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FAB 1. Arians Remains Confident In Bucs’ Turnaround

You’ll have to excuse Bruce Arians’ Cheshire cat smile.

No, he’s not happy with the Bucs’ 2-6 record or the current four-game losing streak.

“I’m just pissed because we’ve had games to win and we didn’t win them,” Arians said.

But he’s smiling after his Wednesday press conference as I’m interviewing him one-on-one in the halls of the AdventHealth Training Center, I ask him about being in some very unfamiliar territory – he’s never lost more than two games in a row as a head coach.

And he smiles because he’s confident – supremely confident – that the Bucs will turn it around and learn how to win over the second half of the season.

And I believe him.

How could I not? The 67-year old Arians has a tremendous amount of swagger about him. 

I’m not the only one who believes him. His players are standing firmly behind Arians as the Bucs head towards the second half of the season.

“As a leader when you have guys following the leader you can’t have them lose confidence in you and we certainly haven’t,” Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson said. “I wouldn’t expect him to say anything different. That’s the kind of leader he is – he’s upbeat, positive and confident. He tries to help the young guys keep their confidence up. That’s who he is for this football team.”

Arians is the fifth head coach Dotson has played for in Tampa Bay. He’s seen coaches lose their confidence and in turn, lose the team.

I’ve seen it too over the last decade – too many times.

What I don’t see is the bewilderment and the lost look in Arians’ eyes that I’ve seen from the likes of Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and most recently Dirk Koetter. Arians is a smart coach with a wealth of experience on his side, not to mention a lot of seasoned assistants on his staff. Despite the fact that he’s never lost four games in a row before, I think he’ll figure this out and the Bucs will get some wins down the stretch.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“He’s talked about never losing three games in a row before in his head coaching career and now we’re at four games and there is a level of disappointment in that,” Bucs tight end Cameron Brate said. “Anytime you lose a game it sucks, but to lose four straight really sucks. I think we’ve made strides but we haven’t been able to put a complete game together. When the defense plays well our offense plays poorly, and when our offense plays well our defense plays poorly.

“So he’s never lost three games before and now we’ve lost four, and I was trying to see how he would react to that, and I’m sure a lot of other guys were, too. He was just really positive after the game on Sunday. Obviously, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. That’s a tough environment and it’s a really good football team. We were just a play short, obviously.”

I said the Bucs shouldn’t celebrate any “moral victories” in my Sunday 2-Point Conversion column following Tampa Bay’s 40-34 overtime loss to the Seahawks, and I meant it. Yet, I can’t ignore the fact that the Bucs had leads at Tennessee and at Seattle and were close to winning both games.

“Well, a long time ago I had stretches like this a bunch,” Arians said, recalling his days as a college coach and also with Cleveland in the NFL. “No, there’s no lack of confidence at all. Our coaches know what it takes to win and where to put the guys to be successful. It’s a learning process. I look back at Arizona and we won all these close games, but we had a veteran secondary and a veteran defense. This is a much younger ball club. We’ll take some lumps as we learn.”

Could the Bucs (finally) be close to turning the corner in Arians’ first year? Let’s take a look at the scores of Tampa Bay’s games midway through the season.

Week 1: 49ers 31, Buccaneers 17
The Bucs trailed by seven points with two minutes left before Jameis Winston threw his second pick-six of the game.

Week 2: Buccaneers 20, Panthers 14
Tampa Bay gets its first win under Arians with a goal line stand in the fourth quarter.

Giants 32, Buccaneers 31
A missed field goal by Matt Gay as time expired proved to be the difference.

Buccaneers 55, Rams 40
Tampa Bay’s most complete game of the season as the offense clicked and the defense forced multiple takeaways.

Saints 31, Buccaneers 24
The Saints are the class of the NFC and the Bucs only lost by seven points on the road.

Panthers 37, Buccaneers 26
Despite a ridiculous minus-6 turnover margin, the scrappy Bucs only lost by 11 points.

Titans 27, Buccaneers 23
An inadvertent whistle negated a crucial fourth quarter scoop-and-score that could have led to a Bucs victory.

