GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Arians’ main expectation for the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 is narrow and simple.
“Win the Super Bowl,” the coach said. “Nothing else will be acceptable.”
Talk about pressure.
That’s how the Cardinals will enter their first full day of training camp Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium, just about six months removed from a dismal, embarrassing loss to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game, and with the weight of a state and the eyes of a league focused on them. The Cardinals came within a game of the Super Bowl after the best season in franchise history: a 13-3 mark and six offensive records.
Arians had the same expectations for Arizona last season, so that hasn’t changed. But this year is different.
“When you have the type of season we had, you expect to do better,” Arians said. “So, we got to do better. We got to get back to where we were first and then do better.”
Doing better than last season means the Cardinals make the second Super Bowl in franchise history and their first since after the 2008 season. Doing better than last season means the Cardinals take home their first Vince Lombardi Trophy ever. There isn’t much room for improvement.
With training camp yet to begin, the Cardinals have already become used to hearing the outside chatter about being the favorites in the NFC West, the conference and the league. Making a run to the Super Bowl hasn’t just become a pipe dream in the desert. It’s become an expectation.
And Arians welcomes it all.
“That’s great, that’s nice,” he said. “It helps solidify what you’re telling them. ‘You obviously have earned the right now to be considered a good football team, somebody that they’re picking in the top five or six. Now, it’s your job to show up and do it.’”
What if the Cardinals do?
What if the Cardinals live up to the expectations that come with making the conference championship the season prior, that come with having an MVP candidate at quarterback, that come with having an offense that’s returning everyone who caught a pass from Carson Palmer and scored a touchdown last season?
What will Arians do?
He’s 63, turning 64 on Oct. 3. He already has two Super Bowl rings from his days as an assistant in Pittsburgh. His third, won as the man in charge, would likely mean the most. Would Arians retire?
“I never even thought about it,” Arians said. “I would probably be more apt to try to get two.”
Indeed, he added, his wife, Chris, would probably tell him to “go for two."
To win a second title would mean he’d have to have the right pieces. With aging stars -- Palmer turns 37 in December and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald turns 33 on Aug. 31 -- the window is closing. Arians wouldn’t be shocked if the players themselves walked away on top.
Then again, he doesn’t think it’d be tough to convince them to hang around for another ring.
“I think that’s something individual,” Arians said. “From the way they prepared and worked, I think it would be time for a couple of them to decide.
“I don’t think it would be hard to convince them to try to get two.”