Bruce Arians has retired from coaching before, but it didn't stick. This time, Arians is almost certainly hanging up the whistle for good because the transition – for him, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and particularly for Todd Bowles – is everything he could have hoped for.
A two-time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year and an owner of multiple Super Bowl rings, including one as the Buccaneers' head coach in 2020, Arians has an extremely impressive resume. It might even draw Hall of Fame attention down the road, and his candidacy would be considerably stronger if he were able to coach the 2022 Buccaneers to another Super Bowl title. But he chose to walk away from that opportunity, and from what is clearly a top contender, because he had another dream that was far more important to him.
"A number of people have already asked, 'Why are you stepping away from the chance to go to the Hall of Fame and win another Super Bowl?'" said Arians during the press conference to announce his transition to a consultant role and the elevation of Todd Bowles to head coach. "Because I don't give a shit about the Hall of Fame. Succession is way more important to me. This has been my dream for a long time. Guys that know me, they knew I wanted one of my guys to take over, and that's more important to me than anything."
Indeed, Arians has talked frequently about how one of his great passions is building up his coaches and helping them find opportunities for bigger roles. And the Buccaneers' outsized success over the past two seasons has led to head coaching interviews for Bowles and Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich. In addition, former Buccaneers Inside Linebackers Coach Mike Caldwell was recently hired as the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive coordinator. At the time, Arians wasn't exactly pleased that neither Bowles nor Leftwich landed one of those jobs for which they interviewed, but he's certainly happy about it now.
"I thought [Bowles] was going to be a head coach after the Super Bowl, and then this past year," said Arians. "It was very fortunate for me that we could do it today."
View photos of Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles' introductory press conference.
Obviously, the last few days of March is an unusual time for an NFL team to make a coaching change. Arians, who had finished the first three years of the five-year deal he signed with the Bucs in 2019, had been thinking about this succession plan for some time but didn't feel the time was right just after Tampa Bay's elimination from the playoffs in late January. Shortly after that, quarterback Tom Brady announced his attention to step away from the game and Arians' focus changed to figuring out how to keep the Buccaneers in contention some other way. But when Brady later decided to return for the 2022 season in Tampa, Arians realized the time was right indeed.
"I thought about it at the end of the season, but again, it wasn't right," said Arians. "Obviously, [I was] going through the Combine, going through all that process, trying to build next year's team without Tom. Then when Tom said he'd come back I said, 'Now it's easy.' We're in the best shape we've ever been. No better time to pass the torch then now. I don't know what February brings, but I know what today brings and it makes me really happy.
"Would I be having this if Tom stayed retired? Probably not, because the situation would be in the position it is to hand it over. But now, with it being in the situation it is, it's easy, it's perfect."
Essentially, Arians didn't simply want to hand over the keys to Bowles, he wanted to put him in the driver's seat of a team in position to succeed. Brady's presence, and the domino effect of other veteran players either signing or re-signing with the Bucs in recent weeks, greatly changes Tampa Bay's outlook for 2022. And it put Arians at peace as he steps aside and watches from up close as "one of his guys" gets the opportunity he deserves.
"I'm extremely excited about the future, of what the future holds for this franchise and for me," said Arians. "I couldn't turn it over to a better person. Todd's going to do a great job."