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Reunited and it feels so good for new Bucs assistants

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, head coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin and special teams coach Keith Armstrong all have previous ties with new Bucs coach Bruce Arians.
LUIS SANTANA | Times The Tampa Bay Buccaneers introduce new defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles in Tampa. [Friday January 11, 2019] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
Published Jan. 11
Updated Jan. 12

TAMPA — Todd Bowles didn't make any guarantees about the Bucs' success.

The team's new defensive coordinator isn't one for too many words anyway, so he stopped well short of backing the boasts of his new head coach, Bruce Arians.

"I'm gonna leave that up to Bruce, that's where we differ," Bowles said Friday when he was introduced as the Bucs' new defensive coordinator. "Bruce kind of talks and I don't so we're a good match in that way. So I'm going to say we're going to get to work and obviously we want to go to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl and that's the goal we're going to shoot for. But there's a lot of work that goes into it and we're going to roll up our sleeves and get going."

In reuniting with Arians — his former college coach at Temple and his head coach in Arizona when Bowles was defensive coordinator for a Cardinals defense that had a special knack for stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers — Bowles returns to his defensive roots. After four years as the New York Jets head coach, a job he was fired from after going 24-40, he gets to concentrate exclusively on defense again. He had multiple coordinator offers, but opted to reunite with Arians in Tampa.

General manager Jason Licht, who worked in the Cardinals front office when Arians and Bowles were together, believes the tandem creates a pefect ying and yang.

"He's completely different in personality than Bruce," Licht said. "He's a little more subdued, but you don't want to rattle his cage though. He's extremely, extremely bright and the thing that as a coach that I love about Todd is that like Bruce it's not about the scheme, it's about the players. He builds the scheme around the players and builds it around them to make it fun for them on a week-to-week bases about how we can attack a particular team."

Bowles used a 3-4 defense in Arizona and New York, but said Friday that he will try to use both schemes to build a defense that best fits the players the Bucs have. That's good news for players like defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul or defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who might not fit in a 3-4 scheme.

"I've coached half of my career in the 4-3 and half in the 3-4," Bowles said. "I think you coach according to what players you have and what guys you can put where. We want to be versatile regardless. As I watch the tape and watch the film, it will morph into one of those things if not both of them, but we need to be versatile regardless."

The Bucs also introduced assistant head coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin and special teams coach Keith Armstrong. And there's no question that Arians' staff will have experience and personality.

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Goodwin has been on the sideline with Arians for his past 11 seasons in coaching, dating back to their days in Pittburgh and most recently as Arians' offensive coordinator from 2013 to '17.

Goodwin called Arians a father figure to him, and he spoke emotionally about struggling to get a job last season, and how much it means for Arians to look out for him.

"(There are) the people who used to pick up your call all the time, but when you're looking for a job, they don't call you back or respond to your text," said Goodwin, who was an offensive analyst for the University of Arizona football team last season. "It wasn't always that way in this profession, and it's starting to become like that, which is a shame.

"Every time I call B.A., he answers. It's just refreshing to know that loyalty is still a part of this profession. It's starting to go away a little bit. I look forward to going to a place where I can lay my head down at night on my pillow and be comfortable that as long as I'm doing my job I've got a job."

Goodwin said he was happy to see 38-year-old Byron Leftwich, a former NFL quarterback, getting the offensive coordinator job — and taking over the play-calling duties under Arians — even though that was the position he previously held under Arians. Goodwin's specialty has been offensive line, and he will be in the o-line room.

"When it came down to Byron and myself about the whole coordinator thing, I called Byron weeks ago before he decided to get back in and told him, 'Hey bro, you can have it.'" Goodwin said. "I don't coach quarterbacks. I'm not a quarterback whisperer. Can I coach football? Yes, I can, very damn well in my opinion, but there's a different dynamic between a quarterback talking to a quarterback. I love Byron to death. He is a brother of mine."

Goodwin then talked about the frustration of being passed over for head coaching jobs despite leading a dynamic Cardinals offense. The knock was he didn't call plays, but Arians ceded that duty to him in the preseason. Another criticism was that teams didn't like the staff he planned to assemble.

When Goodwin, one of three named Arians assistants who are all African-American (another, Leftwich, hasn't yet been introduced), spoke about how none of the league's latest head coach hires included a minority, he deadpanned a line that silenced the media room.

"I've tried to lighten my skin, and I've tried to lose some weight," Goodwin said straight-faced.

"I like guys who have paid their dues. I like that. To each his own. Owners do what they want to do. It's their football team. I'm just a part of it. I'm just happy to be a part of the club."

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Armstrong, who was most recently the special teams coach for the Falcons for 10 seasons, is another of Arians' former players at Temple. As he slipped down the team's depth chart there, Arians saw his promise as a coach, and he asked him one day whether he'd be interested in it. Arians hooked him up with his first graduate assistant job with the Owls.

With the Bucs, Armstrong will focus on establishing strong special teams coverage. He will bring a directional punting philosophy to the Bucs. And while he doesn't work with kickers, he knows the importance of having a good one on the roster. He was on the other side of the Bucs' curse of Matt Bryant, insisting the Falcons acquire him when the Bucs allowed him to walk after the 2008 season.

"They win games," Amstrong said.

Armstrong had Bryant as a young kicker in Maimi in 2004, and when Olindo Mare returned from an injury, the Dolphins cut Bryant. Amstrong wondered if they let the wrong guy go.

Bryant was signed by the Bucs and had four strong years in Tampa Bay –hitting 83.1 percent of his kicks — but when he became available after the 2008 season, Armstrong wasn't going to lose Bryant again.

"As soon as we went to Atlanta and Bryant was let go here, I went right in and (said), 'Get him,' and he was the right guy. The mindset with people, the toughness, the mental toughness, not being afraid of the moment, and Matt's where every kick is the same. Whether it's the PAT in the first quarter or the 23-yarder in the second or the game winner, it's the same ball all the time."

While the Bucs have gone through a placekicker carousel since letting the veteran go, Bryant has converted 88.7 percent of field goal attempts in his 10 years in Atlanta.

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