The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are zeroing in on former Arizona head coach Bruce Arians as the replacement for Dirk Koetter, who went 5-11 in each of the last two years and was fired after three seasons on December 30. Here is what we know as of Monday afternoon.

General manager Jason Licht has interviewed four candidates for the vacant Bucs head coaching job, including Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Minnesota defensive coordinator George Edwards, Dallas defensive backs coach Kris Richard and Arians, whom Licht worked with during the 2013 season in Arizona. There are not expected to be any more interviews, and negotiations are expected to begin between Licht and Arians in the near future – likely Monday evening or Tuesday.

An announcement that Arians will be the next head coach of the Bucs could happen as early as Tuesday afternoon, but it all depends on how negotiations go and Wednesday might seem more likely.

Arians would be an ideal fit in Tampa Bay because he could work with Jameis Winston in a make-or-break fifth-year option season for the 25-year old quarterback. Arians has had success developing Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger in Arizona and for squeezing the remaining production out of Carson Palmer in Arizona. With Arians, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year, the Bucs would also be getting a winner, as he went 9-3 as Indianapolis’ interim head coach in 2012, and posted three winning seasons and two playoff appearances in his five years in Arizona (2013-17).

Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians

Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians – Photo by: Getty Images

Arians is believed to be putting together a staff that could include former New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator. Bowles was Arians’ defensive coordinator in Arizona from 2013-14 before taking the Jets’ head coaching job in 2015.

The fact that Bowles has head coaching experience would be appealing to Tampa Bay because Arians is 66 years old and retired from the Cardinals due to health concerns and wanting to spend more time with his family, and the Bucs might want a succession plan in place in case he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his entire contract, which would likely be a four-year contract with a fifth-year club option. That’s the standard Tampa Bay head-coaching contract.

If Bowles comes, the Bucs defense would likely switch to a 3-4 blitz-heavy scheme, which would fit last year’s first-round pick Vita Vea perfectly as he played nose tackle and defensive end in Washington’s 3-4 defense in college. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib would likely play outside rush linebackers with linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander playing inside in a 3-4 scheme.

If Bowles were named the defensive coordinator that doesn’t necessarily mean that current defensive line coach Brentson Buckner would remain in Tampa Bay despite Buckner coaching under Arians in the same capacity from 2013-17 – although Buckner is under contract for 2019. The reason is that Kacy Rodgers, who was Bowles’ defensive coordinator in New York, could serve as the Bucs defensive line coach instead. That’s something to watch, as Bowles and Rodgers are very close from their days together on Dallas’ staff from 2005-07 when Bowles was the secondary coach and Rodgers coached the defensive line.

Former Cardinals OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin

Former Cardinals OC/OL coach Harold Goodwin – Photo by: Getty Images

Harold Goodwin, who served as Arians’ offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in Arizona from 2013-17, interviewed for the Bucs’ head coaching vacancy in 2016 prior to Licht promoting Koetter to head coach to replace Lovie Smith. The interviewing of Goodwin, an African-American, satisfied the team’s Rooney Rule requirement that year, but he is well thought of by both Licht and Arians. Goodwin coached with Arians in Pittsburgh for several years, and then followed him to Indianapolis in 2012 and then on to Arizona the next year. He would be viewed as an upgrade over current offensive line coach George Warhop.

While Arians would probably love to have Freddie Kitchens on his staff again as quarterbacks coach, as he was in Arizona, Cleveland won’t let Kitchens out of his contract where he is currently the offensive coordinator for a Browns team that has yet to hire a head coach. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Arians and the Bucs make a run at Arizona quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich, who was a part-time starter in Tampa Bay in 2009, while playing under Arians in Pittsburgh in 2008 and from 2010-11.

By the end of the year Leftwich was calling plays for the Cardinals and is well thought of around the league. Arizona fired head coach Steve Wilks after just one year, so it is unclear if Leftwich will stay in Arizona or be free to interview elsewhere.

Stump Mitchell coached running backs under Arians in Arizona from 2013-16 before joining Bowles’ staff in New York for 2017-18. He would be a candidate to replace Bucs running backs coach Tim Spencer. If Mitchell wasn’t the pick, look for former USC running backs coach Todd McNair to surface as a potential candidate for the job. Like Bowles, McNair played football for Arians at Temple University back in the 1980s.

