Arians set to take over hope for the Bucs

by Gary Shelton on January 9, 2019 · 6 comments

in general

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

A great many things about the Tampa Bay Bucs have grown old.

The losing, for instance, has lasted an eternity. The interceptions have lasted a millennium. The constant changing of head coaches has gone on for what seems like centuries. The penalties, the pass coverage, the woeful offensive line -- all of those are older than the hills.

And now, their head coach is, too.

Bruce Arians, the 66-year-old coach, has taken over the franchise where most of the 43 seasons have been dismal. Think about it for a moment: Arians' coaching career started in 1975, the year before the Bucs were born.

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This time, will it work out?

Like all the other times, let's hope so. New coaches usually bring new hope. And around here, hope is growing faint.

The Bucs announced Tuesday they had signed  (a four-year deal with an option year) with Arians, who retired from the Arizona Cardinals a year ago. Arians won 49 games in five years with the Cardinals (and nine as an interim coach with Indianapolis), but he was just 15-16-1 in his last two seasons.

“Bruce Arians is one of the NFL’s most well-respected coaches over the past two decades and we are excited to have him leading our team," said Bryan Glazer. "Throughout this process, we focused on finding the right coach with a proven ability to elevate our players and lead our team forward. Bruce has played a large role in the development and career success of some of our league’s best players and we look forward to seeing him continue that work here with our franchise."

Arians is a two-time coach of the year, the only man in history to win it twice in three seasons with two different teams. Only 12 coaches have won the award more than once.

Throughout his 25-year NFL career, Arians has worked closely with some of the league’s top passers including Pro Bowlers Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. As an offensive play-caller, Arians has directed top-10 offenses with three different teams (Arizona, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh) over the last nine seasons of his coaching career.

So is all the talk about his age out of bounds? Maybe, maybe not. The oldest coach ever to win a Super Bowl was Bill Belichick at age 64 (Seattle Pete Carroll was 62). Both Belichick and Carroll are older than Arians, slightly, but Arians will be far behind either when the season starts.

But 66 isn't that old for a lot of people. Lessie Brown of Cleveland just passed away at age 114, for instance. Les Colley once fathered a child at age 92. Donald Trump became president at age 70. Pinetop Perkins won a grammy at age 97. Christopher Plummer was nominated for an Academy Award at age 88.

One thing is for sure: If Arians doesn't succeed (he'll be the sixth Buc coach in 12 years), he will have been old enough to know better when he took the job.

Skeptical? Heck, haven't Bucs' followers earned their skepticism> This franchise has eaten up a lot of potential in both players and coaches over the years.

But I'll say this: I liked Arians more than I liked most of the names mentioned. I do wonder if this franchise will make Arians old before his time; it has for most of us. But wouldn't you rather risk Arians' age than Kliff Klingsbury, hired by the Cards? Or Matt LaFleur, hired by Green Bay?

Look, whoever the head coach is, he's going to feel old to the players. Odds are, he won't have the same playlist on his phone than, say, Jameis Winston will have. But it's Arians' health that has people concerned. It's a grueling job, even for a man with the reputation of a quarterback whisperer.

Speaking of Winston, he would be wise to consider this his last chance. Most prospects don't get nearly as much time with their second coach as they do their first, and Arians will carry enough clout to survive if Winston is jettisoned. But Winston remains a jigsaw puzzle where half of the pieces fit. There is still talent there if he will allow Arians to harness it.

Elsewhere? Arians must erase the ugliness (DeSean Jackson, Brent Grimes) that has started to seep through this franchise. He has to build a better offensive line, and a better running game, and a better defense, and any secondary whatsoever. He has to try to salvage Ronald Jones, if possible. He must make an entire franchise seem mature.

So if Bucs' fans are skeptical about the hiring, understand. The door to the coaching office has been a turnstile lately. But it does sound as if Arians' staff is coming into shape.

The defensive coordinator? Ex-Jets' head coach Todd Bowles. The passing game coordinator? Former Bucs' quarterback Byron Leftwich. The quarterback coach? Former Bucs' offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen. The secondary coach? Longtime NFL corner Kevin Ross.

Will it be enough to give teeth to a franchise?

Maybe. If not, perhaps the team should join Arians in retirement.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller January 9, 2019 at 12:52 pm

It will be interesting to see how this works out. For me Arians health is a bigger issue than his age but at the same time the 2 are intertwined. I don’t know why anyone who has had health issues would want to get back into a stressful job. But hopefully those issues won’t flare up again.

As Arians’ record the last 2 years at Arizona reflects, without good players no coach can win. The Bucs have a lot of holes to fill and Jameis Winston has to prove he is the right QB. A lot of the future success of the Bucs hinges on Jason Licht doing a better job of bringing in the right free agents and making good draft picks. Rebuilding this team is as much about the GM as it is about the coach.

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Gary Shelton January 9, 2019 at 10:09 pm

You’re absolutely right. It’s getting Arians the players that work in his system. In his last two years with the Cardinals, Arians lost his quarterback for most of one year, lost star defensive end Calais Campbell to free agency and lost Tyrann Mathieu for six games of one season. It’s always harder to compete without your weapons.

It takes every man handling an oar.

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Larry January 9, 2019 at 9:28 am

I’m with you on this one Gary. Arians is a good coach but there are still lots of holes to plug on this team. No coach can win without good players. The GM will need to do a better job of getting them here and that’s going to be the big challenge. There always are reasons for hope but I want to see more wins before going all in.

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Gary Shelton January 9, 2019 at 10:10 pm

I think anyone who has seen this franchise fizzle over the years should feel the same way. You hope. You imagine. But you keep your guard up. That’s fair, right?

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BILL MYERS January 9, 2019 at 8:08 am

Aww …come on Gary. Show a bit more hope here! We are getting a new used car. It looks good on the outside and it will have a new engine. Arians has more experience in his position than most of the other guys we have tried. I just hope he has some control of draft picks. Too many mistakes in the last one. I heard Jason Licht had a connection with him from Arizona. I hope they will work better together and get this team to the next level.

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Gary Shelton January 9, 2019 at 9:09 am

Bill, I’m sorry, but I’ve seem too many guys come in to just blindly applaud, you know. I was here for the hirings of Williamson, Wyche, Dungy, Gruden, Morris, Schiano, Smith and Koetter. I guess it’s left me skeptical that the organization as a whole can turn things around. As always, I’m hopeful, but Arians will have to prove his era will be different. Is that so wrong?

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