Seahawks 40, Buccaneers 34 OT
The Bucs had the lead throughout most of the game, but the Seahawks won the coin toss in overtime and Russell Wilson won the game.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Getty Images

What I don’t see from the Bucs’ first eight games is a blowout loss. Tampa Bay was really in every game, and that is encouraging. This is a 2-6 football that could easily be 4-4 right now.

“As a coach, you just keep flipping at why – what can we do better, how can we finish the last five minutes of games – because the last five minutes of games tells the whole season,” Arians said.

To me, that’s telling. Other Bucs head coaches have had blowout losses that Arians’ team has yet to suffer through, and that’s a positive sign.

Schiano had a 41-0 loss at New Orleans in 2012, and a 23-3 loss at New England along with a 31-13 loss at Carolina to help start the 2013 season 0-8. There was also a 27-6 loss at Carolina, a 33-14 loss to San Francisco and a 42-17 defeat at New Orleans down the stretch to end his tenure following the 2013 campaign.

Smith had an embarrassing 56-14 loss at Atlanta in his third game in Tampa Bay on national television, followed by a 48-17 beat down at home by Baltimore a few weeks later. A 34-17 loss at Detroit and a 20-3 loss at home to Green Bay would occur later in the year to help Smith’s first year end in disaster at 2-14.

The next year the Bucs weren’t “Tennessee ready” and got drubbed by Marcus Mariota and the Titans, 42-14 in the season opener at home to start the 2015 campaign. A 32-18 drubbing at home by the New York Giants would happen at midseason, followed by a humbling 38-10 defeat at Carolina in the season finale, which was Smith’s last game as Tampa Bay’s head coach.

Former Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter
Former Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images

Even in Koetter’s 9-7 season in 2016 he had a 40-7 blowout loss to Arians at Arizona, and a 27-7 home loss to Denver. Keep in mind that Koetter was 3-5 before a five-game winning streak helped propel Tampa Bay to a winning record that year. But the next year saw a 34-17 loss at Minnesota and a 30-10 blowout at New Orleans during a 5-11 season. In Koetter’s final 5-11 campaign in 2018, the Bucs had a humiliating 48-10 loss at Chicago and a 42-28 loss at Carolina last year.

The level of confidence I see in Arians rivals that of Tony Dungy’s unwavering resolve during his 1-7 start to his first season in Tampa Bay in 1996. Yet Dungy’s team had three losses by 15 or more, including a 34-3 waxing at the hands of Green Bay in Tampa Bay in his first game as the Bucs head coach.

There were some close losses too, including a four-point defeat to John Elway’s Broncos – a team that would finish 13-3 – in Denver, and a four-point loss at home to Seattle before a 24-13 upset of a playoff-bound Minnesota team. That was followed by a four-point home loss at Arizona, a six-point road loss at Green Bay and a three-point loss at Chicago before 1-8 Tampa Bay won three straight games, which was kicked off by a 20-17 overtime win over Oakland at home.

Former Bucs LBs Hardy Nickerson and Derrick Brooks - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Former Bucs LBs Hardy Nickerson and Derrick Brooks – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The next game was one of the most pivotal games in franchise history – a come-from-behind 25-17 win at San Diego after Tampa Bay trailed 14-0 in the first quarter. That was the game that Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks decided to make a stand after watching ESPN’s Chris Berman call the team the “Yuccaneers” on NFL Countdown before kickoff.

The Bucs would win the following week, 13-7, over the Saints and finish the year winning five of the last seven games of Dungy’s first season. The Bucs learned how to win on the road, learned how to string wins together and learned how to close out the season on a positive note, drubbing the Bears, 34-19, in Tampa Bay’s season finale to end with a 6-10 record.

Call it momentum or just call it experienced gained at the end of the ’96 campaign helped fuel a 13-6 opening day upset of a 49ers team that was 12-4 the year prior in the ’97 season opener at Houlihan’s Stadium that sent shockwaves through the NFL, especially after Pro Bowl middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson knocked Pro Bowl quarterback Steve Young out with a concussion, and third-year defensive tackle Warren Sapp took out Jerry Rice’s ACL on a tackle.

