As McCoy leaves, Bruce holds all the answers

by Gary Shelton on May 21, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Bucs

McCoy's days with the Bucs are done./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

If you think the Bucs will be just fine without Gerald McCoy, it's because of one reason: Bruce Arians.

If you think that Jameis Winston will become an elite quarterback, it's because one reason: Bruce Arians.

If you think the Bucs will pass someone -- anyone -- in the NFC South, it's because of one reason: Bruce Arians.

Right now, he is the face of hope. He is the counter-argument to every lingering flaw on the Bucs' roster. He is the reason to believe. Someone else's fan mentions Drew Brees, and for a Bucs' fan, the opposing opinion is "Bruce Arians." Someone mentions Julio Jones, and the opinion is "Bruce Arians." Someone questions the Bucs' proximity to the salary cap, and the response is, you guessed it, Bruce Arians.

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They are a hopeful bunch, these fans of the Bucs. After all, they have seldom had anything else. Only four times in their history have they had a season that included a win in the playoffs. They haven't won a post-season game for 17 seasons. They haven't even been to the playoffs since the 2007 season.

The secondary was a tangled mess a year ago. Winston kept turning the ball over. There was no running game. The linebackers couldn't cover.

Enter Arians, who was 49-30-1 in five seasons with the Cardinals.

Not a lot of free agency? Bruce will make it okay. Jason Pierre-Paul is hurt. Bruce is here. The offensive line has been heavily criticized. Bruce will fix it.

And so it goes.

Look, there haven't been a lot of inspiring hires by the Bucs over their history.  If people want to embrace Bruce, well, that's cool. It beats hiring Raheem Morris again. Or Dirk Koetter. Or Leeman Bennett. Or Richard Williamson.

Sure, there have been highly anticipated coaches hired. How about Jon Gruden, whose Raiders' teams had won 22 games in the previous two seasons -- and were a controversial call away from a Super Bowl win? Yes, Tony Dungy was solid -- I argued against his firing -- but give credit to Gruden for bringing his energy. It didn't last, and he never won a playoff game with the Bucs after his Super Bowl, but yes, he did make the fans pay attention.

The first Bucs' coach, John McKay, brought some interest, too. He won four national championships at Southern Cal. But he lost his first 26 games with Tampa Bay, which tends to make people forget about what he did in college ball. That year, the Saints hired Hank Stram and the Jets hired Lou Holtz. Overall, thought McKay was the better choice.

The Bucs hired Leeman Bennett in 1985. There were a lot of better choices, but Cleveland hiring Marty Schottenheimer might have been the best. Bud Grant came out of retirement.

Even Ray Perkins brought a reason to believe in 1987. He had been a success with the Giants before leaving for Alabama. But he was never the leader he thought himself to be. Buffalo hired Marv Levy the same year.

Williamson would never have been hired for any other college or pro team in the state. What does that tell you? He was 1-2 as an interim coach, and it was good enough to get the head job. The same year he was hired, Cleveland hired Bill Belichick.

Sam Wyche had made it to a Super Bowl, which people noticed. But he was 3-13 when fired by the Bengals. They noticed that, too. The same year, the Packers hired Mike Holmgren and the Steelers' hired Bill Cowher.

Again, Dungy turned out to be a fine coach, and he made four playoffs here. But he had never been a head coach when he came. People were talking about Steve Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson that off-season. Dungy didn't wow fans at hello. The same year, the Dolphins hired Jimmy Johnson.

The year the Bucs traded for Gruden, the Redskins hired Steve Spurrier.

Morris was a panic hire by a team that was afraid a special young coach might get away. That same year, the Jets hired Rex Ryan.

Greg Schiano was barely .500 in a bad college football league. But Chip Kelly said no, and suddenly, Schiano sounded like a good idea. The Rams hired Jeff Fisher the same year.

Lovie Smith was similar to Wyche. He had reached the Super Bowl several years before his hire here, and some thought he would bring stability. But he signed bad free agents like he was on The Sale of the Century. He was gone quickly. It is worth noting that the Vikings hired Mike Zimmer the same season.

Koetter? He had never been a head coach as a pro. He was the head coach at Arizona State, but who noticed? The Eagles hired Doug Pederson the same year Kortter was hired.

Which brings us back to Arians, and the question of whether he has time, at his age, to turn things around.

The Bucs parted ways with McCoy Monday, if you didn't hear. He had priced himself out of this market, especially for a team that mysteriously is bumping against the salary cap. That leaves fans to debate whether a five-time Pro Bowler deserved more, or if the fan base deserved at least a playoff appearance.

You guys know how I feel. I thought McCoy has had an honorable career. He wasn't Warren Sapp, and he wasn't a pass-rushing defensive end (fans seem to confuse the two). But he was a good soldier. If he didn't make so much money, there would be room for him still. But he does make great-player cash, and he no longer has a great-player impact.

The bottom line?

It depends on Arians. It's his ship now. He has to steer it into port, or be the latest coach who crashes into the rocks. How you feel about Arians is how you feel about the Bucs these days. If you trust in Bruce, this will only be a speed bump. If you do not, there is trouble ahead.


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