Our love affair with Bruce Arians was brief, but eternal


TAMPA – Looking back, his stay here was incredibly brief. It might not seem like it because it was reported in the frenetic days of Twitter, but Bruce Arians’ tenure as Bucs coach barely lasted three years.

It’s shorter than the Sam Wyche era in Tampa Bay. Shorter than Ray Perkins, too. It was barely enough time for us to learn his favorite drink – Crown Royal – but it turned out to be long enough to bring Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Ndamukong Suh to town.

It was long enough to break the franchise record for scoring three in a row and long enough to play nearly a dozen prime-time games.

It was also long enough to end a dozen years of pointless and pathetic football in Tampa Bay with a resounding victory in Super Bowl 55.

Of course, you already knew that. But it bears repeating this morning, because it feels like the legacy of the Arians here has already been diminished. Ghost, if you will.

His supposed falling out with Brady, followed by an abrupt retirement and a hard-to-swallow explanation, overshadowed his supernova impact in what had been an NFL wasteland. Instead of seeing the glory again, we – and that includes me – preferred to dwell on the gossip.

And maybe that was how it should be. After all, it’s not every day that a legendary quarterback half-heartedly retires, immediately mocks a comeback, embarks on a whisper campaign about his apparent displeasure with the head coach, steps down and then – conveniently – makes a smiling appearance at the head coach. sudden announcement of retirement.

Seen in that light, it’s no wonder the world hasn’t had time to put Arians’ career in proper perspective.

So this is it :

Arians deserves his place in the Bucs’ Ring of Honor, which was announced during his retirement press conference. He deserves to be grouped alongside Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay history, despite barely having half the win count. He deserves to be remembered as a champion of diversity in the NFL and as one of the most entertaining and outspoken coaches of his generation.

He may even one day earn recognition in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This was one of the scenarios when Arians abruptly quit less than two weeks ago. Here’s a coach on the verge of 100 career wins, a possible second Super Bowl victory as a head coach and a chance to complete his Hall of Fame bid, and instead he’s walking away voluntarily?

In typical pompous fashion, the Arians dismissed the Hall of Fame as any motivation.

“A number of people have already asked why are you giving up the chance to go to the Hall of Fame and win another Super Bowl?” Arians said during his press conference. “I don’t give a damn about the Hall of Fame.”

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This is, of course, an exaggeration, if not an outright lie. It felt like a painful attempt to keep pushing the this-had-nothing-to-do-with-Brady narrative.

There is no doubt that the Arians would be delighted to be immortalized with a bust in Canton. And it may still be possible despite his premature exit from the sidelines.

Consider his resume alongside that of Jimmy Johnson, who was elected to the Hall in 2020. Both had brief careers as NFL head coaches, with Johnson at nine and Arians eight. Johnson had more playoff appearances (six to four) but the Arians had a better winning percentage (.624 to .563).

Johnson has won two Super Bowls and a Coach of the Year award. Arians has won a Super Bowl and two Coach of the Year awards. Arians also had a long and distinguished career as an assistant, winning two more Super Bowls and helping groom Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, while being a pioneer in hiring minority assistants and coordinators. He also has the highest winning percentage of any coach at Arizona and Tampa Bay.

There it is. Decide yourself.

But before you do, remember what One Buc Place looked like before the Arians arrived. He brought confidence, he brought direction, he brought a sense of unity. He brought swagger, he brought offense, he brought Brady.

And yes, that’s right, the quarterback was probably more important than the coach in the grand scheme of things. Which would explain why the Glazer family sided with Brady if it was, indeed, a little power play between the two.

But don’t let that diminish what the Arians accomplished in a remarkably short stay in Tampa Bay.

He came, he laughed, he led.

And, by God, we all won.

Jean Romano can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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