Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians has decades of coaching experience at both the college and NFL levels. Now sitting in the top spot as a coveted '1 of 32' NFL head coaches, he's developed his own method to football madness. His methods make a lot of sense too, whether it's bringing on a former NFL official in a full-time coaching capacity to help cut down on penalties by educating players and coaches on the rules or running two simultaneous practices in order to let reserve players get more reps. What's more surprising is that these things aren't commonplace, but rather a result of said decades of experience to arrive at one of the most unique systems in the league.
One of the biggest jobs of a football coach is to impact and develop his players. Traditional practices though, see the starters get most of the reps while reserve players stand on the sidelines getting 'mental ones.' Those are important, too, but outwardly, coaches can't see what players are capable of if they aren't getting on the field.
"Oh, there's no doubt that the more reps you get, the better you get, the more exposure you get," Arians said. "Your tape is your resume. What you're putting on tape – the more you put on tape, the better chance you'll have."
Arians went on to reference the story of Wally Pipp, though most of us are too young to know 'who the hell Wally Pipp was' (which is admittedly true in my case). The story goes that Wally Pipp decided to sit out of practice one day with a headache and got replaced by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, who went on to play 2,000 consecutive games and therefore never surrendered his spot back to Pipp. The point is, you don't know who you have until you see who you have. That means getting those guys that don't normally see the field more reps in front of the coaches and more practice to better themselves.
View photos from day two of voluntary mini-camp.
In a nutshell, Arians' system is all about one thing: development. He's dubbed himself a 'glorified schoolteacher' – with maybe just a few more choice words and helmet slaps than your average educator. He's assembled a district full of fellow 'schoolteachers' underneath him, to the tune of 28 assistant coaches, which is the largest in the NFL. It helps with evaluating every guy on the roster but more than that, Arians has the belief that players aren't the only ones he's charged with developing. To have a true impact on the game itself, you have to develop your coaches, too.
He's taken it a step further now that he's in Tampa. These past two days during voluntary minicamp practices, he's been tooling around in his now-famous golf cart, bouncing between position groups and around the multiple practice fields. There's a reason behind that, too. See, Arians isn't calling the plays this year. On offense, that's Byron Leftwich's job. On defense, Todd Bowles calls the shots. And if they're going to be the ones to do it on gameday, they're going to be the ones to do it in practice, too. After all, players aren't the only ones that need reps.
This doesn't mean in any way that Arians has surrendered control, of course. He's still the head coach and everyone knows it.
"One thing about Coach B.A., you think he is sitting back in his golf cart, but he is communicating with his coaches," quarterback Jameis Winston said. "So, he just has that head roll, so he is communicating with everybody. He is letting his orchestra play, but he is orchestrating behind the scenes telling everybody his thoughts, communicating with the quarterbacks, communicating with K.G. – Kevin Garver [wide receivers coach], communicating with Coach Byron. He runs the show even though everybody else, they're pulling the strings. They are the puppets – we're all on a string – but he is pulling it."
Howard Calls New Offense 'Tight End Friendly'
Tight end O.J. Howard spoke after practice and shared his thoughts on the Bucs' new offensive scheme. Both Howard and tight end Cameron Brate are two of the best combination tight ends in the league, having tremendous skills as receivers along with the ability to block, which gives the offense a ton of options. Head Coach Bruce Arians mentioned that he sees both Brate and Howard as the fourth receiver in a pass-heavy offense that aims to always give the quarterback plenty of options at multiple levels. It's only been two days, but Howard, especially, likes what he sees.
"Every day, we are coming out here and getting better," Howard said. "I already like what we see. We have only been out here for two days, but the offense is very tight-end-friendly. All we can do is go out and execute the plays that are called, but it is very tight-end-friendly for both of us."
Both of us is in reference to him and Brate, for clarification. Contrary to what Howard said, there has been a lot swirling around since Arians came to Tampa that he doesn't utilize tight ends. It's almost as if people have completely forgotten about a guy named Heath Miller in Pittsburgh when Arians was the offensive coordinator. Miller is a potential future Hall of Famer by Arians' own assessment and had some very productive years under Arians. If the offense has the talent at the position, which the Bucs obviously do, you utilize it.
M.J. Stewart Getting Work at Nickel Corner, Position Still in Flux
Nickel corner is a question mark in the secondary, currently, meaning the Bucs could possibly target the position in the upcoming draft. For now, it's second-year player M.J. Stewart who has gotten most of the work in voluntary minicamp practices.
"MJ [Stewart] is starting right now," Arians said. "A couple other young guys are in and out. It's hard to really see it right now, until we add more guys. Guys are playing two positions, who don't need to be playing two positions just so that we can get more reps."
It was a position that Stewart played a lot last year. He was a jack-of-all-trades in college, getting time at outside corner, nickel corner and even safety. There was talk of him switching to safety in the Bucs' new defense but so far with the personnel on hand during these voluntary practices, Stewart has been the one getting in the most reps.
Vita Vea Looking Forward to Being Versatile Player
With the defensive shift to a scheme that more resembles a 3-4, at least for identification purposes, Vita Vea has been getting reacclimated to a role he was familiar with in college. He's been lining up at nose tackle for the past two days but yesterday, Arians said he's a guy that can play all three positions on the front, whether that be in the nose spot, the three-technique of even the five-technique. It's no surprise given Vea's size and athleticism that is so agile and quick, it seems almost contrary. That versatility is something Vea welcomes and looks forward to, thinking that it can help the line as a whole.
"Definitely," Vea said on if it's beneficial that he has a varying skillset. "It makes us as a group play better knowing everyone's job, knowing what we have to do and how it's supposed to be played and stuff like that, so it's going to help us in the long run."