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FAB 1. Is Arians A Hall of Famer?
Coming off a Super Bowl championship, is Bucs head coach Bruce Arians a Hall of Fame coach?
“Not yet,” Arians said. “This year it will be interesting to see how it pans out. If he wins another one I think he’s absolutely in there. But Tom Flores won two and had to wait for a long time.”
No, Arians certainly isn’t the class with Hall of Fame coaches that have 150 wins or more like Don Shula, George Halas, Earl “Curly” Lambeau, Chuck Noll, Paul Brown and Tom Landry among others.
Nor is he in the class of Hall of Fame coaches that have a winning percentage over .660 like Shula, John Madden, George Allen, Guy Chamberlain, Paul Brown, Joe Gibbs and Vince Lombardi.
But Arians can make a good case for the Hall of Fame with a couple of more big winning seasons and another Super Bowl championship. In seven years as a head coach – including five years in Arizona – Arians has a 67-44-1 record (.603). His overall record, including a 5-2 mark in the playoffs, is 72-46-1 (.610).
That winning percentage is currently better than the likes of Hall of Famers Weeb Ewank (.507), the newly inducted Tom Flores (.527), Sid Gilman (.541), Marv Levy (.562), Noll (.572) and Hank Stram (.573).
“He didn’t get [hired as a head coach] early enough to be up in the wins,” Jake Arians said. “If he gets to 100 and wins another [Super Bowl], then yeah. He’s absolutely in. If he gets to 100 and he doesn’t but he’s close – he would probably have to wait for a while.”
Arians, 68, has three years left on his five-year contract in Tampa Bay. If the Bucs average 10 wins in the regular season over the next three years Arians will reach 102 wins. Arians would have a 102-65-1 record and maintain that .610 winning percentage. That’s not including any more trips to the playoffs, either.
Having 102 wins would be more than Hall of Famers like Guy Chamberlain (59), Earle “Greasy” Neale (66), Ray Flaherty (80), Jimmy Johnson (89) and Flores (97). Those are the Hall of Fame coaches that Arians’ record could compete with. Neale, Johnson, Flaherty and Flores were all two-time Super Bowl winners, so Arians would need to win another Super Bowl over the next three years to truly be considered for Canton.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: USA Today
“I don’t think he’s quite there yet,” Jake Arians said. “But the resume now is pretty close. He’s the only person to win the interim head coach NFL Head Coach of the Year and to win it again in Arizona.
“I think you have to throw in there the contributing things of being one of the forefront guys of hiring minorities on the staff. He’s the first guy to have two Black coordinators in Arizona. First ever to have three and a Black assistant head coach in Tampa. And hiring the first woman [coach] to ever be in the NFL in Jen Welter and having two permanent women on the staff in Tampa – I think that matters, right?”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame favors winning first and foremost, but then looks at what a person brought to football in terms of advancing the game. Arians has certainly led the way with the hiring of Black coordinators and women. No other NFL coach can come close to his accomplishment when it comes to diversity among the staff.
Arians has already won more postseason games in Tampa Bay than any other head coach in franchise history. Jon Gruden was 3-2 and Tony Dungy was 2-4 in the postseason with the Buccaneers. And Arians is currently tied with Dungy for the best regular season winning percentage (.563) in Bucs history.
Heck, after winning one Super Bowl and another winning season expected in 2021, Arians has probably solidified his Bucs Ring of Honor status already after just two years in Tampa Bay. But Jake Arians would like to see his dad join Dungy in the Hall of Fame as well as the Bucs Ring of Honor.
“The resume is pretty strong,” Jake Arians said. “I don’t think it’s quite there yet. I’m biased, but I’m not as bad as some people might think. I’m damn sure not a bad as people think on Twitter.”
I have to agree with Arians. Two or three more double-digit winning seasons and another Super Bowl trophy along the way and he very well could be Canton-bound.
FAB 2. Bucs Still The Favorites To Win The NFC Again
With all 22 starters from Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV championship returning, many believe that the Bucs are the favorites to repeat as world champions again this season. Several media outlets have Tampa Bay at least representing the NFC in Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
After discussing his father’s Hall of Fame candidacy on Monday’s episode of the Pewter Report Podcast, I asked Jake Arians which teams he believes pose the biggest threat to the Bucs in the NFC.
