Arians Will Help Bucs, Winston Improve

Ken Cross

January 11, 2019 at 1:03 pm.

Jan 10, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians pose for a photo at AdventHealth Training Center. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 10, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians pose for a photo at AdventHealth Training Center. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers intrigue peaked even more on Thursday when former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was tabbed as the 12th head coach in franchise history. Not only is Arians one of the most brilliant offensive minds in the game’s history, he is one of the most colorful coaches in any sport.

The trademark hat, Ray Ban glasses and well-groomed goatee will sail in Tampa Bay, as will his style and system, as he restructures the Buccaneers, trying to move them back into contention in the NFC South.

Arians is known as a “quarterback whisperer.” Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer all improved their consistency and numbers in their passing games under his tutelage. Arians has directed Top 10 offenses in nine of his last 10 years on the sidelines.

Such deep knowledge and acumen within the quarterback position will be a huge asset. Arians has already as he already confirmed that Jameis Winston is solidly the Bucs’ quarterback as this is the last year in his rookie contract. The coach has a history with Winston dating back to Winston’s junior high school days in Alabama.

“I want him to relax and play the game,” Arians said. “Talent is no issue. It’s just becoming a little bit smarter. With Clyde Christensen as his quarterback coach and Byron Leftwich (offensive coordinator), he’s going to be coached as well as he’s ever been and more prepared than he’s ever been fundamentally and mentally.”

Although Winston has had a high interception rate – 58 picks in his four seasons – the talent is undeniable. He comes off a 2018 season where he had his highest completion rate at 64.6 percent which is a high statistic when you consider issues in the offensive line which allowed him to be sacked 27 times this past season.

“I was really happy to find him on the field when we played out in Arizona a couple years ago,” reminisced Arians. “It’s funny, in that football camp, five kids are in the NFL and I’ve kind of followed their careers just because they were in our camp. It’s been fun, but it’s been really (enjoyable) for me to watch him grow and look forward for a lot more growth.”

Arians didn’t want to compare any similarities that Winston might possess to any of the great quarterbacks he has coached. However, he is eager to get started working with Winston and helping him improve his game which should allow for the Bucs’ climb within the division.

“I haven’t worked and been in the room with him for an extended period of time yet,” commented Arians. “I’m really anxious to get that started. They’re all different, but the great ones have grit.”

Arians, who is the winningest coach in Cardinals’ history with 50, was instrumental in Andrew Luck’s rise to fame as a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts when he took over the reins of the team in 2012 when coach Chuck Pagano was treated for leukemia.  Luck set rookie records with 4,376 passing yards and six 300-yard passing games that season.

During his nine years as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator, he helped Roethlisberger set franchise records as well.  One of the most eye-popping feats of any of his offenses came in 2009 when the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer in Roethlisberger, two 1,000-yard receivers in Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward plus a 1,000-yard rusher – Rashard Mendenhall- in the same season.

“When you go out to evaluate them, you can look at their arm strength, you can look at their athletic ability, but the two muscles that you play the position with – your brain and your heart – are very hard to evaluate, until you get them.”

With Winston’s talent and Arians’ ability to not only coach fundamentals, but reach his players, general manager Jason Licht’s decision became easy when he assessed the talents of both and the needs of the organization.

Licht noted that he wanted someone who could command the room, develop both coaches and players, and help the Buccaneers rediscover the swagger of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“I’ve never been around a guy that has such magnetism about him that players and coaches just instantly want to follow him when he comes,” said Licht.