Those are just some of the names generating some buzz as potential future assistants in Tampa Bay under Arians, but first things first – Licht and Arians need to agree to terms before a hiring announcement can be made by the Bucs.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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corndog
2 years ago

Cool thought on D lineman, I read Leonard Williams might be out in New York. They have to pay 5th year option. Would look nice next to Vea and cost similar money as gerald, but be a better scheme fit.

GrayBalls
Reply to  corndog
2 years ago

GMC probably wouldn’t look too bad as a 3-4 DE. He has enough wiggle, get-off and power to play over guard or tackle. Crazy thing after not seeing much out of either of them, Spence and Gholston would probably be rather serviceable, too. Beckwith would look really nice coming of the edge as an OLB on passing downs and maybe even better as one of the MLB in running situations. We could shed a lot of the dead weight in cap space and roster slots and still have a solid rotation moving to a 3-4 base. I’m intrigued

SappAttack
2 years ago

This is the most excited I’ve been about a coaching change since Gruden. LFG!!!!

SappAttack
2 years ago

ps I think more than half of this fanbase has wanted a 3-4 base defense for several years now.

TBAtlas
Reply to  SappAttack
2 years ago

It was just a personnel issue where the strength of the defense was in the linebackers. Now? Idk, much more iffy. Our LBs are getting hurt at a terrible rate and our DLine is much improved.

If Bowles does come, it sounds like he would embrace a multiple scheme. Eh, fine. We would need more LBs for a 3-4 however and DEFINITELY some safeties to go for 3 safety packages.

GrayBalls
Reply to  JustaBuc
2 years ago

Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead, Andrew Adams, Isaiah Johnson, MJ Stewart lools like a better coverage safety than CB/NB. Adams can also line up at LB in passing situations. It’s looking like Landon Collins is probably out of NY. If he is and we sign him, suddenly our safeties look more like a strength than a weakness. Same may be true of Jalen Ramsey. Another if, but if we can get him in the locker room our secondary, as a whole, looks A LOT better

thejerseybuc
Reply to  GrayBalls
2 years ago

Careful about Collins. He is a banger, in the box, near the line of scrimmage safety out of Alabama. Sound familiar? He is a lot like Mark Barron, more athletic but he struggled covering TE’s, let alone WR’s the last two years. OJ Howard had his way with him and Ertz kills him. I don’t think he is worth the money he will demand in FA. Giants have a real dilemma on their hands with him. Been to the Pro Bowl twice, is a good guy in locker room, but he is worth 12 to 13 Million per year? I… Read more »

buc in indy
2 years ago

I thought you guys said and I quote “Bowles has operated multiple defensive schemes throughout his career, both 3-4 and 4-3, and has been willing to adapt his overall scheme to the players he has in front of him.” Why would they switch to 3-4? The personal doesn’t fit. I know there is going to be turnover their, but not enough for a3-4

Sneedy16
2 years ago

It’s all good and all but until I hear that we actually signed him, I’ll wait. Not trying to have a Bill Parcel 2.0.

fredster
2 years ago

Sweet! Get him at any cost! Bowls has run 4-3 too he’s good and can adapt to talent.

BucRy
2 years ago

I love it! Would love to have Bowles come coach our defense. I’m not against the 3-4 scheme either but the only question I have about it is if Carl Nassib would benefit from it? When he was in Cleveland he seemed to struggle more in the 3-4 than the 4-3 and we saw him flourish this year.

ellisarmy
Reply to  BucRy
2 years ago

Adaption would be Key! I think Spence is suited to stand up and come off the edge, possibly breath some life into him! Cleveland has a wealth of D talent, edge rushers wasn’t a top position of need for them.

ellisarmy
2 years ago

Would love to see a 3-4 in your face defense! Tired of the 5-9 yards of cushion we give people

GrayBalls
Reply to  ellisarmy
2 years ago

The off-coverage had nothing to do with the base defense and everything to do with a poor defensive scheme, I assume. I believe they were trying to keep Grimes comfortable. Notice there seemed to be much more press than off after Smith was handed his walking papers

MizzouBucs24
2 years ago

With JPP and Nassib i think we would be apt to use a 4-3 but with a good DC like Bowles I think he will do what the players do best. Not just this is the scheme now run it like mike smith

sunshineben
2 years ago

What not Mike Smiyh as head coach (kidding) Arians is 67 with health issues ..So a short term coach brought in and if Bowles might become bucs head coach look at his record!(yuck)

76Buc
Reply to  sunshineben
2 years ago

67 is not an issue. Health is.

macabee
Reply to  sunshineben
2 years ago

Arians was 66 in October. Belichick was 66 in April. Pete Carroll was 67 in September. Thing they have in common other than age is they’re all winners. #goodcompany

Kramerica Industries
2 years ago

Conspicuously absent from any talk about Arians’ staff – the name Todd Monken.

