And they’ve aimed high with their group, to say the least.
Buccaneers now finalizing deal to make Bruce Arians their next head coach, per sources. The former Cardinals’ HC will be the Bucs next HC.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 8, 2019
That’s right, Bruce Arians. The lauded offensive mind and accomplished head coach will be setting up shop down in Tampa, which gives the Bucs their best chance at winning in perhaps a decade plus.
Arians will reportedly be bringing along some of his old Arizona brain trust, with Byron Leftwich taking over at offensive coordinator, ex-Jets coach Todd Bowles taking over the defense and Harold Goodwin taking over aspects of the run game. Former Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong has also been linked to joining Arians in Tampa Bay.
Don’t kid yourself: that’s a lot of coaching talent.
The Bucs have been plagued by a lack of defensive innovation and an inability to turn gaudy offensive numbers into substantial success on that side of the ball. With Arians, that should change. He ran his course in Arizona before a brief retirement from coaching, but had three quite successful seasons with the Cardinals (10-6, 11-5, 13-3) before a two-year skid plagued with questionable quarterback play.
He will do his best to get Jameis Winston into a consistent frame, which thankfully is no sure thing. Winston has talent, but has been underwhelming since his breakout rookie season. If Arians can’t figure the quaterback spot out in 2019, the Bucs may have to go looking for a starter in 2020. That would set them back, and it’s no lock they’d get one with Jason Licht at the helm in the front office, but it’s not fatal.
Bowles could maximize this defense for what it was never able to do with its talent, though guys like DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David are potential cap cuts, and LB Kwon Alexander is a free agent. They might need to do a little building in the second two waves, and revamp that defensive line to better meet what Bowles wants. Again, he’s a good coach who should be able to remake this team in his image, though it won’t happen in one offseason.
There are no guarantees, and winning in Tampa Bay has been something no one has done in a major way since Jon Gruden in the early 00s. But Arians gives them a sound foundation to build on and has brought with him quite a roster of coaches, which gives Tampa Bay legitimate hope of not being a punchline for the first time in a while.
This will make the road back to the NFC South crown tougher for Atlanta, with the Saints still looming, the Panthers always at least troublesome, and now a potentially resurgent Bucs team. They’ll need to worry about their own improvements first, of course.