The Bucs won five straight games before losing at Green Bay, 21-16, and would go on another three-game winning streak at midseason to finish 10-6 and host a Wild Card playoff game against Detroit. A long-awaited postseason win against the Lions placed Tampa Bay in a divisional playoff game at Green Bay where Brett Favre and the more experienced Packers would prevail in a close game, 21-7.

If Arians’ Bucs can learn how to win down the stretch and go 4-4 to show some modest improvement with a 6-10 record, or better yet, finish 5-3 as Dungy did, and wind up with a 7-9 record, that would be very encouraging heading into 2020.

“We were 4-4 in Arizona [in 2013] and then we were 6-2 at the end, but we won those close games and that helped us,” Arians said. “There’s no doubt it’s about winning this year – it’s just about winning that first one and then stringing them together. That momentum can build fast.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Getty Images

“There’s nobody we can’t beat [down the stretch] – but there is nobody that can’t beat us, either.”

The Bucs players realize how close they are to turning the corner, but it has to start this week at home against Arizona.

“What really stinks is that it’s not necessarily a play at the end of the game that is hurting us,” Brate said. “We never know when that play is going to come – that play that changes the game. Unfortunately we’ve been on the wrong end of that a couple of times this year. Coach is staying positive and he’s preaching that we’re really close. Close is unfortunately not going to cut it, so hopefully we can get some of these wins in games coming up at home.”

The most important thing is that Arians’ players sense his high level of confidence and are still on board.

“We’re not satisfied with our record, but nobody is jumping ship,” Bucs nose tackle Beau Allen said. “Sometimes when things aren’t going well you’ll get some guys with bad attitudes, but there is none of that. We’re playing hard. We’re trying to win every game. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to close out games. But there is nobody here that doesn’t have faith. I think things are going to turn around.”

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

30 COMMENTS

  1. That’s all great but in order to be realistically positive and not completely delusional we have to win Sunday period. There will be no excuses for losing to a 3-5-1 team at home. You have to win this game.

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    • Not completely delusional? Is this your first Scott Reynolds article? 😂

      I’m just glad Scott hasn’t started calling for the firing of Bruce Arians yet. Although let’s be honest that’s coming next year if/when 29-59 Jason Licht continues drawing his roster masterpiece into year 7 with the same results. Someone has gotta be the fall guy remember. Whether it’s a coach in year two (Schiano/Lovie/Koetter) D-Coordinator (M Smith), position coach (M. Smith, J Hayes, G Warhop) or the water boy if need be.

      Whatever needs to be done to keep friends in high places.

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  2. From my view, the Cardinal game is the most important game this year, when the season began I felt this was the most winnable game but after watching the 49er vs Cards last Thursday I have changed my mind.
      Looks like Kliff Kingsbury knows what he is doing, Cards are improving every week.
     Bucs have to win this game because a loss will send the team spinning down mentally.  If Bruce loses to his old team there will be rumbling and whispers in the halls and not QB whispers but doubt whispers. I never believed Bruce was the answer when he came to Buc one but a loss to Cards will put doubt in the minds of players and fans. This is a must-have at all costs be a win Sunday.  

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    • Gee Bob, that was a nice post. I even gave you a thumbs-up. This is absolutely a game the road weary Bucs need to win for us fans who will get to sit in our seats for the first time in nearly two months.

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    • The first B.A.B. post I have seen in a while that isn’t full of piss and vinegar. Coherently written with logical points. Impressive.

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  3. 1) I’m glad Arians still believes, and that he hasn’t lost the locker room.

    2) I hate playing this “woulda coulda shoulda” game. You of all people Scott should recall the line, “YOU ARE WHAT YOUR RECORD SAYS YOU ARE”.

    3) but, here we go:
    Week 1: 49ers 31, Buccaneers 17
    The Bucs trailed by seven points with two minutes left before Jameis Winston threw his second pick-six of the game. YES HE THREW HIS SECOND PICK OF THE GAME…THEY BEAT US, IN OUR OWN BACKYARD, WITH THEIR PRIZED NEW MLB EJECTED FROM THE GAME, THEIR STARTING RB HURT, THEIR QB IN HIS FIRST ACTION OFF A TORN ACL REHAB. THIS WAS NOT A “SHOULDA” WON GAME.

