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Bruce Arians: The Quarterback Whisperer

How Bruce Arians’ book makes sense of The Miami Hurricanes QB battle and coaching landscape

30th Annual Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl Party Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Leigh Steinberg

Bruce Arians is currently the Head Football Coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Coach Arians has had a long winding journey through the football world as a man that doesn’t conform and doesn’t play by the political rules of the NFL. B.A., as he’s nicknamed, coached thirty-seven years between the college and professional ranks before becoming a head coach in 2013.

Coach Arians played Quarterback at Virginia Tech for the Hokies, and has predominantly coached QB’s in his career; including: Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Tim Couch, and Peyton Manning. With the insight of forty years of coaching and having groomed some of the biggest stars in the NFL, Coach Arians defines what makes a great QB, and tells some road stories along the way.

His book, “The Quarterback Whisperer,” is a harbinger of sorts on what Coach Richt is looking for not only in a QB but in his coaching staff as well.

Russell Athletic Bowl - Miami v West Virginia Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Characteristics of an NFL QB

Coach Arians breaks down a great NFL QB into a few distinct characteristics: heart, grit, intelligence, accuracy and athleticism.

  • Heart: He plays through pain and has respect of the entire roster.
  • Grit: The ability to handle success and failure equally.
  • Intelligence: The ability to process information from film and practice into a game situation and make the right decision in a split second or two.
  • Accuracy: “The ability to throw the ball with accuracy to all parts of the field” (pg 15).
  • Athleticism: To be able to move in the pocket and extend plays.

Which current UM QB’s fit this mold? N’Kosi Perry, Malik Rosier, and/or Evan Shirreffs? If Coach Richt is looking for these qualities it sounds like Shirreffs might be the guy as of now. However we haven’t had a close look at the grit of any of these QB’s except Rosier. All three have the athleticism to move the pocket, sprint out and avoid the rush. Rosier seems to have been dinged for accuracy and fans don’t have enough data yet on Perry or Shirreffs.

Whatever Coach Richt does decide, you can only imagine these five traits are extremely important to him. Whichever Quarterback is selected to be the man in 2017 he’ll have these traits and will be the best leader and most respected in the locker room.

Which QB’s of #Canes past fit this mold? Ken Dorsey is probably the closest when you examine his heart, grit, IQ, and accuracy even if Kenny couldn’t move the pocket a ton, he did have another B.A. favorite quality which is a great play-action fake. But we all saw the heart and grit of Gino Torretta behind that poor O-Line in 1992. We saw the athleticism of Vinny Testaverde back in 1986. We saw the IQ and accuracy of Bernie Kosar in 1983.

Ken Dorsey celebrates

The Coaching Business

As a QB at Virginia Tech, Arians backed up Don Strock who stuck around the NFL for almost two decades as a back up and start spot QB for the Dolphins, Browns and Colts. When Bruce finally got his chance, he set a rushing TD record of 11 TD’s that still stands at VT today. Like many coaches, he got his start as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. Over the past forty years he’s coached under legendary names like Bear Bryant, Charlie Pell, and Bill Cowher in addition to good coaches like Jim Mora, Mike Tomlin and Chuck Pagano.

Bruce shows you how the business of coaching is about connections and loyalty, but also about heartache and cutthroat tactics. He’s burned by Mike Tomlin shortly after a Super Bowl victory, but at the same time he’s been blessed to have been connected to The Bear, The Grudens, The Lucks, The Paganos, and The Mannings. Bruce explains the 6 degrees of separation of the NFL and its coaches, and how it works for players just as much as coaches. The connection of the Lucks to Kurt Warner and the Manning family and the strange circumstances that saw Bruce as part of draft war rooms that could have or did draft Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and missed on Eli Manning by ten picks. He paints the NFL as just a giant family business after all the money and politics.

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When Mark Richt put his staff together he took a David Shaw approach. The members of his staff have played for or coached with other members at some point. Manny Diaz’s connection to Coach Richt at FSU and Chuck Amato at NC State. Diaz then worked with Banda. Richt coached Ron Duggans at FSU and Thomas Brown at UGA. He coached with Stacy Searels at UGA as well as Todd Hartley and Gus Felder. The least connected coaches on the staff would be Coach Kool and Mike Rumph, but Kool had proven his worth at Missouri as one of if not the country’s best D-Line coaches and Mike Rumph is Miami legacy. Can anyone be surprised Mark hired Jon Richt when Bruce Arians talks about how his staffs are his family?


S.Q. Smooth

What makes up an NFL coach that doesn’t fit the typical mold? Bruce talks about his Jimmy Buffett like mustache in college, him being the first Hokie player to integrate dorms (just so happened to be rooming with the dad of Ronde and Tiki Barber), and how he didn’t have a resume or agent for 37 years- he just sent over the page in the media guide to the team owners or AD’s.

Eventually though, even SQ Smooth, a nickname he got on the sandlot as a child, had to sellout and get an agent and resume. He immediately was hired as the Cards coach proving sometimes you have to play the game. In the end, Bruce proves that it’s all just a big game- whether speaking about football itself or the business. The important parts of being a coach to Bruce, are being a support for your players and assistants and being a great dad and husband. In the end, you’re going to respect Bruce for his grit, intelligence, and heart- three important factors in his QB’s that just so happen to be important factors for coaches and humans alike.

Mark Richt has displayed the heart, grit and intelligence B.A. would find necessary in a player. He treats his players and coaching staff like family. Mark Richt’s wife even works the sidelines during ‘Canes games while his son is on staff. While Arians and Richt seem so far apart (Bruce details his parking lot tailgating and love for beer and cocktails throughout the book) in reality they tie together nicely when it comes to their professional ideals. It’s proof that there are many means to get to the same ends- to create a program or franchise where the end goal is to facilitate young men and adult men into becoming positive members of society.

By the end of “The Quarterback Whisperer,” you can tell that’s all Coach Arians is trying to do, and before his time in Coral Gables is over, you’ll see that’s all Mark Richt is trying to do. That and both are trying to win another championship before riding off into the sunset.

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