round NFL draft picks since 2000
Can Cardinals afford to be patient with another first-round pick?
Cards face choices with draft, Daryl Washington
What to know about the Cardinals’ draft party
Shot Clock: Cardinals trade up for QB?
Top 5 special teams players of 2017 NFL draft
Keim, Arians striking gold in draft’s third round
Larry Fitzgerald, Chandler Jones talk about Celebrity Softball Game
Cardinals looking for ‘football character’ in NFL draft
Kent Somers talks with Cardinals DT Frostee Rucker
Cardinals DT Frostee Rucker on expectations, adding Karlos Dansby
Top 3 games in Cardinals schedule
Cards playing dangerous game with RB Johnson?
Shot Clock: New face of Cardinals franchise?
Larry Fitzgerald holding 7th annual charity softball tournament
Larry Fitzgerald 1-on-1 with Kent Somers
NFL meetings in Phoenix: On Bruce Arians, new rules, the draft
NFC coaches take questions at NFL owners meeting
Kent Somers talks with Bruce Arians at NFC coaches breakfast