Bruce Arians quits as Bucs coach; Todd Bowles chosen as successor

Bruce Ariens

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Add that to the craziest and most recent NFL offseason in modern league history: Bruce Arians, who coached the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl LV win less than 14 months ago, is stepping down to assume a front-office role with the team with immediate effect.

Tampa Bay will install the Arians’ preferred successor, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, as the new head coach. Bowles, 58, previously coached the Jets to a 24-40 record in 2015-18, his only full-time head coaching job. Bowles, who is black, would become the league’s sixth minority head coach, joining Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), Ron Rivera (Washington), Robert Saleh (Jets), Mike McDaniel (Miami) and Lovie Smith (Houston).

Arians, 69, said his new job will be as a “senior football consultant,” and that gig will begin with Tampa Bay’s 2022 draft buildup.

The move is a surprise but perhaps not a shock. Arians, the most colorful coach in a buttoned-up pro game, said he started thinking about retiring at the NFL Scouting Combine a month ago. He is a prostate cancer survivor and was hospitalized due to illness at the end of his first term as head coach at Indianapolis in 2012. He is now suffering from a torn Achilles. But when he explained his reasons, health was not the big issue.

He said he was stepping down from the Tampa job because “the succession has always been huge for me. With the organization probably in the best shape ever, with the return of Tom Brady I’d rather see Todd in a position to succeed and not have to take it [crappy] work. I’m probably retiring next year anyway, in February. So, I control the narrative right now. I don’t control it next February because [if] Brady gets hurt, we go 10-7, and it’s an open interview for work I’m 31 [coaches and their] families who depend on me. My wife doesn’t want to let all these families down.

Arians explained his reasoning during a phone interview with NBC Sports and the Los Angeles Times.

He was due to inform his coaching staff in a Zoom call at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and he planned to send a message to his players explaining his decision at the same time as informing his coaches.

NFL: AUGUST 10 Buccaneers Training Camp
Todd Bowles, new coach of the Bucs. (Getty Pictures)

In a way, Arians said, Brady coming out of retirement encouraged him to move on. In a 25-minute chat, Arians explained the reasons for this decision dating back to February 2021.

“It hit me after the Super Bowl,” he said. “I really thought about going out on top. Then it was like, no, let’s go for two. [The 2021 season] It was a grind with all the injuries, but still to win and get to where we got to. Immediately after, two to three weeks after [I thought] if I quit, my coaches get fired. I couldn’t do it then.

“Tom was kind of the key. When Tom decided to come back and all these guys are back now, it’s the perfect time for me to go to the front office and still have the relationships that I love.

Arians said he wants Bowles, the architect of the Bucs’ 2020 stifling defense that kept Kansas City to zero touchdowns in a 31-9 Super Bowl victory, to succeed him whenever he chooses to. withdraw. The Arians also wanted Bowles to have a great quarterback on the roster to give him the best chance of winning. The owners of the Bucs, the Glazer family, agreed. Hiring Bowles would be the fourth full-time minority coach hired by the Glazers (Tony Dungy, Raheem Morris, Lovie Smith, Bowles), which is the most in NFL history. No other team has had more than two non-interim minority head coaches.

On four occasions during a discussion of why now, Arians kept coming back to his coaching staff: “I know my guys are going to be taken care of. I couldn’t let them hang.

What complicated the final leg of this move from Arians to Bowles was the unusual timing of the move. The Arians and the Bucs wanted Bowles to get the job, so they went to the league and said, basically, Let’s not go into mock interviews when we know we’re hiring Bowles, who will improve league results for minority hires.

It is customary for teams to follow the Rooney Rule in coaching searches, requiring that at least two minority coaches be interviewed for each head coaching opening. Given that this situation occurred after the start of the league year in mid-March and the NFL does not allow interviews with coaches until after the regular season, this would have been a precedent for the league to allow coaching interviews now. Communication between the Bucs and the league on this issue is unknown, but the franchise feels comfortable enough after discussions with the league to confirm Bowles’ hiring.

