Just hours after firing Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said that personal relationships wouldn’t matter in his search to find Tampa Bay’s next head coach.
“Just because I know somebody doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the right fit for the organization,” Licht said on Monday, following the Bucs’ 34-32 loss to the Falcons that gave Tampa Bay back-to-back 5-11 seasons. “Throw the ego aside, it’s what is best for this organization, best for ownership, best for these players, best for the staff. Just the best fit, period. Just because I know somebody doesn’t necessarily mean they would be the right fit.”
The right fit for Tampa Bay is former Arizona head coach Bruce Arians, a guy that Licht just happens to have a personal relationship with.
Licht knew from the start of the head coaching search process that Arians would be the right fit because he knew Arians from their year together in Arizona in 2013 when the Cardinals went 10-6 and just missed the playoffs. That’s when their personal relationship began.
Yes, Licht interviewed Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Minnesota defensive coordinator George Edwards and Dallas defensive backs coach Kris Richard, but Arians was the guy all along. Not necessarily because of the personal relationship Licht had with Arians, but simply because Arians is the right fit.
The interviews with Bieniemy, Edwards and Richard weren’t to satisfy the league’s Rooney Rule requirement that says that a team must interview a minority candidate before hiring a white head coach. Licht wanted to do his due diligence and legitimately compare and contrast Bieniemy, Edwards and Richard to the familiar Arians.
If any of those coaching candidates had proven to be better than Arians I believe that Licht would have pulled the trigger and hired one of them. But through his personal relationship with Arians, Licht knows he is the right coach at the right time for a talented Buccaneers team that needs to win now more than ever.
It was in 2013, Arians’ first year as Arizona’s head coach, that Licht witnessed Arians’ “No risk it, no biscuit” mentality for the first time. The Bucs desperately need the confidence, daring and accountability that Arians will bring. The 66-year old Arians comes to Tampa Bay with two-time NFL Head Coach of the Year credentials for his work in Indianapolis (2012) and Arizona (2015), as well as a pair of Super Bowl rings that he won under Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin as an assistant in Pittsburgh.
Jameis Winston, the guy this team so desperately wants to be a franchise quarterback, desperately needs Arians’ tutelage. Arians has helped develop some of the best quarterbacks in the game in Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Arizona’s Carson Palmer.
The Bucs defense, which has been pushed around too much and scored on too often desperately needs Todd Bowles’ aggressive scheme. NFC South quarterbacks Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees will hate the myriad of blitzes they will face from the Bucs’ revamped 3-4 defense this fall.
And Licht, who was granted one more year to preside over the team by the Glazers despite his 27-53 record as general manager, desperately needs Arians, too.
If he hired an unfamiliar head coach and the Bucs didn’t show much improvement in 2019, Licht would be looking for a new job this time next year. But with Arians, he has a bit more job security, as Bucco Bruce will surely want the familiar Licht to stick around for the long haul and help pick the right players throughout his tenure in Tampa Bay.
Call it self-serving if you want, but Licht made the right hire given the immediate needs of this franchise despite how it helps his job security. There’s no doubt about that.
On paper, Arians looks like the right fit for Licht, for the Bucs defense, for Winston, for Tampa Bay’s offense – which can’t afford to miss a beat in the NFC South Shootout division – and for the Glazers, who need to put more butts in the stands.
No, fans don’t show up to see coaches coach. They show up to see players play.
But Tampa Bay fans loved the Jon Gruden era and the swag that Chucky coached with. Arians has a similar, bad ass coaching style – dropping F-bombs, chewing up refs and spitting them out, and demanding the best from his players, all while piling up wins. Bucs fans are craving for respectability and winning to return.
Licht has worked with Arians before and there is no doubt that the two men will work well together in Tampa Bay. Leadership starts at the top, and it’s important for a general manager and a head coach to have a strong personal relationship. Because Licht and Arians already have that from their time together in Arizona, they can hit the ground running together in 2019 and get this ship turned around ASAP and chart a course towards winning waters.
Everyone knows that the Glazers have a quick trigger finger when it comes to firing head coaches. The Glazers have hired and fired four head coaches in the last decade alone. Because of their commitment to winning, I can’t blame them, and I applaud the Glazers for refusing to settle for mediocrity – or worse.
Not only are the Glazers tired of losing, they are tired of seeing other first-year head coaches around the NFL take their new teams to the playoffs while the Bucs remain the cellar dwellers of the NFC South. Arians will be under the gun to win right away, but after watching Bruce Arians: A Football Life, it’s clear that he isn’t afraid of getting fired.
Arians is a fearless coach that needs to inject some fearlessness into the Buccaneers and dare them to be great. Arians will quickly earn the players’ trust by developing a personal relationship with them and have Tampa Bay contending for the NFC South title in no time.
“I think I said this last time, too, that I’m not going to get in the way and let an ego get in the way of getting the right guy here,” Licht said. “My job, right now, is to get the best fit of a head football coach, period.”
Despite his personal relationship – or perhaps because of it – Licht did just that when he hired Arians, and he will prove to be up to the task after recharging his batteries from a one-year retirement during the 2018 season.
It just feels like the right fit.