    Week 2: Buccaneers 20, Panthers 14
    Tampa Bay gets its first win under Arians with a goal line stand in the fourth quarter. THAT SOUNDS A LOT LIKE YOU’RE SAYING WE “COULDA” LOST THAT ONE.

    Giants 32, Buccaneers 31
    A missed field goal by Matt Gay as time expired proved to be the difference. OK, WE “COULDA WON” BUT HE MISSED.

    Buccaneers 55, Rams 40
    Tampa Bay’s most complete game of the season as the offense clicked and the defense forced multiple takeaways. WE ACTUALLY GAVE THE RAMS THE BALL DOWN BY ONLY ONE SCORE WITH SEVERAL MINUTES TO PLAY. HAD GOFF NOT FUMBLED FOR A SUH TD, THEY “COULDA” COME BACK IN A PRETTY CLOSE GAME.

    Saints 31, Buccaneers 24
    The Saints are the class of the NFC and the Bucs only lost by seven points on the road. YES, 7 ON THE ROAD TO THEIR BACKUP QB. THEY ‘COULDA’ BLOWN US OUT WITH BREES.

    Panthers 37, Buccaneers 26
    Despite a ridiculous minus-6 turnover margin, the scrappy Bucs only lost by 11 points. THE PANTHERS COULD HAVE EASILY SCORED ANOTHER COUPLE TIMES IF NOT FOR THEIR GOOD CLOCK MANAGEMENT. IT WASN’T THAT CLOSE.

    Titans 27, Buccaneers 23
    An inadvertent whistle negated a crucial fourth quarter scoop-and-score that could have led to a Bucs victory. OR IT COULD HAVE LED THE TITANS TO SCORE YET AGAIN ON THEIR NEXT DRIVE.

    Seahawks 40, Buccaneers 34 OT. YES, OT LOSS SO CLOSE GAME.

    All I’m saying is, the NFL is a league of parity for the most part. There are few truly lop-sided affairs. Yet somehow certain teams consistently find a way to lose…and we are one of them. It can’t be just bad luck, or bad bounces – it happens way too often. We are going on our third straight season of massive disappointment.

    4) I’m glad to hear Arians thinks SMB is showing progress. Until we find a CB1 that can prevent WRs from getting 200 yards per game, it won’t matter much who’s playing CB2 and 3.

    5) If the best Licht gets out of this ill-conceived “flood the position” approach to ‘fixing’ our secondary is a good slot CB, that probably tells you why we are one of those teams that consistently finds a way to lose.

    Let’s hope we can move on from Licht and get a GM that understands how to acquire talent so that Arians leadership can actually take us to be one of those teams that finds a way to win.

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    • Talk about hyper-critical in a negative slant….geez East End Boy! Why even take the time to do that for every game when everybody, even Scott Reynolds, admitted to the closeness of games?

      It needs to be clear that we’re a top media market in pro sports. There’s no secret to our opposition. Our fans are well-educated and our team is over-exposed. A mere few of this week’s articles and its comments is all the intel the Cardinals need for a blueprint to beat us. No need to watch too much film on us at all lol

      It would suck to work for this organization as a player, coach, GM or in any capacity because of this fact. Getting wins here is extra hard. I hope BA’s confidence rubs off on the team and translates to wins so we can all breathe a little easier from the hyper-critical negativity of the losses.

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  4. I agree with Fab 4. I was just think this morning that Sean Murphy-Bunting has been our best CB. He’s not playing that well overall, but he’s the only CB we have where I see any level of future NFL success. I’ve seen enough to say that by his 3rd year he will be a good #2 outside CB. He will never be great against the run though. He wasn’t in college and nothing about that has changed so far and I don’t expect it to either.

    Every other CB we have is complete crap and we need to move on from all of them. Some of you will say “how can you know on the young ones so early”? All I can say is check the PR archives. I’ve been scouting, praising and calling out our players since I started attending the Bucs training camps in 2008 and based on the comments I’ve got a good track record, especially when it comes to the secondary. None of the other CB’s we have are smart or agile enough to ever develop into great CB’s.

