Bucs’ Arians lashes out at report, denies any rift with Brady

The head coach says he’s “pissed off” about a recent report that says their relationship had soured, in part because of Arians altering game plans.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady talk prior to a game against the Saints on Dec. 19, 2021.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady talk prior to a game against the Saints on Dec. 19, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 19, 2022|Updated Feb. 21, 2022

TAMPA — Bruce Arians doesn’t believe Tom Brady will come out of retirement. But the Bucs coach is certain his relationship with the seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback is not why he left the game after only two seasons in Tampa Bay.

“That would shock me,’’ Arians said Saturday of speculation that Brady would play in 2022. “And he let us know in time to do the free agency like we’ve done in the past, that’s why I don’t see it happening.’’

But what really bothers Arians is a series of what he calls “far-fetched” claims that Brady’s relationship soured with the Bucs coach.

“It seems like there’s one (story) every day now,’’ Arians said. “Everybody is speculating he’s going somewhere else. That don’t bother me. This other bulls---, the relationship thing, that’s so far-fetched.’’

The most recent one came from former NFL player Rich Ohrnberger, who tweeted Friday that Arians created tension between himself, Brady and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

“Apparently, while Arians was rehabbing the Achilles (tendon) in the early mornings, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Brady would work on the week’s game plan,’’ Ohrnberger tweeted. “Arians would later come in and take the red pen to work they’d done. The QB and OC felt undermined, there was tension.’’

Arians, speaking from Birmingham, Ala., where he was preparing for a birthday party for one of his grandchildren, said that Ohrnberger’s claim was completely false and that he couldn’t remain silent anymore.

“I mean, that’s such bulls---‚'’ Arians said. “That’s what pisses me off. I guess probably Byron could corroborate this, too.’’

Since arriving in Tampa Bay, Arians has allowed Leftwich to do all the game-planning and the results have been pretty good, even dating back to 2019 when Jameis Winston was under center. The Bucs have ranked in the top three in total offense and scoring all three seasons under Arians, and they were second with 30.1 points per game this past season. Brady also led the NFL in passing yards 5,316 and 43 touchdowns last season.

Specifically, Arians said there were a couple of things in Ohrnberger’s claim that he said were untrue. Arians is recovering from a partially torn Achilles but so far has avoided surgery. He said he never received treatment for the injury in the morning.

“First of all, I don’t rehab my Achilles in the morning,’’ Arians said. “I will go over the game plans and add things, but I don’t delete anything. I don’t have to because they do such a good job.

“I’ll see some things. Add some things. It’s an awesome collaboration, one of the best I’ve ever been around.’’

Arians said he also has never used a red pen to alter a game plan. “I never heard of that one,’’ he said laughing. “That was the best one ever. That’s pretty graphic to not know what the (expletive) you’re talking about.”

Ohrnberger also claimed Brady’s relationship soured with Arians after editing the game plan.

“Heard some interesting things recently … The Tom Brady & Bruce Arians honeymoon was over in Tampa,’’ Ohrnberger tweeted. “The retirement announcement wasn’t because of the trouble seeing eye to eye on the offensive game-planning, but the relationship was souring.’’

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Ohrnberger is not the first to suggest Brady was unhappy with the ways things were operating under Arians toward the end of the 2021 season.

There has been plenty of speculation that Brady will play in 2022 but for another team other than the Bucs. Brady still remains on Tampa Bay’s roster but will move to the reserve/retired list after June 1. The Bucs will retain his rights, and only $8 million of the $32 million of dead money for Brady’s contract will go under the 2022 salary cap.

But that hasn’t stopped the speculation about Brady’s future.

“I’m telling you, it’s unavoidable. He’s not going to lower himself to have to dirty himself the way Aaron Rodgers is,’’ said Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live. “He’s going to work behind the scenes. I just … I think he’s going to be with the 49ers Week 1 (of the 2022 season).’’

Arians said he believes Brady’s career is finally over. “I don’t know if there’s really a story there,’’ he said.

But what won’t go away is speculation about Brady’s future and why he retired.

Arians confirmed the Bucs have to approach the offseason as if they won’t have Brady as their starting quarterback. He said all options are being evaluated, from possible trades to free agency to starting the season with Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask at quarterback.

Arians said he was advised not to speak out on all the speculation, but Ohrnberger’s claim that the coach altered the game plan in the 30-27 loss to the Rams in the NFC division playoff game forced him to end his silence.

“This one pissed me off too bad,’’ he said.