Sep 9, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles looks on before a game against the Dallas Cowboysn at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs shake-up: Todd Bowles replaces Bruce Arians as head coach

Just over a year after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won a Super Bowl championship, the team announced a major leadership shake-up on Wednesday.

Bruce Arians retired as head coach to move into a front office job, with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles getting promoted to head coach. Arians’ new title is senior football consultant.

According to the Buccaneers’ website, Arians told the team’s players and coaches of his decision. The 69-year-old then released a statement that read in part, “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. For me, this is about more than just trying to add more wins to my coaching record.”

Arians added, “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. (Quarterback Tom Brady’s) decision to come back, along with Jason (Licht, the general manager) 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.”

Bowles, 58, had a largely unsuccessful four-year stint as the New York Jets’ head coach, never making the playoffs. He led the team to a 10-6 mark in 2015, his first season, then never won more than five games in the following three seasons. Bowles spent the past three years as Arians’ defensive coordinator.

Arians first took charge of an NFL team in 2012, when he guided the Indianapolis Colts to a 9-3 record while filling in for head coach Chuck Pagano, who was battling leukemia. The next year, Arians took over as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and he led them to a 49-30-1 record and two playoff appearances in five seasons.

In his three seasons as the Buccaneers’ head coach, Arians produced a 31-18 record. Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl after the 2020 season, then was eliminated by the eventual champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFC divisional playoffs after last season.

Buccaneers owner Joel Glazer said in a statement, in part, “When Bruce arrived in Tampa Bay three years ago, he spoke about establishing a winning culture and adding another Super Bowl championship for our community. He delivered on both of those promises, and our family is deeply appreciative for all that he has accomplished during his time as our head coach.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert (11) looks to pass the ball in the second half against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians pumps Blaine Gabbert as Bucs’ potential post-Brady QB

Blaine Gabbert is 10 years removed from being drafted 10th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but at least one coach hasn’t ruled the 32-year-old out as a QB1 in the NFL.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has employed Gabbert as a backup multiple times and claims to be comfortable with the idea of the journeyman starting for Tampa Bay in the post-Tom Brady era. Second-year QB Kyle Trask is another option.

“People may not like the overall record, but Blaine had eight head coaches and eight coordinators his first eight years,” Arians said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “He beat Jacksonville their best year and beat Tennessee their big year for us in Arizona. And he’s been in the system now. I don’t have a problem there and let Kyle continue to grow. Either one. (Gabbert) has never played with a team this good. He’s got all the respect in the locker room that he can have.”

Gabbert left Missouri after a stellar junior season and was selected No. 10 by the Jaguars in 2011, one spot before the Houston Texans picked J.J. Watt and as the third quarterback selected behind Cam Newton (1st overall, Panthers) and Jake Locker (8th, Titans).

Gabbert is a free agent, leaving the Bucs with only 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask on the roster. But given the connection and history with Arians, Gabbert is likely to consider re-upping with Tampa. He’s 13-35 as a starting quarterback and last started a game in 2018.

Behind Brady the past two season, he completed 16 of 27 pass attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns.

Brady retired earlier this month and Arians repeatedly has said he doesn’t expect a change of heart from the 44-year-old.

But general manager Jason Licht and Arians are determined to investigate all available options as they did with Brady. Arians reportedly has done homework on Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, veterans who could be netted this offseason via trade.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) and head coach Bruce Arians during warmups against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians, Bucs believe Tom Brady is done

When it comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ plan at quarterback in 2022, head coach Bruce Arians continues to refer to finding out what’s behind “Door No. 2.”

Arians clarified yet again he doesn’t expect Tom Brady to be the player revealed behind the door, a reference to looking at options outside the known players on the depth chart: Blaine Gabbert and 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask.

“That would shock me,” Arians told the Tampa Bay Times of a potential Brady return. “And he let us know in time to do the free agency like we’ve done in the past. That’s why I don’t see it happening. I don’t know if there’s really a story there.”

NFL Network reported last week that Arians and general manager Jason Licht hadn’t ruled out Brady’s return. The 44-year-old announced in early February that he was retiring after 22 NFL seasons.

But other reports indicate Arians is looking for his “next Brady” and has spent time studying Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) and Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks), among other potential trade targets for Tampa Bay.

When Arians and Licht met with Brady as a free agent before the 2020 season, Arians had only recently made a reference to looking behind “Door No. 2” when questioned about whether then-free agent Jameis Winston would be re-signed.

The 2022 offseason of QB musical chairs includes many significant names beyond Wilson and Watson, who’ve shown interest in being traded.

There also have been reports that Brady could have interest in playing for the San Francisco 49ers to return to his California roots.

Several teams are in need of a quarterback when the new league year begins in March.