    That’s another thing. We set the bar too low around here. We need GREAT CB’s, not good ones. I don’t care how good the D-line is, they need great CB’s behind them because no NFL D-lineman gets pressure on every snap. At week 10 the best D-linemen/OLB’s in the league have 35 to 40 pressures…out of about 340-400 snaps. Even if you concatenate some of those pressures and assume different linemen will get pressure when others don’t you’re looking at maybe 70 to 80 pressures out of about 340-400 snaps. That’s a lot of snaps where the CB’s need to able to cover as long as the play is going without the aid of D-line/OLB pressure.

    The rest of our CB’s don’t have the combination of agility, intelligence, speed and length need to have future success in the NFL.

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    • Kudos for “concatenate”

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      • Pink is a really cerebral guy.

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    • Agree except for Carlton Davis. He has been highly inconsistent and too many penalties. But he is a tough kid and the jury still is out.

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    • Pinkstob; that’s good analysis and information. I hadn’t thought about it the way you described. I believe you are correct.

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    • Having been standing or sitting beside you at those practices (sure missed you this past Training Camp) I can attest to your astute observations. As I recall, you didn’t like one or two of those CB prospects because of their “skinny legs”. LOL! I’m now trying to think of one you actually liked and for whom you predicted a bright future. I’m pretty sure neither of us were fond of the VH3 selection. Not yet ready to write-off our current half-dozen youngsters, but they do need to show us something these last eight games. When cast-off Andrew Adams is starting there’s a problem.

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  5. I don’t know, 2-6 is still 2-6. Still losers.

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  6. In my opinion Jordan Whitehead is the best playing DB right now. Also, if sacks are such a problem why not have a TE play some fullback or a reserve O-Lineman to help out with the pass rush. Still would like to see Jameis make some quicker decisions and get rid of the ball. I know it’s hard when OC has the WRs running 30-40 yard routes. I just think that the Offensive philosophy still doesn’t help Jameis out enough. This week let’s hit O.J. and Brate with some shallow or intermediate stuff if downfield is not there. Go Bucs!

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  7. Hey PR staff, can we do some house cleaning and get an update on our current roster? We still have McCoy and several other players listed on our roster that have long been gone! Thanks!

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  8. I think Bruce is a better head coach than Dirk but let’s be real he’s done nothing but talk since he’s gotten here. He stated this no risk no biscuit motto early on but has coached the complete opposite. Going conservative on several calls late in game including last week when he should have went for 2 after scoring the last TD in Seattle. The team needed a boost and he should’ve known to take that gamble with essentially the season on the line. He kicks the XP, puts the game in the hands of our pass defense and well you can sort’ve guess the rest. He claimed to put players in “the best position to succeed” yet I havent seen OJ Howard consistently in position to be productive. We have the highest paid OL in the division and shouldn’t need him chipping on DEs, hell Dirk didnt last year and the OL was worse. I see passes to Perriman and Scotty Miller but somehow it never makes it to OJ. It would be one thing if we didnt see OJ thrive under Dirk but we have, so it’s not an OJ issue its gotta be a Bruce/Byron issue. The only thing that slowed him down through the first 2 years were injury but he was plenty productive when on the field, now nothing?? Then the comical press conference this week when they said Dean wasnt prepared to play zone so thats why they played man so much. Well for 1 the only pass breakup he had in OT came from ZONE coverage and 2 what in the hell do we have this gigantic staff for if its not to develop the rookies??? I thought the purpose of this megastaff was to get guys ready and make sure the young guys were up to speed, a guy not knowing zone coverages midway through the season is a coaching thing not a player thing. Last but certainly not least we have what he’s done or not done with Jameis. He called plays for the other QBs he resurrected which is NOT what he’s doing here. Byron is doing an ok job but the game with 7 straight running plays wouldnt have happened with Bruce calling plays. Just a lot of smoke and mirrors so far from Bruce with no real substance. After declaring the secondary fixed I dont think anyone should be hanging onto Bruces’ words for any real insight into the team. Improvement is shown in the win column not during media sessions.

