In this offseason of surgeries and arrests, I was ready for some good news. Recently in an interview, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians made me smile when he announced that Rashard Mendenhall would be the team’s new starting running back. With many coaches dithering about starters, the firm and optimistic decision is refreshing in and of itself. More than that, I’m glad to see a team I like standing behind a player I like.
I’ve been a fan of Mendenhall since his college days at the University of Illinois, and I’ve been disappointed that he’s had trouble finding his rhythm in the NFL. He had moments of greatness with the Pittsburgh Steelers –- his 1,273 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns helped bring them to the Super Bowl in 2010 –- but that’s a team full of strong personalities. Mendenhall always seemed to be chafing against the Steelers, and the animosity became public last year when the team deactivated and then suspended him. He bolted out of Pittsburgh when his contract ended.
Mendenhall was a smart, instinctive running back in need of a team, and the Cardinals are cursed when it comes to running backs. Part of that is bad luck, but it’s become increasingly clear that Arizona isn’t sure how to coach a running offense. It sounds like Arians values Mendenhall’s input, and that’s an ideal position for a player who’s been stuck in a supporting role but wants to be a star.
You can contact Sarah Rasher on Twitter @pas_dechat