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What we learned from the NFC coaches breakfast

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BOCA RATON, Florida -- Bruce Arians showed up 20 minutes early to Wednesday's NFC coaches breakfast.

Sitting down with reporters, the Cardinals coach worked through a plate of grub while holding court as one of the NFL's premier quote-givers.

Arians is everything you could ask for from a reporting standpoint: Answers any question asked, calls you out on dumb queries, isn't afraid to drop the occasional F-bomb and remains consistently illuminating.

He was at his best on Wednesday, propping up general manager Steve Keim and the team's front office for having the courage to rank and draft players in a way many teams do not.

"It's huge. Our coaching staff, but our scouts all in one," Arians said. "They work together and they know what players we're looking for and other people might not have 'em high on their board, but we really don't give (an expletive). We like where they fit us."

Said Arians: "You draft for your coach and your football team, no matter what anybody else's grades are. And that changes from coach to coach."

Arians pointed to wideouts John Brown and J.J. Nelson and nose tackle Rodney Gunter as players that fit this mold, saying: "People will criticize you, then they'll say in two years, 'Man, you had a hell of a draft!' You can't grade the draft on the day of the draft."

Here's what else we learned during Wednesday's meet-and-greet:

1. Arians wasn't finished, gushing once again about Tyrann Mathieu, the versatile safety taken in the third round back in 2013. "He had reasons for what he did and he had solutions for how to fix it," Arians said about the off-field issues that kept the former LSU star off plenty of draft boards. "He never blamed anyone else. He blamed himself. Then you know that guy has a chance."

Asked how the Cardinals managed to give Mathieu the extra support he needed as a pro, Arians was matter-of-fact: "You give it to him, as a coach. That's always been my way, anyway. I believe in second chances to a point, when you own up and you have a solution to your problem. But in Tyrann's case, it was easy: He had passion for the game."

To such a degree that Arians believes the starry defensive back could have succeeded anywhere, swatting down the idea that he would have plummeted in a different organization, saying: "No, because Ty is so strong. He has a support system that he leans on, but he could do it himself -- and he knows it."

2. Arians was the first of many we asked the following question of: If you were not a football coach, what sort of career would you want? Responses were all over the map, but one of our favorites came from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who said he'd like to be an archeologist. Look out, Dr. Jones.

3. Carroll said that Seattle knew they would lose free agents, but he was happy to retain cornerback Jeremy Lane, saying: "I was really happy to get Jeremy back. That's a big deal for us because his best play is ahead of him. He's done great stuff for us, but that solidifies the corner spot going into the draft, which was really important."

Carroll also praised DeShawn Shead as doing a "great job" last season, adding: "The combination of Jeremy and DeShawn gives us two different style corners and both those guys played the nickel spot and that allows us to flip guys around matchup-wise. Richard (Sherman) as well, as we did last year, so we have all the flexibility -- the best flexibility we've ever had -- and it allows us to go into the draft and not have to be concerned about having to get a guy."

4. The Seahawks did lose left tackle Russell Okung, but Carroll said that fans and scribes are more flustered over the position than he is. "I think we're in good shape. It's very fortunate that we have (third-year tackle) Garry Gilliam. I mean, Garry Gilliam was a guy that when we first found him, we thought he was an athlete that could play left tackle. ... He played this year and he did a very nice job ... and gained the starter's mentality and all that. We think that we have an athlete that's really equipped to play."

5. Biggest news of the morning? That came from Saints coach Sean Payton, who brought a briefcase with him to the table containing something special: a new five-year contract. Payton announced that he's agreed to the deal, but has yet to sign in. He plans to do that soon.

6. Panthers coach Ron Rivera was invariably asked about Cam Newton's mopey postgame news conference after Super Bowl 50. With time to digest the loss, Rivera didn't mince words: "These are millennials, these are young men and women athletes that are being brought up in a different way and we need to learn to adapt to the way they are," Rivera said. "These are young people that express themselves. When he's happy, he's going to express himself, when he's sad, he's going to express himself, too. So I think we just need to accept, understand or at least anticipate we're not going to get him at his best."

7. Nobody drew a bigger crowd than Chip Kelly, who was flocked by Niners and Eagles writers waiting to unpack what happened last season in Philly -- and what to expect in San Francisco in 2016. Kelly made news on the Colin Kaepernick front, announcing that the Niners have never even discussed releasing the quarterback ahead of April 1, when his $12 million salary will be guaranteed for the 2016 season. I don't buy it. With Kaepernick also a trade candidate, why would the 49ers not discuss every possible fate for their embattled signal-caller?

8. Ben McAdoo says he's fine with Tom Coughlin still hanging around the Giants' facility, saying: "As long as Tom is around, he's a resource and we're going to welcome him." #Awkward

9. Jay Gruden won't have Robert Griffin III to kick around -- or hide away in the shadows anymore -- but the Redskins coach still thinks the quarterback can help someone else, saying: "It was never about Robert. It was about (Kirk Cousins') emergence. ... I still think Robert can play in this league, for sure."

10. Eagles coach Doug Pederson has fresh plans for Jordan Matthews, telling reporters that the third-year wideout will play on the outside this spring after spending most of his time in the slot under Chip Kelly. The Eagles also view second-year defender Jordan Hicks as their starting middle linebacker after he was the best of the bunch before going down with a torn pectoral in 2015. Look for new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to plug in Mychal Kendricks on the weak-side with Nigel Bradham across from him.

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