For much of the time since Dirk Koetter’s firing on Dec. 30, there were persistent rumors about former Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians replacing him. After news slowly came out about it in the days prior, the Buccaneers made it official on Tuesday night. Bruce Arians is the 12th head coach in franchise history, and it feels like Christmas all over again for the fan base.
There’s a reason that this hire has brought so much excitement in a very short amount of time. Arians is highly-respected around the league for his journey and subsequent success, not to mention his personality. The Kangol hat-wearing, “no risk it, no biscuit”-saying 66-year-old is a two-time AP NFL Coach of the Year with a career record of 58-33-1. He has coached the likes of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer throughout his NFL career, which has earned him the title of “quarterback whisperer.”
With all of Arians’ success comes a personality that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of what an NFL coach is like. In NFL Network’s “Bruce Arians: A Football Life,” that personality shines through. Not only can you see it in the way he talks about his own story, but you can also hear it from a number of stars that he has coached. His style is praised by Palmer, who says he has a “Tony Soprano swag” and a “cool factor.” Tyrann Mathieu talked about how well the two related, both because they shared similar stories of getting second chances and they both have “crazy swag.”
Beyond his style, Luck and Larry Fitzgerald both talked about Arians as a coach and as a man, saying he always cared about and had a strong belief in his guys. Luck said that “everything B.A. does is genuine,” which helped when he took over as the interim head coach in Indianapolis after Chuck Pagano had to take time off during his battle with leukemia.
All of Arians’ players and family members spoke highly of him, and most of what they said about the kind of man he is can be summed up into two words: unique and authentic. There was a lot to love about the NFL Network special on Arians, but one thing in particular stood out to me the most, and that was his emphasis on family.
He talked about working hard to make his father proud, which itself is so relatable. After he won his first Super Bowl as an assistant with the Steelers, he said he looked at his dad and saw him “beaming.” Less than two months later, his dad passed away. Arians said the thought of not being able to call him after every game anymore was a hard thing to deal with. Near the end of the special, his mother said “Bruce will every once in a while look up to him and say ‘that’s for you, Pop...’ Bruce, he’s a good kid. He made his father proud.”
The relationship he had with his own father has very clearly shaped Arians’ philosophy when it comes to finding a balance between coaching and family life. He had this to say about coaches who spend too much time in their offices:
“When I hear of guys sleeping in their office and doing those things, I wonder what the hell they’re doing there. ‘Cause the game ain’t that hard. The work will always be there. The kids won’t. I tell my coaches ‘you miss a recital— piano, dance, whatever— or a football game, a basketball game, I’ll fire you.”
Once upon a time, the Bucs had a coach that was known for sleeping in his office and being up at all hours of the night watching game film. That, of course, was Jon Gruden. There’s no doubt that it’s a common thing for coaches in the NFL, and for certain guys, it’s what works best. But then again, Arians has proven time and time again that he isn’t like the common coach. He does things his own way, sometimes with a stubbornness that still comes across as charming. Considering his run of success in the NFL, it’s hard to argue with his methods.
If you haven’t watched “Bruce Arians: A Football Life” yet, I’d recommend doing so. There’s a ton of interesting insight into the new Buccaneer head coach, including his relationships with Paul “Bear” Bryant, Todd Bowles and Chuck Pagano.
The full special can be found on YouTube.