Arians also rather colorfully said former NFL player Rich Ohrnberger’s report that Brady and Arians didn’t see “eye to eye” on game planning was unfounded.

“I mean, that’s such bulls—”’ Arians told the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s what pisses me off. It seems like there’s one (story) every day now. Everybody is speculating he’s going somewhere else. That don’t bother me. This other bulls—, the relationship thing, that’s so far-fetched.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones (27) runs the ball in the second half against the Chicago Bears at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers not planning to trade RB Ronald Jones

Even his tested no-risk it, no biscuit mantra has boundaries, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians knows.

And those limits are being applied to Tampa’s willingness to part with backup running back Ronald Jones before the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline on Tuesday.

Arians said last month it would take a significant offer to pry Jones away from the team. On Tuesday, he said only an “extraordinary” offer would be good enough.

“It would have to be something really, really special. Because I love the way he’s running,” Arians said of Jones. “It’s just one nick on Leonard and then Rojo’s the guy. And so to me, it’s still a great one-two punch. It would have to be extraordinary.”

Jones has been linked to teams with needs at the position, including the Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks and more recently the Tennessee Titans. NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry could miss two months or more with a foot injury that will require Tuesday morning surgery.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and Titans GM Jon Robinson are noted friends who speak regularly.

Jones has just 44 carries this season behind Leonard Fournette and his opportunities to fill in on third downs are gone with Giovani Bernard operating as the niche role receiver this season.

A second-round pick in 2018, Jones entered last season as the starter and remained in place until he was derailed by COVID-19. Fournette gained momentum down the stretch and all the way to the Super Bowl.

Arians said last month depth for the 17-game season and any possible playoff games would be critical.

“It’s a long season,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Aug 14, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians: Buccaneers 100 percent vaccinated

Every member of the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers is fully vaccinated, head coach Bruce Arians said Thursday.

“We’re 100% vaccinated — our entire organization — all the players, all the coaches, everybody,” Arians said.

The Buccaneers join their NFC South division rival Atlanta Falcons as the only NFL teams to proclaim 100 percent vaccination. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL chief medical officer, said more than 93 percent of the players in the league are on schedule to be fully vaccinated by Week 1.

Arians said privately and repeatedly publicly he wanted the Buccaneers to treat COVID as an opponent and not take unnecessary chances in a state where the positive cases and hospitalizations were at record highs in August.

Several players were slower to come around to the idea of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. Running back Leonard Fournette said he was not interested in the vaccine at the outset of training camp. After consideration, he said he decided it was the right thing to do.

“People are still catching it, but it makes it a lot better to have the shot,” Fournette said. “We need every hand in here for these next couple big games we’ve got coming up.”

On Thursday, kicker Ryan Succop was activated from the COVID/reserve list. He’s the lone player in the organization to test positive, and the result came after he had dinner with visiting players from the Tennessee Titans last week.

Recently, the Titans have had at least 10 players in COVID-19 protocols.

Arians told players he doesn’t care what the NFL sets forth as protocols, because his rules will be more stringent.

“There’s league rules and then there’s my rules,” Arians said. “We ain’t going anywhere (in terms of players mingling with the general population). We’re the same as last year. I don’t give a crap if they’re vaccinated or not. They ain’t going anywhere.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 21, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians looks on before a game against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians imposes stricter COVID rules for Bucs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have barely been affected by COVID-19 during training camp, losing just one player, and coach Bruce Arians intends to keep it that way.

Arians said Wednesday that he is employing strict protocols in order to keep his players available.

“There’s league rules and then there’s my rules,” Arians said. “We ain’t going anywhere (in terms of players mingling with the general population). We’re the same as last year. I don’t give a crap if they’re vaccinated or not. They ain’t going anywhere.”

On Tuesday, kicker Ryan Succop became the first Buccaneers player to land on the COVID list. He tested positive for the coronavirus after going out to dinner with members of the Titans, his former team, after Tennessee held joint practices with the Buccaneers last week before the teams met in a preseason game in Tampa on Saturday.

The Titans subsequently placed multiple players on the COVID list, and coach Mike Vrabel was in quarantine after contracting the virus.

When the Buccaneers head out for their lone road preseason game, a Saturday contest against the Houston Texans, Arians will be imposed extra limitations on his squad. No family members will be among the traveling party, and all players, even those who are vaccinated, will be confined to the team hotel.

“For us, life is not normal,” Arians said. “We’re pretty much under the same protocols — we’re going to be under the same protocols as last year. Because that’s the way it is, especially living here. Tennessee coming in and going out to dinner — they found out the hard way. So did Ryan.

“You can only tell them so much. Once we get to 53 (players) — even this weekend — our guys are going to make a bunch of sacrifices that you have to make now. Families at the hotel, all those things — they’re all out the window.”

