Bucs’ Bruce Arians, Cardinals rehash shared memories before Sunday
TEMPE, Ariz. — Twelve Arizona Cardinals have played through the no-risk-it-no-biscuit culture of Bruce Arians, the uptight and rules-heavy era of Steve Wilks and now the business-casual leadership under Kliff Kingsbury.
That’s been the whirlwind around Arizona in just the last three years. As quickly as things change for football teams searching for stability, life can change as fast for the human beings ejected from the grind of the NFL.
Take Arians as an example.
Three weeks before the Cardinals wrapped the 2017 season with a road game against the Seattle Seahawks, Arians had decided to call it a career. He announced that to his team in the locker room after an emotional win, then set off searching for a post-coaching life.
Arians sat in the broadcast booth for CBS last year, but then the perfect opportunity appeared, leading him to leave retirement and join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as head coach this offseason.
“All the assistants were available,” Arians said. “I knew (GM) Jason (Licht), I knew the quarterback (Jameis Winston). Everything kind of fell into place. When my wife felt excited about it, I felt excited about it.”
Tampa Bay (2-6) hosts Arizona (3-5-1) on Sunday, and for Arians and those 12 Cardinals who’ve been around the last three years, familiar faces will be staring back at them.
On the field, Buccaneers linebacker Kevin Minter, running back T.J. Logan and offensive lineman Earl Watford are former Cardinals. On the sidelines, 13 members of Arians’ Tampa Bay staff once worked for Arizona, including defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and offensive coaches Byron Leftwich and Harold Goodwin.
Even Licht is a product of the Cardinals franchise. He served in the front office with Arizona GM Steve Keim in 2008 and then 2012-13.
Beyond the swap in teams, the biggest change for Arians from the time he left Arizona until his first year in Tampa Bay is that he ceded play-calling duties to Byron Leftwich, who last year took over as Cardinals offensive coordinator after Arizona fired Mike McCoy halfway through the year.
“It’s a little bit more boring on Sunday,” Arians said of his lessened responsibilities.
The past week leading into the game reminded some of Arians’ former players of the good times working under him.
It also led to several recitings of classic Arianisms.
“One of his stories was if you’re walking down the street and you see a pitbull and it starts chasing you, are you going to stretch first and run? Or are you going to take off?” Cardinals safety Budda Baker said of Arians’ philosophy behind why Arizona didn’t stretch as a team before practices.
Running back David Johnson remembers Arians for being tough, not only on young players — D.J. Humphries’ nickname of “Knee Deep” came up on Wednesday — but on the Cardinals’ stars as well.
In one 2016 game, Johnson remembers running for more than 150 yards and scoring three touchdowns. But Arians didn’t give him a game ball because Johnson fumbled once and missed a pass protection or two.
Of course, there was the cockiness, aggressiveness and R-rated language that made Arians, the Cardinals’ franchise leader with 50 wins, a dangerous coach to play against and a favorite of his players.
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson remembers the time Arians wore black socks to practice.
Asked by the defensive backs why he chose that color, the head coach said it was “because I’m getting ready for a funeral,” Peterson recalled. “We ’bout to bomb you guyses’ (expletive).’
“He dang sure did. When you have a head coach like that that’s able to know how to push certain buttons and get the best out of your players, you’ve got something special.”
Former Cardinals on the Buccaneers’ coaching staff
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles — Cardinals DC (2013-14)
Asst. Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin — OC (2013-17)
Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich — QBs coach, interim QB coach/offensive coordinator (2017)
OLB coach Larry Foote — ILB coach (2015-17), LB coach (2018)
WR coach Kevin Garver — offensive assistant, WRs(2013-18); wide receivers coach (2018)
Asst. Special Teams coach Amos Jones — Special teams coordinator (2013-17)
ILBs coach Mike Caldwell — LBs coach (2013-14)
Safeties coach Nick Rapone — DBs coach (2013-17)
CBs coach Kevin Ross — CBs coach (2013-17)
TEs coach Rick Christophel — TEs coach (2013-17)
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom — Assistant strength and conditioning coach (2014-17).
Head strength coach Anthony Piroli — Assistant strength and conditioning coach (2015-17)
Assistant to the head coach Mike Chiurco — Defensive assistant, assistant DBs coach (2013-17)