Why the Bucs’ Bruce Arians isn’t the same coach he was in Arizona

Part of Arians’ rationale for delegating more is rooted in his belief in his new offensive coordinator.
Bruce Arians is placing a ton of trust in offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, pictured, who has never called plays for a full season. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Bruce Arians is placing a ton of trust in offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, pictured, who has never called plays for a full season. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published March 28, 2019

PHOENIX — Since arriving in Tampa Bay, Bruce Arians is delegating a lot of what he did as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

At 66, he still has plenty of fire for the job. But he isn’t going to be the guy burning the midnight oil sweating over game plans Tuesday.

The Bucs’ new head coach is placing a ton of trust in offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who has never called plays for a full season. It will be better overall for Arians’ health and allow him to spend time helping general manager Jason Licht with personnel.

Arians’ staff is the best the Bucs have had since Jon Gruden. That said, he’s not going to be doing the same things he did when he turned around the Cardinals.

Arians installed the game plans, but now that will be a collaborative effort between Leftwich, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and run game coordinator and assistant head coach Harold Goodwin.

So how will Arians be spending his time?

“I’ve been doing a lot more personnel with Jason and also looking at game management situations that maybe I screwed up in those five years,’’ Arians said this week at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “I can’t say there were many, but there were situations because I get very angry at officials sometimes. And lose sight of some things. That’s why I hired Larry Rose, to let me know if I’m right when I’m hollering at them or not.

“But yeah, that part of it. Continuing to go more room to room and just see things and how they are going. Do more individual teaching instead of just sitting in the quarterback room or putting the installation in. I’ll be there. But I just want to take a back seat to watching another great young coach grow but also who’s taking notes, who not taking notes.’’

The faith Arians is putting in Leftwich, with so much on the line for Winston and the Bucs, is somewhat staggering. He called plays for about eight games last season. But Arians still can override his decisions.

“He knows, I mean there’s going to be times you get gut feelings during games,’’ Arians said. “We script our game plan so meticulously, there’s only about five or six gut calls during a game. ‘It’s time to pound it. Let’s pound it.’ Or, 'we’ve got them, it’s time to take a shot. Let’s go for a shot.’

"It’s odd, because when Byron called plays for me in the preseason, we called a lot of the same plays. When Harold (Goodwin) called plays, he ran the ball more. He’s an offensive line coach and we ran it successfully, but it’s like we ain’t going to score enough points going four (yards) at a time. You know? We’ve got to get some chunks in here.

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“So yeah, I’ll be there in full force on the headset with input,” Arians said. "It will give Byron and I a lot of time together, too. And we have to watch we don’t over-coach Jameis. Clyde is great at saying, 'That’s great stuff, but I think we’ve got enough. I don’t think he can handle anymore.’ So being able to sit with Byron and game plan and know what I’m looking for and what he’s looking for, I’m really looking forward to that.’’

Speaking of Leftwich, who started the first three games for the Bucs in 2009, Arians believes he’s a superstar who’s ready for this.

“Just watching what he did with somebody else’s offense,’’ Arians said. “I think they scored, I don’t know the exact statistic, but they scored on 80 percent of their first drives with third-string linemen and guys that were injured everywhere. So I know he knows how to script it. And he was maybe the smartest quarterback I ever coached, including Peyton (Manning) and Andrew (Luck), because that’s the way he had to play the game.

“So bugging him to get off the golf course and start coaching, I knew how good he was going to be.”

Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLStroud