FAB 4. Are The Bucs Getting Arians Or Arians Light?

One of the most interesting things about the Bucs hiring Bruce Arians to replace Dirk Koetter as head coach was the fact that he is known around the league as “The Quarterback Whisperer” for the way with which he developed some of the best quarterbacks around the league in Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians
Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

With Tampa Bay in desperate need of a franchise turnaround and quarterback Jameis Winston, the former first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, in a critical fifth-year option, convincing Arians to come out of retirement has been hailed as a coup for general manager Jason Licht.

We’ll see how it all turns out following the 2019 campaign.

At Arians’ press conference I asked him if he was going to be calling plays in Tampa Bay, as he had in previous stops in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Arizona. Arians said he was turning over those duties to new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, his protégé in Arizona and former backup quarterback in Pittsburgh. Arians’ extraordinary play-calling was what made him the Cardinals head coach and what made Arizona such a potent offense in playoff runs from 2013-15.

Instead of Arians calling the plays in Tampa Bay it will be Leftwich for the first time in his career – outside of calling plays down the stretch last year in Arizona when offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired. And even then, Leftwich was left to operate McCoy’s offense.

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich
Bucs OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

I suppose if Leftwich struggles early on with the play-calling that Arians could assume the play-calling duties, but how much of a rope is the head coach willing to give Leftwich in such a very important season for Winston and for Licht, the man who hired him and drafted Winston? Is it three or four games or is it five or six?

If Tampa Bay’s offense under-performs and Winston struggles in say a 1-5 or 2-4 start to the 2019 season, is it too late at that point for Arians to step in with his own play-calling to turn around the ship in a 16-game season?

Of course these are what-ifs and hypotheticals, and many a football coach doesn’t necessarily want to think negatively about worst-case scenarios, especially in the offseason.

Plays aren’t designed to not work. In theory, every play picks up a first down with the potential for a touchdown. That’s just the mentality of an NFL head coach.

Arians isn’t expecting Leftwich to not work out, and I’m not suggesting that Leftwich won’t do a good or even great job calling plays. I’ve just seen too many seasons with high expectations over the past decade in Tampa end in double-digit losses and top 10 draft picks that I’ve become a bit wary.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Another surprising twist to Arians’ hiring is the fact that he’s not spending nearly as much time with Winston as I expected he would. As an offensive coordinator, Arians has always taken a very hands-on approach with his quarterbacks. During this offseason, Arians said that he was staying out of the quarterback room and letting Leftwich and quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen handle Winston’s development.

The question is, how much whispering to Winston will Arians actually be doing this year?

I understand that good CEOs delegate to their subordinates and empower them to do their jobs. Leftwich won’t learn how to lead an offense unless he’s the one leading.

It’s just that the Bucs and Winston really, really need the Arians that the Cardinals and Palmer got in 2013 when Arians arrived and produced a 10-6 record, and a trip to the playoffs.

Tampa Bay needs the Arians that took Arizona to new heights in 2015 when the Cardinals went 13-3 and Arians won the NFL Head Coach of the Year award for the second time.

So are the Bucs getting the “full Arians” or “Arians light” this year?

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

This could be like going to see an Avengers movie and there’s not a superhero in sight if Tampa Bay falters from Arians being too hands-off in his approach with Winston and the offense.

I would have almost rather seen Arians come in and be the take-charge offensive coordinator and quarterback whisperer this year in his first season in Tampa Bay with Leftwich right by his side, and then turn the reins over to Leftwich in 2020. We’ll know if Arians’ trust in Leftwich was justified or if some of my concerns are validated – and I hope I’m wrong to be concerned – in the next six months.

The Bucs have had two other former NFL head coaches that have been successful elsewhere coach in Tampa Bay only to see their star fade in Sam Wyche and Lovie Smith. Neither produced a winning season, and I’m hoping that Arians doesn’t follow suit.

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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]

18 COMMENTS

  1. You only see it if viewing this website on a wide screen monitor, but it is probably time to take McCoy’s picture off of the top left!

