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Bruce Arians’ plan for developing Bucs players and coaches

New Bucs coach Bruce Arians is known as an offensive mastermind with his foot on the pedal, but will the 66-year-old delegate more?
General manager Jason Licht introduces new Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians during a press conference at One Buc Place on January 10, 2019 in Tampa, Fla. Arians is the 12th head coach in franchise history. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published Jan. 11

TAMPA — In his first press conference as Bucs head coach, Bruce Arians promised he will do everything to uncover the diamonds in the rough.

Part of that process will be enlisting a larger-than-normal staff of like-minded assistants around him, a mix of experience and potential that shares his passion for getting the best out of every player on the roster.

Arians promised that when his Bucs team holds its first session of offseason training activities, there will be players taking reps on two separate fields. One field will have veteran players working on it, and the other will give younger players the opportunity to fight their way up the depth chart.

"We'll have a staff that can take all our young players and get those 40-45 reps that the veterans are getting," Arians said Thursday. "You can't find a diamond in the rough if he's standing on the sideline watching. We don't know if a rookie can really learn if he only gets three reps. We're going to have those guys and we love young players. I love veteran players."

Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the two-practice concept is "music to my ears."

"He's exactly right," Licht said. "To develop players, you've got to give them more than six or seven reps."

Returning to NFL head coaching after one season away in the broadcast booth, Arians said he won't be much different than the coach who led Arizona to two postseason trips in five years. His 2015 Cardinals were one win away from the Super Bowl.

Having spent two decades as NFL assistant,  there are few who better realize the value of being surrounded by a strong staff.

"Trust, loyalty, respect is what we build everything on and it starts there," Arians said.

"When this staff comes together, they either played for me, coached with me. … We've got history. I think that's very important because we're all in it together. It only takes one guy to have a different agenda to split the whole thing up."

Switching the Bucs' current 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4? Getting the most of of quarterback Jameis Winston? No problem. Arians is confident he has the group to do it.

Arians said he hopes to have his staff completely assembled by next week. Already, he's hired his former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who was fired as Jets head coach at the end of the season. He's bringing in former NFL quarterback and Cardinals assistant Byron Leftwich, 38 and just three years deep into his coaching resume, to be a fulltime offensive coordinator for the first time.

Harold Goodwin, Arians' former OC and offensive line coach in Arizona who has been on staff with Arians for most of the past 11 years, will be the run game coordinator and assistant head coach.

Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong played for Arians at Temple when he was head coach there in the 1980s. Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen was on Arians' Temple staff and also with him in Indianapolis.

"That's one of the things that's really exciting about this year," Licht said. "We have Todd Bowles, we have Harold Goodwin, who I've interviewed before and did an excellent job. We have Keith Armstrong, who has interviewed for head coaching jobs. Having that many minds is going to help Bruce and it's going to help us."

Arians delegates more now. He's giving Leftwich the playcalling duties, a task he's long had. Previously, he let Goodwin take more playcalling responsibilities, especially after the knock on him for head coaching jobs was that he didn't have that experience.

"I've been training guys for this job," Arians said. "I always said I would never give it up and look over anybody's shoulder until I found one I knew could do it. Harold Goodwin did it for me for a little while, but Byron I think is rising star in this business. … He's more than ready. I think this coaching staff is going to be outstanding."

Arians wants to see not only his players develop, but also his assistants. He wants them to have the opportunity it took him so long to get. That's nothing new.

So in some ways, Arians is committed to finding those diamonds in the rough on the field and on the sideline.

"I've always felt it's my job as a coach to get the next group of great coaches ready," Arians said. "Coordinators pushing to be head coaches have the next man, (Bowles' DC replacement in Arizona) James Bettcher was ready to take Todd's place and push those guys out into the public and have the next people ready, then have the next guys ready to take their job. That's one of the reasons we have a large staff. I feel very strongly that that's one of my jobs."

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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