“If Aaron Rodgers is in Green Bay, they’re a threat,” Arians said. “They were right there [last year]. If Aaron Rodgers is in San Francisco I’m nervous because that team when healthy with the pass rushers they have – they could be a serious threat. I don’t know that that is going to happen. San Francisco with Jimmy G. (Garappolo) – I don’t feel like they have the firepower to keep up with what we’re going to be able to do offensively as good as our defense is.”
Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – Photo by: USA Today
Rodgers has voiced his displeasure with the Green Bay organization and there has been some speculation that he could part ways with the Packers via a trade this offseason after 16 years at Lambeau Field. If Rodgers were to return to his home state of California and assume the QB reins while Trey Lance waits and develops behind the scenes that automatically makes the 49ers a legitimate Super Bowl contender. San Francisco went 12-4 and made it to the Super Bowl two years ago before injuries struck the team hard last season.
“That firepower changes a little bit,” Arians said of the 49ers hypothetically acquiring Rodgers. “But they have got to stay healthy. They’ve been beat up with injuries. Last year was brutal, but they still won what – seven games? But they have to come out of that NFC West – which is ridiculous.”
The team that Arians believes poses the biggest threat to the Bucs is another team in the NFC West.
“I think the Rams with Matt Stafford are significantly better than they were with Jared Goff,” Arians said. “Matt Stafford doesn’t get near enough credit that he deserves. I say it’s like Ford bought a Ferrari in put it in the garage for 10 years. That’s kind of like Matt Stafford being in Detroit. You never really got to see that thing unleashed. I think you are going to see that with Sean McVay. I love Cam Akers. Their defense isn’t going to be as good, but they are going to be solid.”
In the NFC South, which has been dominated by New Orleans for the past four years, Arians sees the Bucs taking the divisional title this year. The Bucs put the Saints on notice in last year’s divisional round of the playoffs with a convincing win in the Superdome.
“I like what Carolina is building, but they are a few years away from that,” Arians said. “They know they are building into that direction and I like the young nucleus they have put together over there. Atlanta with a first-year head coach in Arthur Smith – they’ve got a bunch of defensive issues. We may beat them 40-33 because that offense is going to be able to put up some points with Kyle Pitts, who was a hell of a draft pick. If they move Julio or not, they’re going to be tough to beat offensively. We should win the division.”
The Bucs have won two Super Bowls in franchise history not just because of talent, but because they’ve stayed healthy. In 2002, the team only had one starter on injured reserve – nose tackle Booger McFarland. Last year, the Bucs only had one starter on I.R. as well – right guard Alex Cappa.
“I think we’re the favorites,” Arians said. “Either way Kansas City – whoever you want to throw in there when you talk about the AFC – I think it’s being healthy and getting hot again at the right time. If we get healthy going into the playoffs regardless of seeding – I’d love to see us have home-field advantage and get some home playoff games for the fans that didn’t get to go to the Super Bowl. But I don’t think it really matters. This team proved that it could go on the road and win. I think the main thing is getting healthy when playoff time rolls around.”
FAB 3. SR’s Observations On The Bucs’ Schedule
Tampa Bay’s 2021 regular season schedule is out and only features one of the NFC contenders that Jake Arians was talking about – the Los Angeles Rams. Here are my thoughts on the Bucs’ 17 games en route to the team defending its Super Bowl championship.
BUCS’ 2021 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
Week 1 – Sept. 9: vs. Dallas – 8:20 PM ET – NBC Thursday Night Football
Aside from all NFL teams having a week off prior to the season opener, the Bucs will have 10 days to prepare for the Falcons in Week 2. Tampa Bay’s defense will be the difference in this one, as Dallas’ offense has plenty of firepower, too.
Week 2 – Sept. 19: vs. Atlanta – 4:05 PM ET – FOX
Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Falcons better hope Dan Pees’ defense is better than Raheem Morris’ because the Bucs lit up the Falcons for a combined 75 points in two games last year.
Week 3 – Sept. 26: at L.A. Rams – 4:25 PM ET – FOX
Speaking of Morris, he takes over as the defensive coordinator of a more talented Rams team. The Bucs will want revenge for last year’s three-point loss in Tampa, but new QB Matt Stafford will make this game even more challenging.
