Bruce Arians blames special teams woes on players, absolves position coach

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Don’t blame Amos.

Coach Bruce Arians’ message, a day after special teams prevented the Arizona Cardinals from winning for a fourth time this season, was to absolve special teams coordinator Amos Jones from any of the blame. Then he made it crystal clear that Jones won’t be fired.

“It’s been a snap and hold and a kick or a punt all year,” Arians said. “Coaches don’t do any of those things.

“There won’t be any coaching changes. Let me make that perfectly clear today. They don’t snap, hold and kick. Players do those jobs.”

Arians threw his full support behind Jones, whom he hired to run Arizona’s special teams when Arians was hired in 2013.

“He’s a hell of a coach,” Arians said. “I watch him prepare. I watch him coach. It has nothing to do with faith. I know the guy can coach. His players aren’t playing very well. They’re my players, so if I’m going to fire him, I’ll fire myself.”

But that won’t happen. Arians said no coaching changes will take place this offseason “unless guys get jobs.”

So, how much have the Cardinals’ special teams impacted the season?

They most likely would have won in Weeks 1, 7, 11 and 14 had kicks been made or returners tackled. That would’ve put the Cardinals at 9-4, atop the NFC West and in the playoffs as of this week. That’s how costly special teams have been this season.

And all the issues have been personnel related, Arians said.

“Oh, hell yeah,” Arians said. “When you look at coverage teams, the five best cover guys are on IR. The next five haven’t done as good a job with their new opportunity. Injuries present opportunities, and this year the opportunities aren’t getting maximized to make you want to say, ‘Oh, this guy is pretty good.’

“You go, ‘We just gave up a touchdown.’”

Arians believes if the Cardinals had any combination of Jaron Brown, Ifeanyi Momah or Alani Fua on the field in Week 11 against Minnesota, Cordarrelle Patterson wouldn’t have been able to return the opening kickoff of the second half 100 yards for a touchdown that was the difference in Minnesota’s 30-24 win.

“That didn’t have a damn thing to do with coaching,” Arians said.

Sunday’s 26-23 loss to Miami was the latest example of special teams mistakes costing Arizona a game.

But it wasn’t just one mistake. There were a slew of gaffes that prevented the Cardinals’ fourth-quarter comeback from resulting in a win.

Kicker Chandler Catanzaro missed an extra point in the first quarter, bounced a field goal off the right upright in the second half, and in the fourth quarter had a second extra point blocked and returned by the Dolphins for 2 points. That made the score 23-15 instead of 21-16, and it turned out to be the difference between a win and a tie when the Cardinals scored a touchdown two drives later.

But that blocked PAT wasn’t Catanzaro’s fault, Arians insisted. The snap from Aaron Brewer was poor, and Arians felt punter Drew Butler, who holds for Catanzaro, should’ve either thrown the ball away or tried to run with it.

There was also a 20-yard punt return by Miami late in the fourth quarter that put the Dolphins in Arizona territory to start their game-winning drive -- another example of injuries impacting an already thin special teams unit.

“It was huge,” Arians said of the punt return. “Us not getting the first down and then the punt and the punt coverage, again, we missed two tackles.”

Sunday was also the latest chapter in a forgettable season for Catanzaro. He missed a field goal with less than a minute left in Week 1 against New England that would’ve given Arizona the win, after a bad snap by then-long snapper Kameron Canaday was too low and threw off Catanzaro’s timing. In Week 7, Catanzaro missed a gimme 24-year field goal in overtime that would’ve given Arizona the win.

“I can say it’s not talent,” Arians said. “That will be part of the evaluation process going on.”

Arians also doesn’t think Catanzaro’s struggles have to do with a lack of confidence, either. “It’s a lack of performance at the critical time,” Arians said. “That’s the life of a kicker. Having watched my son [Jake] go through that all those years, it’s not an easy job because you only get that one play. You don’t get to play 50, screw up 10 and do good on 40. You just get that one play.”

Arians is stuck with the special players he has for the time being, regardless of their capabilities. And as long as Arians is in charge of the Cardinals, Jones will be their coach.

“If I thought there were better ones available, I’d get them changed,” Arians said. “But I don’t think there are better available right now.”