Bruce Arians waited many years for his first full-time NFL head coaching gig, and when he finally got it he found instant success. The Arizona Cardinals gave their corner office to Arians in 2013 after he had already logged nearly four decades of coaching, half of it in the NFL. They also handed him a team that had gone 5-11 in 2012 and was in need of a roster overhaul.
Arians' Cardinals went 10-6 that first season and just two years later had the NFL's second-best record at 13-3. In just five seasons at the helm, he won 49 regular-season games to become the winningest coach in the franchise's century-long history. In a smaller sample size, Arians took over an Indianapolis Colts team in 2012 that was 2-2 after Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and led the team to a 9-3 finish and a Wild Card berth.
It goes without saying that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were hoping for that seem immediate uptick in the wins column when they hired Arians as their new head coach in January. Since his arrival, Arians has had an opportunity to work with General Manager Jason Licht to reshape the Buccaneers' roster, and now that new-look team is about to hit the practice field in earnest. Training camp begins on Friday afternoon.
Arians is confident that the 2019 Buccaneers can win a lot of games, and for one simple reason: The problem wasn't a lack of talent. He has noted on several occasions that he believes the current Buccaneers roster he inherited is in better shape than the one he found in the desert six years ago. Arians said on Thursday that his enthusiasm regarding his new team is "higher than ever" compared to how he felt in Arizona.
"I go back to my first year in Arizona, it was five, mostly six [predicted wins]," he said. "We won 10, and we had injuries, but we won games in the last two minutes. When you go back and look at the [Buccaneers'] 5-11 record, there were a lot of close games. We didn’t play smart enough to win, or we missed a kick, or we had a penalty or busted assignment. It was Bucs beating Bucs. Eliminate that. It wasn’t talent. It’s just play better in the final two minutes of the half and the final two minutes of the game and they’re at least 8-8. Make a kick."
There are, to be fair, corners of the Bucs' roster that are quite young, and thus inexperienced and unproven. Arians admitted that he wasn't particularly keen on relying on rookies in Arizona, but he's likely to be depending on quite a few of them in his first year on the Bucs' sideline. That's less of a problem this time around because of the makeup of this particular class of rookies.
"This is probably the most mature group of rookies I’ve ever been around in my 20-something years in the NFL," said Arians. "These guys are serious men coming to work. They’re not silly guys with a lot of money in their pocket. One of the things I think we learned in Arizona was that great talent that might be a tick immature, take the guy that’s right next to him that is mature, because these guys have to play now."
Those rookies have been practicing and holding meetings at team headquarters since Sunday, and now they'll be joined by the veterans as training camp kicks into high gear. Arians expects it to be the start of something very good, as evidenced by his first words to the media on Thursday:
“I hope everybody is as excited as we are to get started."
View pictures of the Buccaneers arriving for 2019 Training Camp.