The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will entrust Bruce Arians to return them to the postseason, something he’s all too familiar with during his quarter-century in the National Football League.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers announced the hiring of Arians as the 12th head coach in franchise history; he and the team agreed to a four-year contract through 2022 with a fifth-year option in 2023. Arians succeeds Dirk Koetter, who was relieved of his duties on December 31 after three seasons at the helm. He returns to the field after one season as a broadcaster for CBS, but his NFL experience is extensive and marked with success, especially during his five-plus seasons as a head coach.
“Bruce Arians is one of the NFL’s most well-respected coaches over the past two decades and we are excited to have him leading our team. Throughout this process, we focused on finding the right coach with a proven ability to elevate our players and lead our team forward. Bruce has played a large role in the development and career success of some of our league’s best players and we look forward to seeing him continue that work here with our franchise,” said Buccaneers Owner/Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer.
Arians served as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach from 2013-17 before electing to retire at the end of the 2017 campaign. During those five years, the Cardinals posted a record of 49-30-1, making Arians the winningest coach in the history of a franchise that began play in 1920. Including his 12-game stint as an interim head coach in Indianapolis in 2012, during which his team went 9-3, Arians has an all-time head coaching record of 58-33-1 and an exceptional winning percentage of .636. He was named the NFL Coach of the Year by the Associated Press in both 2012 and 2014, first with the Colts and later with the Cardinals.
The Buccaneers, looking to break an 11-year postseason drought, have found a leader whose NFL tenure suggests he can do just that. Arians has been on an NFL coaching staff for 25 seasons, and 15 of those have ended in the playoffs. That includes three trips to the Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers – in the 2005, 2008 and 2010 seasons – the first two of which resulted in league championships. Arians was Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator for the latter two of those Super Bowl seasons.
Arians’ Arizona teams made the playoffs in two of his first three seasons at the helm; the franchise was postseason-bound in just three of its previous 30 campaigns. He also experienced three postseason trips in four years with Kansas City (1989-92), two with the Colts in a three-year stint in Indianapolis (1998-2000) and one during three years in Cleveland (2001-03). The Browns’ postseason foray in 2002 stands as the team’s only playoff trip in the 20 years since the franchise returned to play in 1999.
Overall, the 25 NFL teams for which Arians has worked as a coach have compiled a regular-season record of 238-153-2 for a winning percentage of .598.
Arians’ coaching background leans towards the offensive side of the ball, but his teams in Arizona fared extremely well on defense. The Cardinals ranked in the top 10 in points allowed in three of his five years at the helm and in the top 10 in yards allowed in four of those five seasons. The Cardinals allowed the sixth-fewest points and the third-fewest yards in the league during his head coaching tenure while producing the fourth-most takeaways.
Of course, Arians is taking over a Buccaneers team that fared better on offense in 2018, ranking first in the NFL in net passing yards and third in overall net yards. In Arizona, Arians assumed a squad that had finished last in the NFL’s offensive rankings the previous year and led them to a 12th-place finish in his first year. In 2015 and 2016, the Cardinals ranked in the top 10 in both yards and points scored, including a 2015 campaign in which the team posted the most yards and the second-most points in the NFL.
Tampa Bay has committed to 25-year-old quarterback Jameis Winston in 2018, and Arians has experience working with a young and promising passer. The Colts hired Arians as their quarterbacks coach in 1998, the same year they selected Peyton Manning as the first-overall pick in the draft. Manning threw for 3,739 yards and 26 touchdowns as a rookie, then drastically cut down his interception rate in his second year and made the Pro Bowl in each of the next two seasons under Arians.
Similarly, the Steelers hired Arians as their wide receivers coach in 2004, the same season the franchise selected quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th-overall selection. While Arians wasn’t Roethlisberger’s position coach for his first three seasons, he did take over as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator in 2007. Roethlisberger made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2007, throwing a then-career-high 32 touchdown passes against just 11 interceptions. Roethlisberger hit a career-high with a 104.1 passer rating that season and finished at 97.0 or better in three of Arians’ five seasons as the coordinator.
Arians began his coaching career in 1975 as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech, where he had played as a quarterback in a wishbone offense. He was hired by Mississippi State three years later as a wide receivers and running backs coach, the first of his two stints with the Bulldogs. After three years at Mississippi State and two at Alabama, he was hired as the head coach at Temple in 1983. He spent six years in that post before the Chiefs gave him his shot at the NFL in 1989.
After four seasons as the running backs coach in Kansas City, during which he tutored Christian Okoye, among others, Arians returned to Mississippi State as the offensive coordinator from 1993-95. He bounced back to the NFL as a tight ends coach in 1996, then spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Alabama before returning to the NFL for good in Indianapolis in 1998.
With Arians, the Buccaneers have turned to a former NFL head coach to take the reins for the sixth time in franchise history, following the hires of Leeman Bennett in 1995, Ray Perkins in 1997, Sam Wyche in 1992, Jon Gruden in 2002 and Lovie Smith in 2014. Arians is the Bucs’ first head coach to have previously held that position with two other teams, counting his interim stint in Indianapolis.