The Buccaneers announced yesterday that Bruce Arians, their head coach for the past three years, would be moving into an executive role in Tampa Bay’s front office, effective immediately. He’ll be replaced as HC by the Bucs’ current defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who has been with the organization since 2019, before which he served as the head coach of the New York Jets.
And what of Tom Brady? The QB who led the Bucs to a Super Bowl victory just over a year ago has emerged from the world’s shortest retirement amidst rumors that he may be moving to the Miami Dolphins, but for now, he’s Tampa Bay’s QB1. Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel called the rumors “fake news,” and Arians has emphasized that his relationship with Brady is solid.
There had been speculation floating around that Brady and Arians had butted heads over Arians’ leadership style during Brady’s two seasons with the team, though the coach denied that their relationship had any effect on his decision to step down. The Tampa Bay Times also reported that Brady was made aware of Arians’ retirement and Bowles’ succession right around the time that he decided to return to the team several weeks ago.
With the former defensive coordinator moving into the head coaching position, Brady and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will likely be granted a new degree of freedom and flexibility in play calling and offensive schemes which, if anything, may persuade Brady to stay with the Bucs — perhaps even for an extra season or two if all goes well, unless Leftwich gets scooped up for a head coach opening next year.
Though both Leftwich and Bowles interviewed for several head coaching positions throughout the league during the coaching carousel this offseason, Arians was set on Bowles as his chosen successor. Their history goes back decades — Bowles played four years at cornerback at Temple University under the Owls’ then-HC Arians, and the two of them reunited with the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals before making the move to Tampa.
With a smooth transition looking likely that will minimize staff turnover, Arians’ fondness for Bowles clearly drove him to choose this moment to step down.
“Succession has always been huge for me. With the organization in probably the best shape it’s been in its history, with Tom Brady coming back … I’d rather see Todd in position to be successful and not have to take some [crappy] job,” Arians told NBC. “I’m probably retiring next year anyway, in February. So, I control the narrative right now. I don’t control it next February because [if] Brady gets hurt, we go 10-7, and it’s an open interview for the job … I got 31 [coaches and their] families that depend on me. My wife is big on not letting all those families down.”
With this hire, Bowles will become the sixth active minority head coach in the NFL, and with Brady at the helm, he’ll be set up for success and perhaps even another Super Bowl run. Bowles’ defensive strategy in the 2021 Super Bowl held the prolific Kansas City Chiefs to zero touchdowns in a 31-9 victory for the Bucs.
Brady posted a tribute to Arians on Instagram after the news of his move to consulting became public, writing, “Thank you, BA for all that you have done for me and our team. You are an incredible man and coach, and it was a privilege to play for you. You are a true NFL legend and pioneer for all the work you have done to make the league more diverse and inclusive. Smart, tough, and loyal are a few of the words to describe your style…You were a huge part of the decision to join the Bucs and I’m forever grateful.”
Though Arians has effectively forfeited his chance to go out on top, TB12 still has a shot at it. And while Bowles is undoubtedly set up for success with this staff and roster, he’ll also be under intense scrutiny if things start going south for the Bucs.