Todd Bowles will take over as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Bruce Arians will take on the front office role

TAMPA, Fla. — Bruce Arians is stepping down after three seasons as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and taking on a front-office role with the organization, the team announced Wednesday night.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will replace Arians as head coach. A league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Bucs finalized a new five-year head coaching contract with Bowles earlier on Wednesday.

Arians told ESPN he doesn’t view the change as a retirement.

“No, I’m moving to the front office,” he said in a text message. “I’m always working.”

The Arians have been key in evaluating potential leads, and a move to the front office ensures that will continue. His new job title will be senior football consultant.

Despite multiple health issues throughout his career, Arians, 69, said the decision was in no way motivated by his health. Arians and the Buccaneers had been working on a succession plan for the past few weeks, and Arians briefed players and members of his coaching staff on the news ahead of the team announcement.

The Arians went 31-18 (.633) in three seasons with Tampa Bay, the highest winning percentage of any coach in Buccaneers history, and led the team to victory in Super Bowl LV after the 2020 season. He won five playoff games with the Bucs; former Tampa Bay coaches have won six combined.

“I have spent most of the last 50 years of my life on the sidelines as a football manager in one form or another. Today I have made the decision to move from the sidelines to another role within the Buccaneers front office, helping [general manager] Jason Licht and his team,” Arians said in a statement. “I love football. I like relationships, strategy, competition — everything. It’s been a hell of a journey, but I know it’s the right time for me to make this transition.”

A source told ESPN that Bowles was informed on Monday of Arians’ decision to step down and promote him. Arians had long thought of Bowles as his successor if Bowles doesn’t land a head coaching job elsewhere. Bowles was interviewed for head coaching vacancies for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears this offseason.

Bowles, 58, was previously the head coach of the New York Jets from 2015 to 2018, when he went 24-40. He also served as interim coach of the Miami Dolphins for three games to end the 2011 season, going 2-1.

Bowles’ presence provides continuity in a Bucs staff that has remained virtually unchanged since the Super Bowl victory, save for the departures of assistants Mike Caldwell, Cody Grimm and Antwaan Randle El.

“I thank the family and Jason Licht for believing in me to take on this role, as well as Coach Arians for his support and guidance over the past four decades,” Bowles said in a statement. “Tampa has become my family’s home and we are excited to be a part of this community for years to come. As an organization, we have all the pieces in place to maintain the winning standard that has been set here in recent years. years. I can’t wait to get started with our players, our coaching staff and our front office in preparation for the 2022 season.”

Bowles becomes the sixth minority head coach currently in the NFL, joining Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders, Robert Saleh of the Jets, Lovie Smith of the Houston Texans and Mike McDaniel of Miami. Bowles is also the fourth black coach in Bucs history, joining Tony Dungy, Raheem Morris and Smith.

The Bucs were not subject to the requirements of the Rooney Rule, as their coaching job came after March 1, when much of the talent pool the club would seek potential candidates from is largely unavailable. Additionally, the anti-tampering policy states that after March 1, clubs are no longer required to allow a contracted coach to interview.

The Arians’ departure is the second major announcement for the Bucs this offseason, following quarterback Tom Brady’s announcement in February that he was ending his career. Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback, returned 40 days later, saying he would be playing a 23rd season and noting he had “unfinished business.”

A source told ESPN that Arians informed Brady of their decision to step down shortly after Brady announced his return.

Brady, in an Instagram post Wednesday Night said Arians played a major role in his decision to play for Tampa Bay and that he would be “eternally grateful.”

“You are an amazing man and coach, and it was a privilege to play for you,” Brady wrote. “You are a true NFL legend and a trailblazer for all the work you have done to make the league more diverse and inclusive. Smart, tough and loyal are some of the words to describe your style. I will always remember the conversations we had when you recruited me two years ago and all the things we discussed came to pass.”

There had been rumors of a rift between the Arians and Brady, but the Arians denied it this week in an interview with NFL Network during NFL Owners Meetings, and he denied speculation that Brady wanted play elsewhere in 2022. The Arians left owners’ meetings a day early and canceled his previously scheduled media availability for personal reasons.

“I have no idea where it came from,” Arians said. “Somebody has to write a story every day about something. Tom and I have a great relationship. Even in retirement: ‘Where are you?’ “I’m in Italy.” ‘How are you?’ “I have the kids here. I can’t get him back on the golf course because he travels too much, so I can’t make enough money from him.”

Asked about any friction between the two, chief executive Jason Licht said last week: “You’d be surprised if we didn’t talk about it a lot. You can’t believe everything you hear, see and read. It There will always be friction between staff members and players and a manager. It’s just normal. And as you said, it can be healthy. We haven’t really thought about that.”

While Arians previously retired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals after the 2017 season before returning to coach the Bucs in 2019, several assistants on his team told ESPN they were shocked and surprised by the news of his transition to a new role.

In his statement, Arians said he “really started thinking about my personal transition plan earlier this offseason.”

“I wanted to make sure that when I left, Todd Bowles would have the best chance of succeeding,” he said. “So many head coaches find themselves in situations where they’re ready to fail, and I didn’t want that for Todd.

“Tom’s decision to return, along with Jason and his team doing another great job of keeping the core of this team intact during free agency, confirmed to me that now was the right time to pass the torch to Todd. .”

With the departure of the Arians, 10 NFL teams — nearly a third of the league — will have a new head coach this coming season. This represents the highest number of coaching changes year over year since 2008-09, when there were 11 changes to the position.

ESPN Stats & Information and Associated Press contributed to this report.