It seems only appropriate Jon Hamm, the man who played Don Draper, the greatest marketer ever, in Mad Men did the voiceover for Amazon’s All or Nothing. That’s because the first of its kind documentary was the greatest ad campaign for any NFL team ever. It wasn’t just great marketing for the Arizona Cardinals as a franchise it was also great for one man in particular, head coach Bruce Arians.
There’s no denying that Arians was the star of the show. He found a way to surpass Deadpool as the person who used the f-word most deftly in entertainment in 2016. Hell, he dropped his first f-bomb 38 seconds into the first episode saying: “As far as goals go, we have one: putting the f*****g ring on our finger” and he used so many that I had lost count of them by the beginning of episode 2. But it was so much more than the “shock value” of hearing an NFL head coach use colorful language that put “Uncle Bruce” head and shoulders above the rest of the Cards throughout the show. He revealed a true passion for the game, a no BS attitude but more importantly, a love for his staff and players.
All of those qualities stood out most in his relationship with the Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu.
“I remember the first time I sat down with B.A. when he drafted me and he told me that story [about having been kicked off a team],” Mathieu told the cameras, “Now, me as a player who just got a second chance, I’m able to come into work every day more comfortable, more relaxed because my coach showed me his scars, showed me what he’d been through in life. I think that’s why we relate to each other, not to mention we both have crazy swag.”
It’s that “crazy swag” mixed with humanity that let All or Nothing raise Arians to new heights in Arizona sports lore.
I don’t say this lightly as I’ve been a card carrying member of the Charles Barkley fan club since I was a kid — photographic evidence here — but Arians has officially joined Sir Charles as the all-time great personality in Arizona sports. The two are in a league of their own in terms of entertainment. Unlike many others who have been stars in Arizona sports over the last five decades, Arians and Barkley have had the innate ability to gain the attention of fans without even trying. They’ve said unbelievable and braggadocious things and yet somehow almost always backed them up.
While Barkley saw greater success so far in the Valley having won the Western Conference and bringing the Suns to the NBA Finals, Arians holds the edge in terms of moments that make you think he “gets it” from the human side. Where Barkley was one dimensional at times, Arians comes off as complex and unique.
The most impactful moment of the entire show for me made that infinitely clear was when Arians explained his off the field philosophy.
“The work will always be there. The kids won’t,” Arians said. “I tell my coaches, you miss a recital, piano, dance, whatever, a football game, a basketball game, I’ll fire you.”
All or Nothing deserves a CLIO for the way it marketed the 63 year old Arians and elevated his personality to all-time great levels. From the first shot of him alone in auditorium preparing for the first team meeting to the last shot of him alone in his office turning off the lights for the final time, the long time assistant coach had finally taken the spotlight as the star.
If Arians seals the deal this season and brings Arizona and the Cardinals their first Super Bowl win, he’ll find himself alone as the state’s biggest sports star of all-time too.