I understand that Leftwich is an Arians guy, for sure. I just wish there was (and still could be?) a scenario where Monken sticks through the transition because he was clearly the brightest spot Week 1-Week 17 on the coaching side of things this past season.

EastEndBoy
2 years ago

I can’t see JPP and NAssib becoming “outside rush linebackers”…that can’t be what you meant? Is JPP going to be dropping to cover TEs? Neither would seem to be a linebacker in the making in any scheme.

You must have meant them becoming DEs in a 3-4 scheme, which also sounds tough for them. Are they big enough to be 3-4 DEs?….maybe…but certainly a better choice than becoming LBs – no?

sidetrack
Reply to  EastEndBoy
2 years ago

I’m not sure I’m wild about the 3-4 – The D-line as a 4-3 was just starting to come together, so I would be reluctant to throw it away, but yeah, JPP and Nassib as DE’s would make more sense than them moving them to linebackers in a 3-4. I would think the linebackers would be David, Alexander, Beckwith and Noah Spence as an outside linebacker, with Taylor as depth.

76Buc
Reply to  sidetrack
2 years ago

Jack Cichy may play.

GrayBalls
Reply to  EastEndBoy
2 years ago

JPP could play DE in a 3-4, Nassib, not so sure. Remember, though, this team looks built more for a Nickel base than anything. But, we do have the pieces to play 3-4, 4-3, Nickel, Dime, 5-2-4, maybe even a 46. It’s all about who fits where. I have faith in most of the players on the defensive side. The big problem these past couple seasons is having a coach (Mike Smith) who was too stubborn to make changes to his philosophy in order to put those players in the right spot for optimal efficiency. Not saying the coaching was… Read more »

76Buc
Reply to  EastEndBoy
2 years ago

I agree completely EEB. I posted such below.

thejerseybuc
2 years ago

Love the Arians impending hire, and if he brings in Bowles I would be happy to have a veteran defensive coach give our team a fresh review. But please God, no heir apparent coach. Jets fans couldn’t get Bowles out of here fast enough. He just isn’t a HC. Poor clock management, no energy on the sidelines and he allowed a few bad guys to take over the locker room in the past couple of years. But guy does know his D.
Scott, any chance Monken is retained as OC?

76Buc
2 years ago

Scott, I usually agree with you, but why put 2 to best rush linemen at OLB? I would have them at DE. McCoy, if here, could could rotate at NY and DE. David and Alexander with there speed would be at OLB most of the time. Big thumper Beckwith (if healthy) would play inside.

76Buc
Reply to  76Buc
2 years ago

Sorry – their speed. Two of the best rush…

FLBoy84
2 years ago

Would be curious if McNair could get something out of Ronald Jones. Also saw James Saxon was let go by the Steelers, would seem like another possible strong candidate as well. Has a history with Arians too and if he’s hired would think that could only help if the Bucs were to pursue Bell.

GrayBalls
Reply to  FLBoy84
2 years ago

Ok, not gonna say Bell isn’t that great. I’m not into pedalling absurdities. But, RoJo looked like hot trash here, would look amazing behind the Steelers’ line. Just sayin’, take from that what you will

twspin
2 years ago

I gotta admit as a Buc critic, Even I’m starting to get excited about our possibilities with Arians and the great staff I know he will put together. Bowles may not be HC material (just like Koetter) But he does have a specialty and thats Defense. And players play hard for him. Look for some linemen changes under Arians. He’s no nonsense when it comes to blocking. Its been said his practices are real tough on linemen. He accepts no excuses. Just hope he’s healthy.

GrayBalls
Reply to  twspin
2 years ago

He’s 66 with previous health issues, no way he’s healthy. He just needs to be healthy enough

DrSteveC
2 years ago

Ben Roethlisberger in Arizona???? Arians is good, but I don’t think he is THAT good ;)?