Bruce Arians explains why he left retirement to join Buccaneers

Jan 10, 2019, 3:02 PM | Updated: 3:51 pm
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, left, smiles as he stands with general manager Ja...
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, left, smiles as he stands with general manager Jason Licht after Arians was introduced during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Cardinals fans may want answers from former head coach Bruce Arians.

It was just a year ago that he retired from the NFL, stepping aside and pondering his post-coaching future before accepting a CBS Sports analyst gig.

And after a year away from the game, after Arians had said it was time to live a less stressful life with his family in mind, he accepted a head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Why did Cardinals fans need to suffer through a 3-13 season under replacement coach Steve Wilks, watching as formerly productive linebackers struggled in a new defense? Why did they watch Arizona run through two offensive coordinators and two quarterbacks when the quarterback whisperer Arians could have just stayed on board?

When Arians was introduced as the Bucs head coach on Thursday, he provided answers.

“I’m sure a lot of people wonder why I got back in this business,” Arians said as he stepped to the podium and faced reporters in Tampa Bay for the first time.

So he explained why the stars aligned for him to get back into coaching.

B.A. got the A-OK

The football life got to Arians when he was with the Cardinals. He admitted he would always fall ill once his seasons came to an end, but he also dealt with two serious health scares during his five years in Arizona.

In August of 2016, Arians was sent to the hospital with chest pains. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis before returning to the job days later.

The next February, Arizona’s coach had surgery to remove a section of his kidney after tests revealed cancerous tissue. He revealed that health issue in his book, “The Quarterback Whisperer.”

“My own illnesses changed a few things,” he said Thursday. “Got everything — clean bill of health and extremely happy about that. That same feeling, regeneration — rejuvenation — is back.”

Arians also got the green light from his wife, Christine, who played a big part in Arians’ decision to step away from the game last year.

“She had gradually got on (board) — as more she saw me get excited I think she started to get excited,” he said. “The reception the Bucs put on flipped her over the top. So she’s in good shape.”

A Cardinals connection

Arians wanted a good relationship with his GM and the ownership, just as he had with Arizona.

Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht was personnel executive (2008), director of player personnel (2012) and VP of player personnel (2013) with Arizona before joining the Buccaneers.

“There’s three keys to winning this league: Ownership, general manager (and) head coach combination. Then when you got a quarterback, pretty good start,” Arians said.

And that leads us to …

Jameis Winston

Arians has known Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston since the signal-caller’s early high school days, where they met at a football camp.

They have been in touch since, and Arians will be key in helping Winston perform to his potential that got him drafted No. 1 overall in 2015. Now in a contract year, Winston is coming off a season in which he was repeatedly benched for backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“I always looked him up when we played him and told him to keep on going, it’s going to be fine,” Arians said.

Because of the talent in Tampa Bay, Arians called taking the Bucs job an easier sell than the situation he accepted when GM Steve Keim brought him to Arizona in 2013. Arizona had yet to trade for Carson Palmer or sign backup QB Drew Stanton.

“This (situation is) much easier I believe. When I walked into Arizona, we had no quarterbacks,” Arians said.

“I think the core’s here. Obviously, some of the rooms are outstanding. There, it was a little bit further behind.”

Missing the camaraderie 

Arians didn’t exactly enjoy the censored version of himself in the press box.

But he also missed the challenge of building a culture.

“The thing I missed the most as I was in broadcasting … the bonds and relationships that you build, building a football team, the ups the downs, all the things that go in between, probably is the thing that I love the most about the game,” Arians said.

“And then I miss the arena. I’d be broadcasting a game — obviously, I couldn’t use the words I would normally use on television. The excitement kept building. Then when this opportunity came, all the dominoes — I would say the stars aligned. And then the staff that I wanted and always wanted was available.”

His dream staff fell into place

A man who does it his way, Arians wouldn’t have returned to the coaching ranks had he not been able to put his best staff together.

That was made easy with several of his old friends losing their jobs after the 2018 season.

Tampa Bay has already hired former Jets head coach and Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Associate head coach Harold Goodwin and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich — two former Cardinals offensive coordinators — are also on the Buccaneers’ new staff.

Keith Armstrong, a special teams coach who earned an interview with Arizona during last year’s coaching search, was brought on as well.

For the first time as a head coach, Arians will cede play-calling duties to Leftwich, who gained experience for half a season as Arizona’s offensive coordinator this past season.

“I’ve been training guys for this job, and I always said I would never give it up and look over anybody’s shoulder until I found somebody who could do it,” Arians said. “Byron I think is a rising star in this business. What he did with an interim title out there wasn’t even his offense, it was Mike McCoy’s offense, and he did a heck of a job with some rookies. He’s ready.”

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