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  2. I really love Lavonte. It’s a shame he’s been on so many bad defenses and hasn’t received the national recognition he deserves. He’s been my favorite player and arguably the Bucs best player since they drafted him. Hoping he can recapture some of that magic he had under Schiano’s scheme when he was playing out of his mind. Seems like he’ll get the chance under Bowles after years of toiling under Lovie and Mike Smith.

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  3. Scheme,coaching do matter. They must match specific talents of the players. Instead of changing player to fit scheme. Builds chemistry. Make week to week changes within your scheme & your depth to attack other teams weaknesses. Then you doing special things like the N.E. coach. It works on both sides of the ball too. You must as coaches know your opponents very well. This is what urks me about Glazers they do not demand cohesion.

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  4. Fab 4
    I think we are getting Arians mental heavy and Arians physical light.

    When Lovie Smith came I had hoped his time away from coaching meant that he would bring a better version of his previous performances as an NFL HC. I saw what he actually did as self aggrandizement and milking the situation to enhance his net worth. I don’t want to judge the individual so I hope I have merely exaggerated the true situation in my mind. Not that it matters to anyone else. (Just to show you what is in the back of my mind.)

    Here also I was envisioning a better but not a dramatically different version of Arians. The delegation part is new and introduces uncertainty for our preseason assessments. Obviously, the differences are the new part of the improvements in his mind at least.

    At this time I am still in “In BA we must trust” mode.
    __________
    Go Bucs!!!

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  5. Well, of course it’s Arians-light. The guy was retired….for health reasons….related to the stress of being an NFL Head Coach. He has said since Day 1 that he sees Leftwich and Bowles in charge. He has been talking those two up like they’re the next coming of Bill Parcells, and has said he’s done that in part because of the personal relationships he has with them, dating back many years. He wants one of those guys to get his shot (or in Bowles case, another shot) to be a Head Coach.

    My hope was that he was going to use 2019 to ease one of them ahead, and then take over Jason Licht’s job next year, sending him out to pasture. Sadly, his relationship there seems like that won’t be the plan.

    But to answer your question Scott – no the Glazers didn’t hire Arians…they hired one of Bowles or Leftwich to be Head Coach, and hired Arians to run their interview process for a year.

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  6. After seeing Koetter focus only on the offensive side of the ball, and leave his defense totally in the inept hands of M. Smith, I’m glad B.A. isn’t locked in a room with Winston wearing blinders to what’s going on with the rest of the team. I don’t see the GOAT Belichick calling plays on defense, or offense. He has an eye for coaches, and let’s them do their thing. Of course he’s making calls on both sides of the ball, and I’m sure Arains will too. This is not a problem Scott, don’t make it one. Good to see Arians cut Wilson, showing no patients for his inability to stay healthy. To much in the past we’ve hung on to guys who spend more time in the tub then with the club. So we’ve had more players miss time do to injury then most teams. I hope the new training hires help, but I think some of the problem was our guys weren’t mentally tough enough to play through some minor injuries.

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  7. OMG! Can we PLEASE stop talking about GMC. He plays for the hated Panthers! Forget him already!!

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  8. Best part of this article is how it points out how low McCoy’s takeaway total is. Hahahahaha!!!

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  9. I love all of this, but the strength and conditioning coaches get me the most excited. Wow, what a concept, having different positions doing different drills. These types of things can only help this team. It seemed like every game a starter was going out. Love the insight for this time of year guys! Keep up the good work

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  10. Injuries and misdiagnosing drafted players and free agents have plagued this franchise for over a decade. About time the team moves forward with sports science and embracing such analytics.

    Lavonte David has been quietly grinding and he is putting up a resume that will probably go the distance. I am proud of him and even when people doubted him I was in his corner. The guy plays with so much heart and it shows.

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  11. Abnormal high injuries last few years have cost this team as many wins as anything really. It’s been nuts. I always wondered if it was bad luck, bad conditioning coaches, or both.

