Bruce Arians is back in the NFL coaching business after one year as a broadcaster, and he'll be bringing a familiar associate with him to Tampa.
On Wednesday, the day after Arians was named the 12th head coach in Tampa Bay Buccaneers' history, the team announced the hiring of Todd Bowles as its new defensive coordinator. That's the same offensive/defensive combination that helped the Arizona Cardinals compile a 21-11 record over the 2013-14 seasons.
Bowles played under Arians when the latter was the head coach at Temple in the mid-'80s. Bowles had been coaching in the NFL for almost two decades when Arians hired him as his defensive coordinator upon getting the head coaching job in Arizona in 2013. Bowles had most recently been the Philadelphia Eagles' interim defensive coordinator in 2012, and he had also served as the Miami Dolphins' interim head coach in 2011.
The pairing of Arians and Bowles kicked off a five-year stretch in Arizona in which the Cardinals went 49-30-1 – the most wins in a five-year stretch in franchise victory – although Bowles wasn't around for that entire run. Arizona's success helped him land the New York Jets' head coaching job in 2015, a position he held until being dismissed at the end of the 2018 campaign.
Bowles' two seasons as the defensive coordinator under Arians produced very good results. The Cardinals ranked seventh in the NFL in points allowed in 2013, improving to fifth in 2014, and also allowed the sixth-fewest yards in the league in 2013. During that two-year span, Arizona also ranked fifth in rushing defense, eighth in opponent passer rating and ninth in takeaways. At the end of that second season, Bowles was named the Associated Press NFL Assistant Coach of the Year.
Bowles has generally employed a 3-4 defensive front – something the Buccaneers have not used as their primary set since 1990 – but he's been flexible in that regard and he's also well-known for his creativity, and for emphasizing the strengths of the personnel on hand. Tampa Bay is looking to fix a defense that finished 27th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed in 2018.
Bowles, who played eight seasons as a safety in the NFL (1986-93), began his coaching career at Morehouse College in 1997 and spent two years at Grambling State before breaking into the NFL with the Jets in 2000. He spent the next dozen seasons with the Jets, Cleveland Browns (2001-04), Dallas Cowboys (2005-07) and Miami Dolphins (2008-2011), primarily coaching the secondary but adding the title of assistant head coach in Miami. Bowles spent the last three games of 2011 as the Dolphins' interim head coach (compiling a 2-1 record) after the firing of Tony Sparano, then moved on to Philadelphia as the secondary coach in 2012. Once again he was given an in-season promotion, taking over as the Eagles' defense coordinator in mid-October after the firing of Juan Castillo. Arians came calling the following offseason.