Head Coach Bruce Arians was busy this past week assembling his staff. The Bucs announced 18 new additions on Wednesday, many of which have known BA for decades. It brings the total number of assistants he’s hired to 21, including a former kicker to just coach kickers.
Arians noted that his staff will be larger than the average team and he does that on purpose.
He started running practices a little differently when he took over as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. He describes it as having two practices going on simultaneously, thereby increasing the number of reps for backup or scout team players. In a ‘next man-up’ league, I have to wonder how that’s not more common, because it makes a ton of sense to me. Players can go down due to injury at any moment and then you’re forced to throw in a backup player who maybe hasn’t ever seen an NFL field and has had a limited number of reps in practice on top of that. That’s not exactly setting the player up for success, although you find out quickly what these guys are made of. In this dual-practice format, hopefully that means you find out a little earlier. Like Arians said, “You can’t find a diamond in the rough if he’s sitting on the bench.”
Arians also spoke with The Athletic’s Jay Glazer for a candid Q&A that came out this week. There were more than a few highlights in there, including going more into his time in the broadcast booth this past season. What really jumped out to me is what he said about more things he’s now picked up after seeing how multiple teams operate. As a member of the broadcast crew each week, you go into production meetings with coaches and players as well as observing practices.
“Going to practice every week, seeing how other people did things, Belichick’s practices, Andy Reid’s practices, Billy O’Brien, all those guys did things a little bit different and I picked up a couple things I liked,” Arians said in the interview.
Current head coaches don’t get to view other current head coaches’ practices. Getting a first-hand look at how Bill Belichick or Andy Reid, arguably two of the most successful coaches in the league right now, is definitely a bit of an advantage Arians now has. After watching All or Nothing with the 2015 Arizona Cardinals, you can get some idea of how Arians did things in his first head coaching role but I’d venture to say that after this year in the booth, Tampa Bay is going to get an even more evolved version of Arians’ program.
He also talked candidly about what he wants out of quarterback Jameis Winston. He talks again about getting to know Jameis while the young quarterback was in high school at a football camp led by Arians and his son in Alabama. Since then, the two have maintained a relationship and Arians wholeheartedly believes in Jameis’s ability. He did acknowledge that he’ll be trying to help Winston be smarter about his play. That’s a big emphasis in how he works with quarterbacks, stressing making good decisions. He’s said in his book The Quarterback Whisperer that on each play there’s an option for both a touchdown and a checkdown, and it’s up to the quarterback to make that decision.
“Limiting interceptions,” Arians said on what he’ll work on with Jameis. “That’s the big thing, he just turns it over too much. He’s got that great arm but he tries to fit it in little windows. Just making better decisions.”
If you want to dive a little further into the existing personnel Arians will be inheriting, senior writer Scott Smith did an evaluation of the 2017 draft class in their sophomore season. Unfortunately, injuries were a prominent story starting with first-round pick O.J. Howard, who had his very promising season cut short due to an ankle injury in Week 11. He just got tackled in an awkward way and that was it. Hardly fair for a tight end that still managed 565 yards and five touchdowns with a ridiculous 70.8 catch percentage in those first 10 games.
Safety Justin Evans also finished the season on the Injured Reserve list. Evans had been battling through a toe injury before finally succumbing in Week 13 after re-aggravating the injury as he attempted to return.
There were highlights, too, as wide receiver Chris Godwin finished with a stellar season, building off the momentum he had at the end of 2017. He finished the year with over 800 yards and seven touchdowns, quite the uptick from his single touchdown in his rookie season that came in the last game of the season. If you want to read more about the year he had in 2018, click here.