Week 4 – Oct. 4: at New England – 8:20 PM ET – NBC Sunday Night Football
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski return to New England to take on former boss Bill Belichick and a host of Patriots teammates. Pride will be on the line on both sides and this could be one of the highest-rates Sunday Night Football games of all time.
Week 5 – Oct. 10: vs. Miami – 1:00 PM ET – CBS
I’m not convinced that Tua Tagovailoa is the real deal, but the Dolphins are improved under Brian Flores and certainly more formidable. After challenging back-to-back road games, the Bucs need to win this home game before hitting the road again.
Week 6 – Oct. 14: at Philadelphia – 8:20 PM ET – Amazon Thursday Night Football
Brady and the Bucs take on Jalen Hurts and the Eagles on a short week. All of the recent traveling might make Tampa Bay a bit road weary, but Philadelphia is definitely beatable. Coming back with a win to rest up for 10 days before taking on the Bears is the obvious goal.
Week 7 – Oct. 24: vs. Chicago – 4:25 PM ET – CBS
Bucs CB Jamel Dean and Bears TE Jimmy Graham – Photo by: USA Today
The Bucs’ revenge tour, which started in L.A. in Week 3, continues in Week 7 when Chicago comes to town. The expectation is that rookie Justin Fields is under center by then, much to Todd Bowles’ delight. Tampa Bay is looking to avenge last year’s 20-19 loss in the Windy City.
Week 8 – Oct. 31: at New Orleans – 4:25 PM ET – FOX
Speaking of revenge, both sides will be seeking it on Halloween. The Bucs return to the scene of the crime where they killed the Saints’ Super Bowl dreams in the divisional playoff round. New Orleans swept Tampa Bay last year prior to that, and NFC South supremacy is on the line.
Week 9 – BYE
The bye week comes at a great time for the Bucs this year, as 12 straight weeks of football was too much as the team started the season 7-5 with back-to-back losses prior to Week 12.
Week 10 – Nov. 14: at Washington – 1:00 PM ET – FOX
In a rematch of last year’s wild card playoff game, this will be one of Tampa Bay’s most challenging games of the year due to Washington’s defense. And Ryan Fitzpatrick will love to square off against Brady one more time.
Week 11 – Nov. 22: vs. N.Y. Giants – 8:15 PM ET – ESPN Monday Night Football
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: USA Today
Another week, another rematch, as the Bucs and the Giants battle each other again on Monday Night Football. Tampa Bay escaped from New York with a 25-23 win in 2020. Remarkably, the Giants and Bucs will play each other for the fifth year in a row.
Week 12 – Nov. 28: at Indianapolis – 1:00 PM ET – FOX
This is the Bucs’ bonus game with the change to a 17-game schedule. The Colts are hoping Carson Wentz can help take them to the next level. The Bucs are hoping Wentz is the same QB he was in Philly that made the Eagles bench him in favor of Hurts.
Week 13 – Dec. 5: at Atlanta – 1:00 PM ET – FOX
Will the Falcons be better by Week 13? That’s Arthur Smith’s plan. Tampa Bay plans on sweeping Atlanta. That might not be easy if first-round pick Kyle Pitts is in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Week 14 – Dec. 12: vs. Buffalo – 4:25 PM ET – CBS
Will this be a Super Bowl preview? Buffalo is expected to contend with Kansas City for the AFC title once again. The Bucs get a pre-playoff tune-up against a very good AFC foe led by up-and-coming QB Josh Allen.
Week 15 – Dec. 19: New Orleans – 8:20 PM ET – NBC Sunday Night Football
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
After being swept by the Saints in each of the last two years perhaps the Bucs can do the sweeping. Tampa Bay will try to atone for last year’s embarrassing 38-3 loss to New Orleans on Sunday Night Football at Ray-Jay in this do-over.
Week 16 – Dec. 26: at Carolina – 1:00 PM ET – FOX
The Bucs don’t get to play the Panthers until the end of the season and play them twice in the span of three weeks. Look for Carolina to be one of the more improved teams in the NFC by December – as long as Sam Darnold develops.
Week 17 – Jan. 2: at N.Y. Jets – 1:00 PM ET – FOX
The Jets will be making strides under new head coach Robert Salah and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The Bucs will be faced with a big-time cold weather game in New York, but proved last year in Green Bay that nothing can stop them in January.
