By Terrance Turner
March 30, 2022
Bruce Arians is stepping down as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Arians will now become a senior consultant in the team’s front office, the Buccaneers announced Wednesday. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will succeed him as head coach. Arians made the bombshell announcement tonight, informing players and personnel just moments before the news became public.
In a text to players, Arians, wrote, in part: “First, I want to apologize that I’m having to send this note out in a mass text, but there really isn’t another options this time of the year. I wanted to let you all know, before it becomes news in a few minutes, that I have made the decision to transition from coaching in to a role in the front office helping Jason and his staff. Todd is going to be named the new coach and I know he is going to do a great job continuing to build upon the success we have experienced together these past few seasons.”
After thanking the players for their hard work and reflecting on what he called “a hell of a ride coaching you guys,” Arians added: “Now, before you start thinking this is goodbye, it isn’t. I’ll still be around the offices and available to cuss you out when you screw things up on the practice field.”
This blindsiding news comes just two years after Arians led the Bucs to a Super Bowl — and just weeks after the retirement (and un-retirement) of Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. In an official team statement, Arians explained the reasons behind his seemingly sudden decision: “I have spent most of the last 50 years of my life on the sidelines as a football coach in one form or another. Today, I have made the decision to move from the sidelines into another role with the Buccaneers front office, assisting Jason Licht and his staff,” he wrote. “I love football. I love the relationships, the strategy, the competition—everything. It has been one hell of a ride, but I know this is the right time for me to make this transition.
So why now?
The simple answer is that I have accomplished more than I ever dreamed I could during this incredible coaching journey. Winning Super Bowl LV at our home stadium, with my mom and family in attendance, was really the last item I wanted to check off my career bucket list.” (Arians led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-9 Super Bowl victory in Feb. 2021, making them the first team ever to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Quarterback Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl; Arians became the oldest coach ever to do so.)
“For me, this is about more than just trying to add more wins to my coaching record,” Arians continued. “This team is in a much better place than it was three years ago due to Jason’s great work and the Glazer family’s commitment to winning. Before you start thinking this is about my health, don’t. This is the best I have felt in many years and I’m looking forward to helping this team continue winning through my new role.
“I want to focus on what I can give back to this incredible game that has provided so much for me and my family. I really began thinking about my personal transition plan earlier this offseason. I wanted to ensure when I walked away that Todd Bowles would have the best opportunity to succeed. So many head coaches come into situations where they are set up for failure, and I didn’t want that for Todd. Tom’s decision to come back, along with Jason and his staff doing another great job of keeping the core of this team intact during free agency, confirmed for me that it was the right time to pass the torch to Todd. I began conversations with Jason and the Glazer family a few weeks ago about a possible succession plan. Their understanding and support mean the world to me.”
“Todd is a great football coach and I know he will do excellent things here with the Buccaneers,” Arians said.
While the news catches many in the NFL world by surprise, this decision was apparently one that Arians had been mulling for some time. NBC Sports writer Peter King, the first reporter to break the news, noted that Arians had begun considering stepping down a month ago, during the NFL Scouting Combine, and reiterated that it was not health-related. (Arians, 69, is a prostate cancer survivor who is currently dealing with a torn Achilles.)
King and Arians also rejected the projection by some fans and pundits that the move was due to tension with Brady. As King put it: “It was rumored that Brady had problems with Arians and the supposed lax nature of how the team was handled at times in his first two years with the team, and that factored into Brady’s 40-day retirement at the end of the 2021 season. Brady announced his return to the Bucs on March 13.” But Arians rejected the suggestion that his stepping down had to do with Brady returning.
“No,” Arians said. “No. Tom was very in favor of what I’m doing. I mean, I had conflicts with every player I coached because I cussed them all out, including him. Great relationship off the field.” The two worked well on the field, too — in his two season with Arians, Brady threw 83 touchdowns and threw for 9,949 passing yards, his highest numbers ever in a two-year span.
Though Arians’ decision came out of the blue for many observers, Tom Brady apparently knew about it for weeks. According to Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud, “Brady was informed Bruce Arians planned to step down and Todd Bowles would succeed him as head coach either the same day or a day after the QB announced he was ending his retirement, the [Times] has learned. Team insists it was not related to Brady’s decision.”
Brady, for his part, reacted to the news by showering Arians with praise: “Thank you, BA,” he wrote. “You are a incredible man and coach, and it was privilege to play for you. You are a true legend and pioneer for all the work yo have done to make the league more diverse and inclusive.
Smart, tough, and loyal are a few of the words to describe your style. I will always remember the conversations we had when you recruited me two years ago and all of the things we discussed came true,” he went on. “We all benefited from your leadership and guidance and I’m so proud of everything we accomplished. You were a huge part of the decision to join the Bucs and I’m forever grateful.”
UPDATE (MARCH 31, 2022): In a press conference today, Arians elaborated on his decision: “It’s been a great three years. When you know it’s time, it’s time. And now better time than right now,” he said. “Three years ago sitting at this podium, we talked about creating a culture, a winning atmosphere, that we’re going to do it our way. We’re going to be fast, we’re going to by physical, we’re going to be smart. And it’s paid off.”
Brady was in attendance for the conference. we have a great relationship. All the players that are in here — there are a few in here — every one of them’s gotten cussed out. Alright? Including him. That’s just part of me,” Arians said, to laughs. “But we have a great relationship.”
People gotta write,” he said. “And it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Arians reiterated his sentiment that the team is in a better place than it was three years ago, when he joined. Arians arrived in Tampa Bay after a storied, unconventional career. According to King, Arians has a 47-year coaching history, dating back to his graduate assistant days in 1975 at Virginia Tech. (Arians played college football at Virginia Tech, as what ESPN called “a wishbone quarterback”. He was Alabama’s running backs coach on Bear Bryant staff in his last two seasons (1981-’82) as a coach, and he speaks reverentially of his days as a kid working for Bryant.
“I always remembered Coach Bryant’s best advice: Coach ’em hard, hug ’em later,’ Arians said.
He was Peyton Manning’s first quarterback coach in 1998 in Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger’s mentor in Pittsburgh till 2011, and was hired to be Andrew Luck’s first pro offensive coordinator in 2012 in Indianapolis. That’s where Arians got his first chance as a head coach at age 60. Early in the 2012 season, Colts coach Chuck Pagano had to take a leave for leukemia treatment. That’s when the Arians star began to shine. He won coach of the year twice—going 9-3 in 2012 in that interim role with the Colts, and then in 2014 with the ascending Cardinals.