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  12. So Arizona didn’t have a quarterback coach?

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  13. SR on vacay?? Where does a FL boy go on vacation? As Sapp said to Meshawn, “We got it all right here man.” Enjoy yourself sir, have a safe and wonderful time. As to BA light, I agree his successor is very likely already coaching on this team. Certainly Winston’s success is the team’s best case scenario. But I honestly believe that BA’s #1 job is to change the culture on the entire team. He has to get these guys to play a whole game. All 3 phases for all 4 quarters. To not play up to the competition but to play up to each other. Even in the 10 wins we’ve watched over the last 2 years, I don’t think we have seen that.

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  14. Derrick Brooks played from 95-08 or for 14 seasons.
    Lavonte David has played for 7 seasons so far.

    I really hope I get to watch Lavonte for 7 more seasons in pewter and red. He’s been my favorite Buc for 7 years.

    He may go down as the most unsung superstar in team history. With all the stats in the world to make the case that he was consisitently one of the best linebackers in the entire league, he was snubbed year after year for the meaningless pro bowl. When comparing his first 3/5/7 years in the league to Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, he compares favorably in every category except playoffs and wins.

    I can’t wait to see the dependable ‘Husker in this new defense.

    Some Lavonte Highlights:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7C8SBKJHwSg

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  15. Great article once again Scott! You will be missed while you are on vacation, but enjoy your time away. David has been my favorite player on defense also and I know he will shine as an ILB and will be in plenty of Pro Bowls before he retires. BA has already turned around this culture! I love all his innovations he has brought to do so. His keeping the rookies here to learn will pay off this year and I expect four of them or more to be starters and play like veterans based on all the superior development BA has brought. His strength program will also make all his players stronger and less likely to be injured and putting heat monitors on players in practice is genius given his practices in high temperatures this year.

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  16. I don’t think BA needs to bring in another RB unless it turns out Jones can’t cut it this year. I am glad to hear that BA likes Anderson too. I think he will bring a lot of flexibility. If he uses Ogunbowale to return kicks he needs to keep five RBs. Ogunbowale also could be the best sub backing up Barber in case he goes down. Anderson could be a good third down back, Jones a good change of pace back who can go all the way, and Ellington is great for attacking the perimeter and comfortable as a pass receiver too. We can use them all.

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  17. Ariana wasn’t just brought her to mentor Winston, if that was the case, he would’ve been the oc, not the hc. For far too long I’ve made myself excited and emotionally invested in players/coaches that I knew deep down weren’t the answer. We’ve had plenty of teases along the way. Hell raheem Morris still have us the best season we’ve had this far this decade. We’ve been through a lot as buc fans. But I do believe in arians. The drafting of Devin white out any of my doubt to rest. We will be healthier and not burnt out simply because of our new indoor practice facility. Our guys will get more reps because because we’re having multiple groups going with first stringers with first stringers, second stringers with second. So on and so forth. Arians while being looked at to help Winston put it all together, is changing the way we do things around here for the better. Scott do you honestly think Asians isn’t doing anything to help Winston? Do you really think Winston hasn’t had Asians in his ear? Just because Arians isn’t physically showing you what your were looking for doesn’t mean he’s not getting through to Winston in other ways. I’m pretty sure Asians is helping out leftwich where he sees he needs help, but let’s not forget that leftwich was an NFL qb for years and was a pretty damn good backup in Pittsburgh. Bowels I’m not worried about at all and he might be the one that replaces Arians once he decides he’s done done. I know we’ve been burned, believe me, WE ALL KNOW THAT lol. But this isn’t the same thing. Players are being held accountable, the tough but correct roster moves are being made, and our draft picks from Devin white to sc try Miller are turning heads, making plays, and showing leadership. Enjoy your vacation and don’t worry about getting arians “light”. BA is here and will be getting us more wins than losses. He’s in control, trust me.

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  18. Sorry for all the typos /errors. Please do your best to read through it!

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