The Arizona Cardinals have filled the NFL’s final head coaching vacancy by hiring Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
The team confirmed the hiring in a release Thursday night, saying Arians received a four-year contract with a club option for a fifth year.
The 60-year-old longtime assistant went 9-3 as Colts interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was undergoing treatment for leukemia last season.
Arians arrived in Arizona on Wednesday night, had dinner with top team officials, then interviewed on Thursday and met with reporters to indicate his interest in the job.
He was offered and accepted the job Thursday night. Arians also was a finalist for the Chicago Bears job that went to Marc Trestman.
Arians was the sixth known candidate interviewed to replace Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired after six seasons in Arizona.
Whisenhunt was introduced on Thursday as the offensive coordinator for new head coach Mike McCoy in San Diego.
The Cardinals said Arians would be introduced as coach at news conference on Friday.
The team posted a photo of Arians getting a congratulatory call from Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is vacationing in Belize and undoubtedly will welcome anyone who can do something to revive a dreadful offense.
In his meeting with reporters earlier Thursday, before he was hired, Arians said his stint as Pagano’s replacement ‘‘answered all questions I ever had’’ about whether he could succeed as an NFL coach.
‘‘I hope it answered all the questions everybody else has had for all these years,’’ he said.
It apparently did for the Cardinals, who lost 10 of 11 this season to finish 5-11 for the second time in three years.
Arians said there are young coaches for teams still in the playoffs that will be denied a chance to be a head coach now because of their teams’ success.
‘‘Maybe I was a victim of that a couple of times,’’ he said. ‘‘Hey, I'll take the Super Bowl ring and look back later. You can’t worry about why you never got one or why have you got one this time. I'm just happy it happened, and I look forward to seeing what’s made of it and what turns out.’’
Arians has been a football coach since his days as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech in 1975 and he has 20 years of experience as an NFL assistant. He also was head coach at Temple for five seasons.
Wearing a Super Bowl ring from his days in Pittsburgh prominently on his right hand, he said his stint as head coach in Indy taught him that being a head coach is ‘‘not as hard as it’s supposed to be.’’
‘‘It’s really not,’’ Arians said. ‘‘I think it’s all about building relationships. Coaching is all about relationships. As long as it’s built on trust, loyalty, and respect, anything is possible.’’
When the Jacksonville Jaguars hired Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Thursday, Arizona’s job was the only one still open.
Arians was wide receivers coach in Pittsburgh and he succeeded Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator there. He was Steelers offensive coordinator when Pittsburgh beat Whisenhunt’s Cardinals in the 2009 Super Bowl. Arians left the Steelers to become Pagano’s offensive coordinator last year, taking over as interim coach when Pagano left for treatment for leukemia.
‘‘It has been an unbelievable 12 months for me personally,’’ Arians said.