FAB 3. SR’s Takeaways From Arians’ Presser
New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians certainly won the press conference, didn’t he? But then again, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter said all the right things at their introductory press conferences, too. Tampa Bay fans are getting tired of seeing a guy win the press conference every two or three years. The fans – and the Glazers – want to see the new head coach win some games.
But having sat in the interview and then for an additional 15-minute session with Arians and the Bucs’ beat reporters, what Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht said was true. Arians has swagger, he has a proven track record, he commands the room and he has the “it” factor. I would be really surprised if the Bucs don’t make the playoffs in 2019 because that is all Arians is thinking about.
“I think we have the core here to win quickly,” Arians said. “I’m not about building – I’m about reloading.”
When asked about how hard he thinks this turnaround will be, Arians didn’t bat an eye.
“I don’t think very hard at all,” Arians said. “I think there’s an excellent base of talent here, I don’t think talent will be an issue when you take the field. It’s just situational football. Jason and I will get to work right away on evaluating the roster. We’ll get the coaches in here and evaluate the roster – what can we do to improve the roster at every position, and get it out on the field and start practicing. I really can’t wait. The coaching staff should all get here next week. We’ll get acclimated. I’ll tell the players in the first meeting: talent will not be an issue. I don’t need to speak to you to make you a winner, you decide if you want to win or not. You’re accountable for every decision that you make – it has to be on and off the field. There’s one cause and that’s to win a ring.”
The Big Takeaway
Here are some of the notes I took from Arians’ press conference and the Q&A session with reporters in the media workroom at the team’s AdventHealth Training Center.
• Arians is a big believer in accountability, and I think that is something that is sorely needed at One Buccaneer Place. I don’t think that former head coach Dirk Koetter and his assistants went far enough in this area and it showed with back-to-back 5-11 seasons.
Arians demands that players play hard every down and plans on holding them accountable. When asked how he handles players that don’t play hard, Arians gave a classic answer that was music to my ears.
“Yeah, I’ll show it up on the film and ask him what he was doing in front of the team,” Arians said. “I don’t have a problem with that. If you can’t play hard, you can’t play here. That’s just unacceptable. We’ll have an accountability sheet I call it. Every mental error, every penalty in practice – that’s how we start every day with the accountability sheet. Now if you’re up there too much you’re either too dumb to play here or you don’t give a shit. So you can’t be a Buc.”
The first player I thought of when I heard this was left tackle Donovan Smith, who is prone to having a few lazy plays that sometimes turn out to be very costly. Arians and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin will either push Smith towards greatness or push him out of Tampa Bay.
• Arians is an outside-the-box thinker, and I love it. His concept of having an extra large-sized coaching staff so that he can have two practices going on simultaneously – one for veterans and one for young players – is genius.
“In spring when you guys come out to OTAs (organized team activities), you’ll see two practices going on because we’ll have a staff that can take all our young players and get those 40-45 reps that the veterans are getting,” Arians said. “You can’t find a diamond in the rough if he’s standing on the sideline watching. We don’t know if a rookie can really learn if he only gets three reps. We’re going to have those guys and we love young players. I love veteran players. This is a great group.”
The first person I thought of when I heard this was running back Ronald Jones II, one of the team’s second-round picks last year. We’ll find out in 2019 if Jones can play in this league or if he’s a bust because Arians is going to try to rapidly develop him.
“It’s a unique concept that we did in Arizona – that he brought to Arizona,” Licht said. “He’s exactly right. In order to develop players you have to give them more than six or seven reps, so the two-practice concept is outstanding. It’s music to my ears.”
• Word has it that after watching film, new Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is really high on two defenders that have really underperformed in Tampa Bay – free safety Justin Evans and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Evans had a solid rookie season, tying the team lead with three interceptions after being drafted in the second round in 2017, but played way too tentatively last year. Hargreaves, the Bucs’ first overall pick, has only played in 10 games over the past two years due to season-ending injuries. It will be interesting to see if Bowles and the Bucs’ new assistant coaches can get those players to play up to their vast potential.
• I asked Arians in his press conference about turning over the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. Arians has always called the plays when he was a head coach or an offensive coordinator, so he has to have supreme confidence in Leftwich’s ability as a coach.
“I’ve been training guys for this job,” Arians said. “I always said I would never give it up and look over anybody’s shoulder until I found one I knew could do it. Harold Goodwin did it for me for a little while, but Byron [Leftwich] I think is rising star in this business. What he did with the interim title out there [in Arizona in 2018] – it wasn’t even his offense, it was Mike McCoy’s offense – and he did a heck of a job with some rookies. He’s more than ready. I think this coaching staff is going to be outstanding.”
I love the fact that Arians has an eye for talent when it comes to assistant coaches. Bowles has already been a head coach in New York, and another Arians’ protégé, Freddie Kitchens, is the new head coach in Cleveland. There will be some future head coaches on his Bucs staff, too, and his belief in developing coaches is akin to that of Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden when they were in Tampa Bay.
“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’s 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.”
Arians believes in three things – trust, loyalty and respect. All of the coaches that he will have on his staff are guys that he has either coached with at Temple or in the NFL, or former players that he has coached in college or in the pros. He believes that experience matters in the NFL, and everybody on his staff will be rowing in the same direction. Arians said all it takes is one rogue assistant to screw things up, which is why he cleaned house in Tampa Bay and brought in an entirely new coaching staff of men he can trust.
• Arians said he will be heavily involved in the draft process with Licht and that the scouts and assistants will also work closely together. He said that in his mind there really is no personnel department and coaching staff – that the coaches and scouts are one unit together. Every decision will be a Bucs decision.
That’s a great approach, and one that is needed, as there was some friction between the personnel staff and some on Koetter’s staff over the last couple of years. Don’t be surprised if some of the Bucs’ draft picks that haven’t panned out suddenly look like NFL players under Arians.
The FABulous Ending
What sticks out to me about Arians’ philosophy when it comes to coaches is that he is a big developer of coaching talent. I asked Licht about the fact that there could be a successor already on the staff for the 66-year old Arians, and nodded his head in agreement.
“That’s one of the things that is exciting about this whole process this year is that we have Todd Bowles, we have Harold Goodwin, who I interviewed and he did an excellent job,” Licht said. “We have Keith Armstrong, who has interviewed for head coaching jobs. Having that many great minds come together is really going to help Bruce and help us. He’s 66, but he even said in his interview with myself and ownership, ‘I’m 66, but I’m 66 and sexy.’
“He’s sharp as hell. He’s a great leader. He’s a great motivator. He knows how to delegate. He’s a lot of fun to be with, and winning is the No. 1 thing that he wants. He wants to put a ring on everybody’s finger in this organization. I don’t see age being an issue.”