Week 18 – Jan. 9: vs. Carolina – 1:00 PM ET – FOX
The Panthers and the Bucs end the season in Tampa Bay – both looking for some momentum. For Carolina, it’s momentum to start the 2022 season. For Tampa Bay it’s momentum to head into the playoffs with a division championship and possibly home-field advantage as the Bucs look to defend their Super Bowl title.
FAB 4. Bucs Veterans That Must Shine This Offseason – Or Else
For the first time in Tampa Bay history, the Bucs entered a draft not needing to select an immediate starter. The team re-signed all of its starters and most important backups in free agency thanks to Jason Licht, Mike Greenberg and Jackie Davidson.
Yet the Bucs added seven players through the draft and signed eight more undrafted free agents. To say that competition will be fierce for some key reserve roles on the 53-man roster would be an understatement.
Here are eight Buccaneers that really need to step up this offseason and have a great training camp or they might not be on Tampa Bay’s opening day roster in September.
QB Ryan Griffin
Bucs QB Ryan Griffin – Photo by: Getty Images
The Bucs will only keep three quarterbacks – and two of them will be Tom Brady and Kyle Trask, the team’s second-round pick. That means Griffin will have to pull off a grand upset and unseat Blaine Gabbert as Brady’s backup. Given the team’s fondness for Gabbert that is a tall order. But Griffin has shined in the preseason before, leading the league in preseason passing in 2019. The only problem is that Trask is expected to receive a lot of preseason reps – and there are only three preseason games this year. Griffin may have to rely on an injury to one of the Bucs’ QBs to have a shot at making the roster.
WR Justin Watson
Watson, who is entering his fourth season, hasn’t developed into a receiver at the NFL level and has seen Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson move past him on the depth chart. Watson has been a good special teams player, but the addition of Jaelon Darden likely steals his roster spot, as the Bucs won’t keep seven receivers. Watson’s best chance of winning a spot in Tampa Bay’s talented and crowded receiver room appears to be beating out Johnson, last year’s fifth-round pick, or hope that Darden bombs in the preseason. Watson will have to do his part in becoming more consistent getting open and catching the ball.
G John Molchon
Molchon was one of two undrafted free agents to make the team last year, but suffered a knee injury in training camp that required surgery. The Bucs like his versatility to play guard or tackle, but have added some newcomers this offseason in third-round pick Robert Hainsey and undrafted free agent Sadarius Hutcherson. Throw in Nick Leverett, an undrafted free agent last year who is back for another training camp and the improvement of Aaron Stinnie and it will be a tall order for Molchon to make the team as a reserve interior offensive lineman in 2021.
DT Khalil Davis
Bucs DT Khalil Davis – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Davis’ roster spot seems secure this year, but he really needs to develop into a rotational player on defense in 2021. Last year’s sixth-round pick didn’t have an offseason program or a preseason to get valuable reps, but he’ll need to shine in those situations this summer. The Bucs didn’t draft a defensive tackle in April due to lack of quality and quantity at the position, and Ndamukong Suh (34) and Steve McLendon (35) are likely in their final seasons in the NFL. The Bucs need Davis to show that he’s worth keeping around in 2022, as the team is expected to revamp the defensive tackle spot then. In the meantime, Davis will have to fend off holdover Benning Potoa’e and newcomers Sam Renner and Kobe Smith for a 2021 roster spot.
OLB Cam Gill
The drafting of Joe Tryon in the first round likely cost Gill his roster spot unless he can beat out former fourth-round pick Anthony Nelson or convince the Bucs to keep five outside linebackers due to his superior special teams play. Gill, an undrafted free agent signing from a year ago, was the fourth OLB on the depth chart last year and recorded half a sack in the Super Bowl. It will come down to Gill beating out Nelson, which is a tall task, in addition to practice squad player Quinton Bell and newcomer Ladarius Hamilton.
ILB Kevin Minter
The team thinks highly of the veteran Minter, who was last year’s special teams captain. He likely sticks around for one more year at age 31 due to his experience. But the arrival of veteran special teams player Joe Jones from Denver, coupled with the drafting of K.J. Britt and Grant Stuard on Day 3 complicates things for Minter. He’ll have to show he can still play on defense and special teams at a high level. There are two roster spots behind Lavonte David and Devin White, and Minter must prove he’s worthy of one of them and let Jones, Britt and Stuard duke it out for the other one.