The Bucs are scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday in Tampa, with Arians and Bowles discussing the transition.

The timing evokes what is sure to be a series of internet-fueled speculations. Brady was rumored to have issues with the Arians and the supposedly lax nature of how the team was sometimes run during his first two years with the team, and this factored into the 40-year retirement. Brady’s days at the end of the 2021 season. Brady announced his return to the Bucs on March 13.

The logical question, with the odd timing of Arians stepping down, will be: is there a connection between Brady’s return and Arians’ training hiatus?

“No,” Arians said. “No. Tom was very supportive of what I do. I mean, I had conflicts with all the players I coached because I insulted them all, including him. Great relationship off the pitch .

Tom Brady Bruce Ariens
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady and Arians. (Getty Pictures)

If there was a conflict, maybe friction is a good thing. In his final two seasons, at 43 and 44, Brady produced the most explosive, consecutive offensive performances of his 22-year career. In those two seasons, he threw for 83 touchdowns and 9,949 passing yards, his all-time high over a two-year span. Brady looks set to have another productive season this year at 45.

Arians certainly wasn’t the control freak Brady had under coach Bill Belichick in his first 20 NFL seasons in New England. But the Arians/Brady combination resulted in a Super Bowl title and a 29-10 record in the quarterback’s first two post-Patriot years.

Arians has a 47-year coaching history, dating back to his days as a graduate assistant in 1975 at Virginia Tech. He was the Alabama running backs coach on Bear Bryant’s staff during his final two seasons (1981-82) as a coach, and he speaks reverently of his days as a child working for Bryant. “I’ve always remembered Coach Bryant’s best advice: Train ’em hard, squeeze ’em later,” he said.

He was Peyton Manning’s first quarterback coach in 1998 at Indianapolis, mentored Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh until 2011, and was hired to be Andrew Luck’s first professional offensive coordinator in 2012 at Indianapolis. This is where Arians got his first chance as a head coach at age 60. At the start of the 2012 season, Colts coach Chuck Pagano had to take time off for treatment for leukemia. It was then that the star of the Arians began to shine. He’s won coach of the year twice, going 9-3 in 2012 in that interim role with the Colts and then in 2014 with the ascendant Cardinals. His 95 wins as a coach is a lot for a man who wasn’t a head coach until his 60s. He coached Arizona to the 2015 NFC title game and then the Bucs to the 2020 Super Bowl title with Brady.

He would rather his legacy be at least as much about color blindness and color blindness as it is about the wins and attacking patterns he taught that were heavy on the deep ball. His last coaching staff in Tampa included 11 black coaches (including the three coordinators) and two women.

Arians said he’s actually motivated to stay on the job and go into the season with veteran back-up Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask, last year’s unproven second-round pick. “Part of me,” he said, “was thrilled to coach Blaine Gabbert as a quarterback and prove to everyone, ‘Kiss my ass. It is good.’ You know?”

He said his son and agent, Jake Arians, told him it wasn’t too smart to walk away from a potential Super Bowl team. “I don’t really feel like I’m walking away,” Bruce said. “I’m not retiring. I’m just moving to the other side of the building. I will be at training. I will be at the office. Anything they want me to do.

The move to Bowles will likely increase offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Brady’s influence on game plans and play calls. attack, the philosophy was based on the Arians. Take risks, he preached. No risk, no cookie was one of his refrains.

Super Bowl LV
Arians at Super Bowl LV in February 2021. (Getty Images)

Many coaches say they are finished. But they find reasons to come back. In recent years, Pete Carroll has shown no desire to quit coaching (he’s 70), and Bill Belichick, who seems to be coaching forever, turns 70 on April 16. Arians is in their age bracket but doesn’t look like Carroll or Belichick.

“No,” Arians said, “that’s it. That’s it. I’m turning 70 in October. I just can’t wait to help the Bucs because they’ve been great with me and my family.

There’s another benefit, Arians pointed out, to making that call now.

“I don’t have to worry about how many cocktails I have on Saturday night,” he said.