–Field Level Media

Feb 10, 2021; Tampa Bay, Florida, USA;   Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate during the  Tampa Bay Buccaneers boat parade to celebrate their victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs celebrate Super Bowl win with rowdy boat parade

Pandemic or not, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrated their Super Bowl LV championship in style on Wednesday.

With thousands of fans lining the Hillsborough River near downtown Tampa, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians enjoyed the moment with a beer in one hand and a microphone in the other.

“We have the best coaching staff in the NFL. And we damn sure have the best players in the NFL,” the 68-year-old Arians said. “We’re going to keep the band together.”

The band leader is, of course, quarterback Tom Brady, who followed up his Super Bowl MVP-winning performance in a 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday by completing another pass three days later. Brady tossed the Lombardi Trophy from his boat to another, with tight end Cameron Brate making the catch.

“That was the best catch of my life,” Brate said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Unbelievable. That was the best catch of my life. If I had dropped that? I think I would’ve had to retire.”

Retirement doesn’t appear to be on the table for Arians and tight end Rob Gronkowski this time around. Gronkowski, in fact, celebrated on Wednesday with his shirt off and beads around his neck.

On the heels of his record fifth Super Bowl MVP award, the 43-year-old Brady appeared to be a bit tipsy after making it safely back to land. Third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin was seen helping him off the boat.

Brady had a little fun on social media at his own expense.

The Buccaneers can afford to have a little fun after recording their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, even if they could not celebrate in unbridled fashion. Tampa Bay’s mayor Jane Castor had implored attendees on foot to respect social distancing guidelines and asked fans to don masks, rules which appeared to be followed by some, not all.

Of the many private boats and vessels also floating nearby, they were asked to remain at least 50 feet from all boats carrying players and members of the organization.

–Field Level Media

Jan 17, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) warms up before the AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Cleveland Browns at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady: Bucs must find Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu before every play

Familiarity with the Kansas City Chiefs’ top defensive playmaker might be an asset the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can utilize on Sunday.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians pushed with two hands for the Arizona Cardinals to draft Tyrann Mathieu out of LSU in 2013. The diminutive cornerback was flagged by multiple teams because of off-field issues that included positive drug tests.

Mathieu made his mark on the Chiefs’ win at Tampa in Week 12 this season with an interception and five tackles.

“I saw him pregame warmups last time we played him. My favorite draft choice of all time,” Arians said Wednesday. “I just love him. His passion for football. I am so proud of the man that he has become. He’s a great football player, but he’s a better man.”

Mathieu was released by the Cardinals in 2017 when Arians retired, spent one year with the Houston Texans and then signed with the Chiefs. He smiled when asked about the reunion with Arians this weekend.

“Me and coach BA, we’ve had a great relationship,” Mathieu said. “Ever since my time in Arizona, and even beyond that, he’s always been somebody (whose) opinions and what he says meant a lot to me. You’ve got to remember, he was one of the first people in the National Football League that really believed in me and my abilities, and really allowed me to really flourish at a young age in this league. And he’s still been a guy that I keep in touch with to this day.”

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady identified Mathieu as the player he must find and interpret his intentions prior to every snap in Super Bowl LV.

“Half of it is me being in awe of really just the art, it’s almost like poetry in motion,” Mathieu said. “The other half is me as a defender, like ‘How do I stop this? How do I prepare for this?’”

In past triumphs over Brady, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has used back-end defenders to blitz on occasion but primarily used his back four to cover and front four to rush.

Brady, who threw three interceptions in the NFC Championship game, will be wary of Mathieu.

“I really love him as a player,” Brady said. “I think he’s got great ball-hawking ability. He seems like he’s always coming up with the biggest plays in the biggest moments.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians (L) and quarterback Tom Brady (12) talk prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady, Bruce Arians defying age in Super Bowl run

Bruce Arians and Tom Brady are comfortable being classified as old men this week as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempt to win the second Super Bowl in franchise history.

Arians would become the oldest head coach to win the Lombardi Trophy (68) and Brady (43 years, 188 days old on Super Bowl Sunday) the oldest quarterback to claim the championship.

“It’s not time to look in the rearview mirror yet,” Arians said Monday via Zoom. “We’re still looking ahead. We’ll look back this spring. Hopefully we’ll have a Lombardi Trophy on the way to look at and smile.”

Arians and the Buccaneers are at home for Super Bowl LV, the capper on a season the franchise began plotting the day after the 2019 regular season ended.

“I don’t think I could have ever prepared us for the pandemic,” Arians said. “The accountability of staying healthy, protecting each other. This team is really close at a time when it’s not easy to be close. It reminds be of the Super Bowl XL Steelers.”

