TAMPA — A member of the media stood in the back of the auditorium at the Bucs’ AdventHealth Training Center on Thursday, almost hidden by a row of television cameras as reporters waited for the team to introduce new coach Bruce Arians.
But Tony Dungy wasn’t there in his current capacity as an analyst for NBC Sports. The man who helped build the foundation for the Bucs’ first and only Super Bowl victory came to wish Arians well as he looks to repeat that success.
Dungy, who worked with Arians for three years in Kansas City, said he expects the 66-year-old Arians to quickly elevate the Bucs to greater success.
“He has a definite formula for how you’re supposed to play,” Dungy said. “That’s going to be very evident and people are going to have to get on board with it right away. There’s going to be no confusion about what’s supposed to be done. The plan will be in place right away.”
There were not a lot of former coaches or players who greeted Arians during his first official meeting with the media — and no current players during the session — but those who did come offered praise and hope for the Arians era. Bucs tight end Jimmie Giles, a member of the Bucs’ Ring of Honor, was effusive when he stood at the end of the official media session.
Giles described Arians as an old-school coach and said quarterback Jameis Winston has always needed someone like Arians to guide him. The coach responded by saying former players are welcome to come out and help him coach, and that the door is always open.
Those were words Giles said will be celebrated by ex-Bucs and members of the current roster.
“What people fail to realize is that the guys playing are now are going to be former players in just a couple of years, but they know it,” Giles explained. “So, when you hear Coach tell former players they’re welcomed, it’s going to give these guys more incentive to play for him.”
Parnell Dickinson, a quarterback on the 1976 team who has remained in Tampa, also said he thought Arians could boost Winston’s performance.
Dexter Jackson, the former Bucs safety and 2002 Super Bowl MVP, not only hopes to attend practices but actually learn from Arians. Jackson recently spent two seasons as the defensive backs coach at Clark Atlanta University.
"I'm ready to take the next step and move forward," Jackson said. "I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity here. Bruce invited us to come out and learn from him. I think he's a phenomenal coach. I just want to learn from greatness.
"If you look at his history — he's the third-winningest (active) coach (in winning percentage) behind (Bill) Belichick and (Mike) Tomlin — there's a reason. When guys believe in you and want to play for you, they'll try to run through a wall from you. Once you develop that, that rapport, word travels. I've heard great things about Bruce.
“I believe in some of the things he’s trying to bring to the table.”
Although Arians has been heralded as a quarterback whisperer, Dungy said he thinks his influence will transfer to success on both sides of the ball. He said it’ll be fun to see.
“It’s a very tough division, but I do think they’re close,” Dungy said. “You see the Bears (under Matt Nagy), you see the Rams when (Sean) McVay went there, the Eagles when (Doug) Pederson went there. Nobody is that far away. The system doesn’t let you get that far away.
"It's a matter of galvanizing everybody, putting everybody on the same page. There are a thousand plans that can work, but you have to get everybody sold on your plan. He'll get everybody on board."