Editor’s note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three Cardinals-49ers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:25 p.m., at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians vs. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh
Tale of the tape
Arians: Second season, 21-10 record, Virginia Tech, Age 62
Harbaugh: Fourth season, 43-19-1 record, Michigan, Age 51
A year ago, the Arizona Cardinals won 10 games in Bruce Arians’ first NFL season but did not qualify for the playoffs. This season, the Cardinals are in, and the 49ers are out of the postseason picture.
Arians has done a remarkable job of turning around the Cardinals in his two seasons, just as Harbaugh did when he came to the 49ers in 2011. The 49ers did not make the playoffs or have a winning record in the eight seasons before Harbaugh’s arrival. In his first three seasons, Harbaugh led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game, including one trip to the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh’s tenure with the 49ers is coming to an end, according to multiple sources and media reports, and Arians has a difficult time believing this could be the final time they will face each other as NFC West opponents.
"It's very shocking to me,” Arians told reporters who cover the 49ers. “Jimmy’s done an unbelievable job. The fact that one bad season shouldn’t deter from what they’ve built there. And I think they have had pretty much everything you want culture-wise in place there. And the wins and losses speak for themselves.”
The 49ers want to finish the season with a .500 record. The Cardinals are going for the first 12-win season in franchise history. But the Cardinals might change their approach on Sunday, depending on what’s happening with the Seattle-St. Louis game.
Arizona can still win the NFC West with a victory over the 49ers and a Seattle loss. But if the Seahawks get out to a big lead against St. Louis, Arians said he could shut down some of his starters to ensure they’re ready to play in the first weekend of the playoffs.