Arians said Brady’s intelligence — not his age — has stood out since their contract agreement in March.

“If you don’t have it, you can’t be a great quarterback,” Arians said of Brady’s intelligence. “He’s an intense worker. Unbelievable preparation.”

Brady playing at his age is unique in its own right. But playing on this stage is unprecedented. He said Monday his daily approach, and making only decisions that benefit his career, has been essential to his own vitality.

He’s 18 years, 45 days older than Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes as of Sunday, and Brady believes quarterbacks might be able to prolong their career by following his lead.

“Anything is possible. Not many people have played at my age,” Brady said Monday. “I’m hoping that I can give some of that wisdom to some of the younger players who want to do the same type of thing. We’re always supposed to be better as we grow and evolve. It wasn’t about 40 touchdowns it was about, ‘Did I do the best I could do?’ That’s where my motivation comes from.”

“It’s part of my daily life. It’s pretty well documented the approach I’ve taken over a period of time. How I work out, how I recover is very important to me.”

Arians said he’s been “very, very lucky” as a coach to have Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer and Brady as pupils. He joked his philosophy is “only take jobs with good quarterbacks.”

After nine Super Bowl appearances and six wins with the New England Patriots, Brady repeated his refrain that playing in the Super Bowl is the goal to start every season.

“Six days to go, one game left. I’m excited to see what we can come up with for Sunday,” Brady said.

Brady shook off hints that he might be done with the NFL this week. When asked if he would consider playing beyond age 45, Brady smiled.

“Yeah, definiltely,” he said, adding he told his dad he would “play until I suck.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2020; Tampa, Florida, United States;Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) talks with general manager Jason Licht, owner Joel Glazer and owner Bryan Glazer at AdventHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs GM Jason Licht basks in afterglow of turnaround

Long before Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians shared morsels of Tampa Bay’s 2020 vision last February, the end game for the franchise was crystal clear.

Optimistic or outlandish depending on your vantage point, the Buccaneers planned to play for the Super Bowl in their home stadium in February 2021.

And here they stand, NFC Champions prepping to host the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7.

“I look back at this time last year compared to where we’re at right now — and we still have unfinished business,” Licht said Wednesday. “Everybody is very focused on this game — I can assure you of that. But, just how far we came in a short amount of time in terms of our record and where we’re at. It’s just a feeling of being grateful for our ownership for giving us the resources that they have to keep this team together, to go out and get Tom [Brady], to trade for Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] and make some other moves during the season when it would have been very easy for owners to pull the reins back a little bit for reasons that go along with being in a pandemic. But, [they] still wanted us to push forward because they desperately want this.”

Last February, Arians opened a choose-your-adventure offseason by revealing he wasn’t committed to quarterback Jameis Winston at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Jump ahead to pandemic times. As the sports world and world in general was slamming the brakes, high fives, hugs and handshakes were impossible to resist at One Buc Place.

The Buccaneers were celebrating in private when Brady penned a public farewell to the Patriots, leaving New England in free agency for a two-year deal in Tampa. About six weeks later, they had Gronkowski under contract and landed a dominant right tackle in Tristan Wirfs plus a starting safety, Antoine Winfield Jr., in the NFL draft.

The slow turn from challenging for the NFC South cellar to playoff — dare they say, Super Bowl — contention was rapidly looking like reality through Licht’s lens.

“You want to make some moves that hopefully get your team into the Super Bowl. I think when you sign a guy like Tom, it makes it a little more realistic,” Licht said. “Just talking to him the days after we signed him, you could just hear and feel the confidence that he had. It made it a little bit more real. Now, you never take anything for granted. We had some highs and lows in the season where things at times looked a little grim. We needed to pull together, but we never lost our confidence. Looking back on some of the things we talked about, you do kind of want to pinch yourselves a little bit saying, ‘Wow, this really did happen.’”

The Buccaneers couldn’t overtake the Saints in the South, but as a wild card won three playoff road games — one in New Orleans — to claim the NFC title. Brady, a 43-year-old quarterback, got them there along with a strong defense and young, talented wide receiver group.

Licht isn’t willing to take much of the credit, deflecting to Arians and the team’s scouting staff. Arians, the team’s call-em-like-you-see-em leader, won over Brady with a combination of tough love and autonomy that only makes sense when viewed in action.

For example, Arians said last week the difference between Brady’s 20 years in New England and this season in Tampa is the Buccaneers got out of his way.

“I allow him to be himself. Like, New England didn’t allow him to coach. I allow him to coach,” Arians said.

Offensive guard Ali Marpet said Wednesday the chemistry with a younger team is a credit to Arians.

“B.A. has done such a great job for us,” Marpet said, “kind of letting players play their own game and giving guys the opportunity to do what they do that makes them successful.”

–Field Level Media