• Sydney Orr

Bruce Arians Leaves a Blueprint for Other NFL Teams


Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


On March 30, 2022, Bruce Arians announced he is stepping down as the Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after three seasons.[1] He will now be the Senior Football Consultant for the organization.[2] This announcement came just weeks after Tom Brady decided to come out of retirement and return to the Buccaneers for the 2022 season.[3] The team’s former Defensive Coordinator, Todd Bowles, will replace Arians as Head Coach.[4] He signed a five-year contract with the Buccaneers and will receive a salary in line with other head coaches throughout the league.[5]


Bruce Arians had been on the NFL sidelines for the last 50 years.[6] He spent decades as an NFL assistant coach, before serving as the Interim Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.[7] That year, he won his first AP Coach of the Year Award. From 2013-2017, Arians was the Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals, where he had two playoff appearances and won his second AP Coach of the Year award in 2014.[8] He retired in 2017, but came out of retirement in 2019 to be the Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[9] In his three seasons with the Buccaneers, Bruce Arians led the team to two playoffs appearances and one Super Bowl championship.[10]


However, as impressive as Bruce Arians’ NFL resume is, his impact by providing opportunities for minority coaches and women in football is even more impressive.[11] As

emphasized in the tweet below by former NFL Quarterback, Robert Griffin III, Bruce Arians’ coaching staff with the Buccaneers was the most diverse in the NFL.[12] Each of his top assistant coaches were Black, including Harold Goodwin, Byron Leftwich, Todd Bowles, and Keith Armstrong, were all Black.[13] Additionally, under Arians, Assistant Defensive Line Coach, Lori Locust, and Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Maral Javadifar, became the first female coaches to win a Super Bowl.[14]

Robert Griffin III, https://twitter.com/RGIII


Arians championed coaches whom he felt were qualified but failed to receive the opportunities they deserved.[15] In 2019, he stated that when he saw a “qualified person not getting an opportunity,” he wanted to give them one.[16] He went on to express that he hoped “more and more head coaches” would follow his example and provide opportunities, such that diverse hiring will no longer be news.[17]


Bruce Arians’ actions support his statement. For example, after he stepped down as Head Coach, Arians stated,


“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. Tom (Brady)’s decision to come back, along with Jason [Licht] 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.”[18]


Bruce Arians was aware that handing off the team to Todd Bowles without Tom Brady at the quarterback position would have been “a coaching death knell.”[19] Without Brady or another star quarterback, rebuilding the team and at least one losing season would have been inevitable for the Buccaneers.[20] This likely would have led to Bowles being quickly replaced and unable to show his true strengths at the helm of the team.[21] Instead, with Tom Brady back, Bowles and the Buccaneers have a reasonable chance at a winning record during the 2022 season.

Through retiring and passing on the head coaching responsibilities to Todd Bowles, who worked under Arians with both the Cardinals and Buccaneers, Arians provided a blueprint for other NFL teams regarding minority hiring.[22] Bruce Arians acknowledged himself that “something’s wrong” with the hiring system in the NFL.[23] The Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate per job opening, is not working.[24] Thus, it is the responsibility of team owners, general managers, and head coaches to facilitate opportunities for minority coaches and women, even if it means starting out as assistant coaches first. Bruce Arians administered guidance and leadership for his assistant coaches, served as their reference for other jobs, and made sure to give Bowles the best chance at succeeding as head coach.[25] He built a pipeline for success and highlighted a different system that could solve the problem of diverse hiring at the head coach position in the NFL.




References:

[1] Jenna Laine, Todd Bowles to take over as head coach of Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Bruce Arians stepping into front-office role, ESPN (March 30, 2022), https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33632978/bruce-arians-retiring-coach-tampa-bay-buccaneers-move-front-office-role

[2] Grant Gordon, Bruce Arians stepping down as Buccaneers head coach; Todd Bowles to succeed him, NFL.com (March 30, 2022), https://www.nfl.com/news/bruce-arians-retiring-as-buccaneers-head-coach-todd-bowles-to-succeed-him

[3] Fox Sports, Did Tom Brady play a role in Bruce Arians’ retirement?, Fox Sports (March 31, 2022), https://www.foxsports.com/stories/nfl/tom-brady-play-a-role-in-bruce-arians-retirement

[4] Id.

[5] Gordon, supra.

[6] Laine, supra.

[7] Gordon, supra.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Pro Football Reference, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Franchise Encyclopedia, Pro Football Reference (April 7, 2022), https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/tam/

[11] Gordon, supra.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Jason Reid, Todd Bowles gets the support he needs on and off the field in second stint as

NFL head coach, Andscape (March 31, 2022), https://andscape.com/features/todd-bowles-gets-the-support-he-needs-on-and-off-the-field-in-second-stint-as-nfl-head-coach/

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Gordon, supra.

[19] James Dator, Bruce Arians’ selfless retirement was his final love letter to football, SBNATION (March 31, 2022), https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2022/3/31/23004538/bruce-arian-retirement-buccaneers-nfl

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Reid, supra.

[24] NFL Football Operations, The Rooney Rule, NFL (April 7, 2022), https://operations.nfl.com/inside-football-ops/diversity-inclusion/the-rooney-rule/

[25] Dator, supra.