Goodwin set to pinch-hit for Bucs’ Arians

by Gary Shelton on December 30, 2021

in general

Arians turned the team over to Goodwin./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Historically speaking, an interim football coach is a dreadful idea.

Historically speaking, he takes over a failing football team and spends his days bailing water. Historically speaking, there is a reason the first coach failed, and a reason his interim doesn't fare much better. Historically speaking, interim coaches come and go without leaving much of a memory.

For Harold Goodwin, coach-for-now of the Tampa Bay Bucs, it's entirely different.

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One, nobody has been fired. Head coach Bruce Arians has Covid, which means that the job temporarily is Goodwin's. Two, there isn't a dearth of talent. Sure, there are injuries, but this is the team that won last year's Super Bowl. Three, Goodwin isn't auditioning for anything; he's been a solid assistant for years.

"It was yesterday morning and my phone [was] ringing, just the pit of my stomach just knew what that phone call was about because he never calls me in the morning because I expect him to be in the office," Goodwin said about how he learned he was in charge. "Himself, just being the way he is, he goes, 'Hey, got a little problem with this COVID thing. You've got it.' I was like, OK.' He was like, 'Alright, talk to you later.' Click. I actually ended up calling him back last night, we talked for a little while, and he goes, 'Hey, I don't want to do any Zoom meetings. I trust you and you'll do great. Just be yourself, and I'll be back as soon as I can.' That's all he said to me."

Goodwin is entering muddy ground, however. Most interim coaches take over for the head coach of a losing team and finish out the string. In 2018, Sports Illustrated did a study, and wrote that only 16 of 87 interim head coaches finished with a winning record.

Remember Richard Williamson? In 1990, he took over the Bucs and won only one of three games. No matter. The team hired him as head coach, and he won only three games the next season. Oops.

Remember Rick Venturi? He had two stints as an interim coach, for the Colts and the Saints, and finished 2-17. Ouch.

Most of the time it goes like that.

But not always. Arians can tell you about that. In 2012, Arians took over the Colts and went 9-3 and was coach of the year. Marv Levy, who later reached four Super Bowls, was an interim for the Bills in 1985. He went 2-5. Don Coryell, the old Chargers coach, was an interim. So was the Raiders' Art Shell.

"I think when you're in this profession you want to be a head coach," Goodwin said. "I've had the pleasure of interviewing with a couple teams in the past. But I know this league is predicated a lot on play-callers. Why, I don't know, but everybody likes play-callers. But there are a lot of good coaches out here in this National Football League that are good leaders, they just don't happen to call plays, like myself. I do want that. Hopefully one day it will come my way, but at the end of the day that's in God's hands. But like I said, there [are] a lot of good coaches on a lot of good teams that need that opportunity that don't [get it]. They don't call plays, but we talk about what makes a head coach – it’s about building cultures, being leaders of men, and just having that disciplinary, authority-type figure that can get a team behind you and fight for you. They're a lot of good coaches out here that can do that that are not coordinators. That's all I'll say towards that."

Goodwin said he relates well to offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

"All I've got to do on game day is just manage timeouts, if B.A. doesn't make it back, just situational football things as far as going for it, not going for it," Goodwin said. "At the end of the day, Byron has won a Super Bowl here with us [and] done a great job. Todd has done a great job defensively. So, my job is just to help them with whatever they need and not put my foot down until it comes to, like, maybe short-yardage plays as far as going for it, not going for it, things of that nature.

"I view B.A. as one of my major mentors as far as my coaching career because, like you said, I've been with him a lot. I probably in some shape or form carry a lot of his mannerisms, too. I don't ride the golf cart, but a lot of things he does, says, sees, I see the same thing, so it makes it an easier transition for me. My job is just to follow protocol as far as the things he wants done, how he wants them done and just make sure I follow through with them."

So will Arians stay out of it?

"He never stays out of everything [laughs]," Goodwin said. "He's in constant contact with Byron [Leftwich], Todd [Bowles], I've talked to him. I'm sure I'll talk to him again today, and then Jason [Licht] is also a messenger, as well. At the end of the day, B.A. is part of this. This is B.A.'s show, this is B.A.'s team and this is a players' team, so we're just here as figureheads just to make sure we get through Sunday and get a victory if B.A. doesn't make it back."

The Bucs play at the Jets Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Meadowlands.

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