CB Herb Miller
Bucs CB Herb Miller – Photo by: USA Today
The Bucs return all three starting cornerbacks in Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, in addition to veteran reserve Ross Cockrell, who signed a two-year deal this offseason. Tampa Bay will keep five cornerbacks and Miller, who has great size (6-2, 190) and recorded his first career INT last year at Detroit, has the inside track on the fifth spot on the depth chart. The Bucs drafted another big cornerback in Chris Wilcox (6-2, 193), who has blazing 4.31 speed to help on special teams. Miller will have to shine on special teams to push Wilcox to the practice squad and keep newcomers Cameron Kinley (6-2, 204) and Nate Brooks (6-0, 192) at bay.
S Javon Hagan
The Bucs really liked Hagan’s development behind the scenes last year and it looked like his chances of making the team again improved when Andrew Adams left via free agency. But the Bucs just added veteran Raven Green and a pair of undrafted free agents in Auggie Contressa and Lawrence White IV that will force Hagan to shine in camp and the preseason, especially on special tams, to stick as the fourth safety – or make the Bucs keep five safeties again. Jordan Whitehead, Antoine Winfield, Jr. and Mike Edwards are already guaranteed roster spots due to their experience and playmaking ability.
FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• DAVID IN ELITE COMPANY: What an amazing stat from CBS Sports. Bucs linebacker Lavonte David is one of only two players in NFL history to start their career with 1,000 tackles, 20 sacks and 10 interceptions. The other? Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.
Only two players in NFL history have 1,000+ tackles, 20 sacks, and 10 INT through their first eight seasons.
Saints QB Drew Brees and Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today
• BRADY TO BREAK A BIG RECORD VS. THE PATS?Pro Football Talk reported that Bucs quarterback Tom Brady could become the league’s all-time leading passer in Week 4 when he returns to Foxboro to play his former team, the New England Patriots. Brady has 79,204 career passing yards and currently trails the recently retired Drew Brees (80,358) by 1,154 yards.
If he averages 289.6 yards per game in the first four games of the season he would surpass Brees against the Patriots. Brady happened to average 289.6 yards per game last year en route to throwing for 4,633 yards with 40 TDs. There’s a good chance Brady joins Brees as the only QB to pass for 80,000 yards by Week 3.
• BIG WEEK ON THE PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts four live episodes each week in the offseason – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:00 p.m. ET unless there is a special event.
Pewter Report had Jake Arians, son of Bruce Arians, on Monday’s Pewter Report Podcast. Then we hosted a special Bucs’ 2021 Schedule Release Show on Wednesday night. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel – PewterReportTV – to watch those episodes if you missed them.
Here are the four latest editions of the Pewter Report Podcast to watch in case you missed an episode.
Pewter Report’s Mark Cook and Scott Reynolds welcomed Jake Arians to the show on Monday. The trio talked about his father’s Hall of Fame candidacy, the Bucs draft and the team’s outlook in 2021.
The entire Pewter Report staff weighed in on Tampa Bay’s 2021 schedule, which was released on Wednesday night.
Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard and Mark Cook talked about the biggest challenge for the Bucs in the 2021 season.
Watch the Pewter Report Podcasts live on our PewterReportTV channel on YouTube.com and please subscribe (it’s free) and add your comments. All Pewter Report Podcasts are archived so you can watch the recorded episodes if you missed them live.
There is no better time to listen to or watch a new Pewter Report Podcast – energized by CELSIUS – than Friday afternoon on the way home from work, or early Saturday morning during your workout or while running errands.
• BRADY THRIVES IN SEASON OPENERS: Bucs QB Tom Brady had two TDs in last year’s season opener. And he’s only three TDs away from beating Drew Brees’ record for most career TDs on opening day. Will that happen this year against Dallas in Week 1 on Thursday Night Football?
• DALLAS’ PRESCOTT IS NOT A ROAD WARRIOR: Greg Auman has a great stat about Dallas QB Dak Prescott. Well, it’s a great stat for Bucs fans – not so much for Cowboys fans.
One note on Bucs-Cowboys 2021 season opener in Tampa: Dak Prescott's home/road career splits are more glaring than most — he's 24-11 at home, 18-16 on road, with 16 more touchdown passes in home games.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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