Maybe they finally did it. Since firing Jon Gruden in 2009, the Glazer boys have been looking for a coach who can get this team consistently to the playoffs and set the franchise up for contention for championships for years going forward. They thought they had the next Mike Tomlin in Raheem Morris. They thought the firm hand of Greg Schiano was just what the doctor ordered for an undisciplined youngry team. They thought Lovie Smith could take the Bucs back to the salad days of Dungyball, winning the old fashion way. They thought keeping Dirk Koetter was more important than keeping Lovie Smith, in his relationship with Jameis Winston.
Now, it’s the 66-year-old Bruce Arians, Mr. No Risk It, No Biscuit himself. It is a risk for the Glazers, who know Arians isn’t likely to coach 10 years for this franchise. Then again, who has? No coach has gone more than seven under this ownership – so if Arians lasts the most extreme shelf life of a Bucs coach, is 73 really that impossible to imagine? Marv Levy coached to that age, as did George “Pappa Bear” Halas. Dick Vermeil and Tom Coughlin coached to 69, as did Arians’ own idle, Bear Bryant. Some college coaches like Bobby Bowden coached until 80.
Realistically though, the Bucs will have a short window with Arians, but that also means they’re not going to wait around and have a five-year plan. This is a win-now move. The Bucs think they’re close, maybe closer than most give them credit for, and believe Arians can take them over the top.
Job number one would be getting Jameis Winston to play like the guy the Bucs thought they were getting when he was selected 1st overall in the 2015 NFL draft. Arians took Peyton Manning from a rookie to becoming an All-Pro in three seasons. Ben Roethlisberger was more of an athletic,
It’s not just about Winston, either. In Arizona, the fiery Arians got on the backsides of players on both sides of the field. There was accountability. He demanded perfection. He went by the Bear Bryant philosophy of “Let ’em have it now, hug them later.” So things like Swaggy Baker lumping lazily around the football field, Brent Grimes not wanting to cover top receivers because he wasn’t getting paid like an elite corner or Desean Jackson not wanting to play for/with Winston – that sort of stuff would never happen on a Bruce Arians coached football team.
Maybe Arians can even get Donovan Smith to stop half-assing through games – but hey – we can’t expect miracles. For years, we’ve talked about the untapped potential of the Bucs players. Licht believes he’s assembled a roster that can compete for a playoff spot. Considering the Bucs beat two of the four teams playing in the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs (and nearly made it three in Dallas), you have to wonder if the Bucs are a good swift kick in the ass away from making a worst-to-first type turnaround.
Arians, if he has that fire in his belly, can deliver that kick. That is the question isn’t it? Arians is coming out of retirement. He retired for a reason. Can he rev it back up for one more run at the ring? Some guys, it’s just in their DNA. Are you telling me at 72, Tom Coughlin isn’t burning to kick Doug Marrone to the curb and take over the Jags? They had to pull Marv Levy off the football field. They “force retired” Tom Landry and Don Shula. This week, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are back at in the divisional playoffs at 66. Andy Reid is 60.
If he’s in it, it’s to win it. I don’t think Bruce Arians has any other mode. So whether it’s one year, three years or five years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be better for having Bruce Arians as their head coach.