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  9. With Bruce Arians winning 15 out of his last 32 games in AZ and the condition of AZ in 2018 being the team Bruce built his 4 years as HC, what makes anyone at Pewter or posting on this site to expect success from Bruce Arians if you base expectations on the last three years history and not pewter hype.
    I never could understand all the hype, a quick google search brought up a ton of negative articles and red flags out of AZ media on Bruce.
    I guess Pewter watched “Bruce Arians A Football Life” and got all excited

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  10. It is a must win Sunday. The Cards at home should be a must win. I still cant believe we lost to the Giants at home. A must needed win streak needs to start Sunday afternoon.

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  11. Is this team better than last year? It feels like it, but the record says something differently.

    Scott; I think you’re getting nervous like many of us if we finish with 6 wins or less?

    Not sure how you determined White was playing good in the last game as I saw a lot of tackles as he was running to catch up with his target.

    Our DB’s overall just haven’t jived yet.

    This coming draft should be about about Ol, DB, QB, DL priorities.

    Go Bucs; win a game!

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    • Games are won and lost in the trenches. OL & DL; especially OL. Next year we have to pay D. Smith’s sorry arse so put him at RT and draft a LT with the with the first pick. 2nd round get a rusher. The more OL and DTs. Get a vet CB in FA.

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  12. Suh’s your most disappointing defensive player???? Really???? Pick a DB, any DB and that’s who’s the most disappointing none of them can play.

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  13. I agree with all here. This is almost a must Win game at home come Sunday. Yes Murray is gonna be throwin and runnin. But we gotta either stop him or win by shootout..anyway possible. I got us winning. But its not gonna be pretty.

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  14. Agree TheBarron70! I’m sure opponents are saying let’s make sure we Know where DB Carlton Davis or CB Dean and can account for them on the field! Suh is still a beast! Is he getting older… yep!… aren’t we all. But a lot of times he is being double teamed. Teams don’t double team players they r not concerned about. He’s a nasty dude and almost all the teams r concerned about exactly where he is lined up. Fact. He provides that Sapp like nastiness! O-Lineman still know that there will be a battle all day when u mess around with boy named Suh!

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  15. As disappointed as I have been about this year, I still think Arians can do it next year..but that would be it for me.

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  16. Good stuff on Murphy – Bunting. I would’ve totally missed that thank you

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  17. As much as 99% of us wanted to see this season turn around from the start, it honestly wasn’t that realistic. They have been in every freaking game and could be more than freakin 4-4 right now they could be 8-0 if they would get out of their own way. The back half of the season will tel us a lot more about the team than the first half. Stop worrying about Draft pick and playoffs and focus on who Improves and how much from here on out which will tell us who stays and which rookies will be stars next year and where the holes end up being and with breathing room in the cap next year and another Draft, next year is when we always realistically would be competing. It’s not giving up on this season it’s looking for improvement which is what I have wanted to see all along. If Murphy- Bunting and Dean and Edwards improve then our Secondary isn’t so bad next year, if we can Draft Olineman then our Line is improved next year. Let’s see how Winston finishes and we will know what we need moving forward.

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  18. I said when the year started BA would bring us 3 additional wins. I added that because of free agency losses, injuries and questionable drafting, it would give us 2 additional losses, giving us a net of 6 wins. I think my prediction is going to be difficult to achieve.

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  19. Once again, we are half way through the season and yet already out of the race. And of course, they are going to win some games. They have to play their way out of a draft spot that might help this team. We have seen this same thing the last decade. For me, I don’t care if you win meaning less games at the end of the season, win when they count towards making the playoffs. Not when playoff teams sit their starters.

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  20. Hey Scott! I went to PRs Buc Info to look up a players number. Pewter Report has at least 27 players listed on team roster that are no longer with the team! Can we possibly get a roster update? You can’t claim to be the site to go to to get Buc info if you can’t even update the team’s roster! What gives Scott! You still have McCoy listed on roster for Pete’s sake!

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