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Cardinals eyeing coaching options if Bruce Arians walks away

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has not yet made a decision on his future. Heading into today's game against the Giants, he hasn't informed team president Michael Bidwill on whether he wants to return, nor has he told general manager Steve Keim.

As he has tells those who have asked, there is no answer.

The Cardinals are more confident than ever that he returns. It would not be a surprise, at this point, if he did, according to those close to him.

But with Arians' future up in the air, Keim and the rest of the Cardinals brass have made preparations in case. One possible candidate to take over for Arians has emerged: Texans coach Bill O'Brien. The team has let word slip that O'Brien would be a top target -- if available.

The widespread assumption in the coaching community is that Arians, 65, retires after two difficult seasons in Arizona after arriving and being celebrated early in his tenure there. That same community thought Arians would retire last year, especially as he battled cancer late in the year. And he still returned.

Those close to him say his health is as good as it's been in years and that he seems energized. He has had discussions about potential staff changes for 2018, a sign he is at least considering returning.

The Cardinals have held out hope that Arians returns, along with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer. It's unlikely all three return, though no firm decisions have been made. Palmer is believed to be the most likely to walk away, though those close to Fitzgerald say he might not want to start over in a new offense if Arians is done.

Arians is under contract through 2018, and retiring would mean leaving at least $6 million on the table. He has, however, hired a media agent in case he retires and decides to join the TV world next year.

As for possible targets if Arians is out, Jets coach Todd Bowles would also be high on the list in the unlikely event Gang Green decides to part ways. Bowles, formerly the Cardinals defensive coordinator, will want to make sure the Jets spend money this offseason in a way they didn't last offseason, but the belief is he's back.

As for O'Brien, it's unclear what his future holds. He was adamant this week that he won't quit on the Texans, an indication that he'll return. But nothing has been announced. If he's out in Houston, the Cardinals will be interested.

Had Arians retired last year, the Cards would have been in the running for Sean McVay. This year, they might target another young QB guru, so keep an eye on Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet

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