Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Sikkema’s Story Of The Week
“Trust, loyalty, respect is what we build everything on and it starts there.”
Over the years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been built on plenty of different strategies. With Raheem Morris, the Bucs were all about being “Youngry,” a combination of the words young and hungry to describe the youthful exuberance. Under Greg Schiano, the team was discipline, almost military-like. Under Lovie Smith, it was about being a throwback team; doing things like they did in the past and hoping that those methods continued their success present day. And finally, under Dirk Koetter, in his own words, they were supposed to be a “bad ass football team.”
Each man before Bruce Arians had their own way of doing things, and each man fell short of the goal and expectation agreed upon when they took the job.
But I think Arians will be different.
“Well, no risk-it, no biscuit. It’s being smart, not scared. Play smart. Don’t be scared.”
What makes Arians different than the coaches before him isn’t the ideas or the envisioning of the end result. Each coach that has been hired over the last 10 years has all wanted they same thing. They have wanted to win; they have wanted Super Bowls. But unlike those two came before him, Arians has the rings, he has the success, he has the resume.
Arians has the background with him to where, when he yells at a a player who does something risky, say with a play call or even personnel decision, you can trust him. On fourth-and-2 at the 50-yard line midway through the second quarter, when he decides to go for it, your first thought isn’t that he’s crazy; your first thought is that it’s going to work.
No risk-it, no biscuit. It’s not just a great way to approach the game, it’s the only way. Teams and players in this league are far too talented for you to just believe you can show up, play risk-free football and expect to win. it doesn’t work like that. The teams that win in the NFL are the ones that build their core around how higher their ceiling as potential can go. Sometimes they won’t hit it, but when they do, they can’t be beat.
“They’re all different, but the great [quarterbacks] have grit. When you go out to evaluate them, you can look at their arm strength, you can look at their athletic ability, but the two muscles that you play the position with – your brain and your heart.”
Certainly the biggest X factor in hiring Arians is the hope in the pairing that he and quarterback Jameis Winston can be. After listening to Arians speak in his introductory press conference, it’s clear that he believes that no success in this league can come without having a quarterback in place, and it’s also clear that he believes the Bucs have that in Winston, the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Winston had an up-and-down first four years under Koetter. He progressed, but he never to that big leap into being a Top 10 quarterback that many thought he would by now on the night he was drafted. But with Arians it could finally come.
Arians truly “gets” quarterbacks. When asked how close he is with his quarterbacks, he laughed and said that sometimes he’s too close with them. I think that’s because he understands that coaching and getting the most out of a signal caller is more than just technique or getting the plays down. It’s about understanding a player, giving him confidence and truly building around what he does best.
For Winston, what he does best has always been his mentality to win. Winston has a relentless mentality to be the best. He hasn’t always channeled it the right way, as he has learned that in the NFL that sometimes you have to lead in different way than how he did it at Florida State. But no matter the method, the thought process and desire to win can never been denied.
Arians said it himself that the two most important muscles a quarterback plays with aren’t in their arms or their legs. It’s their heart and their mind; it’s their passion, drive, competitiveness and preparation to win.
Winston has always had that, he’s just never been taught to channel it correctly.
Who better than Arians to guide him?
“I’ve always felt it’s my job as a coach to get the next group of great coaches ready. Coordinators pushing to be head coaches have the next man, James Bettcher was ready to take Todd [Bowles’] place and push those guys out into the public and have the next people ready, then have the next guys ready to take their job. That’s one of the reasons we have a large staff. I feel very strongly that that’s one of my jobs.”
It’s not just the fact that Bruce Arians has assembled a rockstar coaching staff, it’s the umbrella in which they were all gathered under that make what’s going on in Tampa Bay special.
Each assistant coach that we have had the chance to speak to has not only praised Arians’ approach to the game, but also his approach to his coaches. Arians is a self-less man. He’s a guy who does not care who gets the credit as long as the end result is they’re winning. because of that, Arians has spent many of his last coaching years grooming those around him to not only take over for him but also be better than him. That takes a lot of selfless pride towards the ultimate goal. That’s walking the talk most coaches are afraid to do.
Arians is also a guy who looks at people as people. He’s the only head coach on a staff where all three of his assistant coaches are minorities, and each have told us that Arians doesn’t just want these guy to be his assistants. He wants them to go on to be head coaches. He wants them to rise through the ranks of the league.
Arians has no fear as a head coach. He has no fear of him not getting as much glory as he “deserves” or fear of the unknown and unfamiliarity. Whether you’re black or white, or experienced or a rookie, if you can play or you can coach, you’ll find your way to the top under Arians. Arians not only has a good eye for football, it’s an unbiased eye in many ways.
The best will play and the best will coach. That’s why he’s successful.
“Please don’t tell me what our players can’t do. Tell me what they can do and then build around that.”
Around the train of thought, it already seems like there’s going to be better chemistry between the front office and the coaching staff when it comes to the personnel being brought in and how they are utilized. Over the last two seasons, there were a handful of player that general manager Jason Licht either brought in or wanted to bring in that the coach staff was stubborn about, didn’t use correctly or didn’t use at all.
The team finished 5-11 the past two seasons. I’ll let you decide who was wrong and which was right. Hint: the coaches were wrong.
Get the Hollywood, fairytale cliche out of your head – talent wins in this league. Do you need the talent to work together as one cohesive team, of course you do. But that starts by putting talent in the right positions to get the most out of it. This makes the players happy. This makes them buy in. This makes you a championship caliber team.
Don’t expect Arians to fumble talent like coaching staffs have in recent history here. Arians said he’ll build everything he does around what his players do well. In return, he’ll ask his players to give it their all when they’re put in positions to be great. If both click, just watch the turnaround this team could have.
“I think we have the core here to win quickly. I’m not about building – I’m about reloading. With that, I can’t say how excited I am to be a Tampa Bay Buc.”
Arias and his staff have a lot of decision to make, but that will all start by sitting down and evaluating the kind of players they have on their own roster first over the next few weeks. Players like Gerald McCoy, DeSean Jackson, kwon Alexander, Adam Humphries, Donovan Smith and other will all be given full film evaluation with no rose-colored glasses to look through. Each of these players will be given an evaluation in its tue form. There won’t be any bias involved.
That’s what Tampa Bay has needed for a long time.
The Bucs needed a coach that not only had the eye for talent, but the stones to look at the best players on the roster and say, “this only works if you’re all in, and if you’re not – get out.”
Morris, Schiano and Koetter didn’t have the pedigree to do that the way they needed, and Smith didn’t have the eye for it.
Arians has both – his entire staff does.
Mentality and mindset are everything in this game. Yes, you need the talent, but the Buccaneers haven’t been bad for 10 years due to talent. They’ve had talent. They’ve never had the mentality. Arians does. Harold Goodwin does. Todd Bowles does. Keith Armstrong does.
Those guys want to win, and the way they want to lines up with that of Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy far more than it does with any other coach that has failed after them.
For the first time in a long time, there’s confidence that the Bucs might actually be something in the next three years.
For the first time in a long time, the words “Super Bowl” don’t seem like a reality that only exists in wildest dreams.
For the first time in a long time, I really do believe in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.