Bruce Arians

Bucs Extend GM Jason Licht, HC Bruce Arians

The Super Bowl architects are staying put. The Buccaneers have agreed to extend the contract of GM Jason Licht (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Meanwhile, they’ve also revised Bruce Arians‘ contract to give the head coach a pay bump. 

Licht took over as the Buccaneers’ GM in 2014. The club went 27-53 in his first five years at the helm, but that didn’t stop the club from inking him to a five-year re-up just before the 2019 season. Today, they’re happy they stuck with him. Licht spearheaded the recruitment of Tom Brady, replacing the interception-prone Jameis Winston with a future Hall of Famer. And, together with Brady, Licht brought in a slew of stars, including Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown. For the reigning champs, the decision to extend Licht was a no-brainer.

Arians still has several years to go on the original deal he inked in 2019. And, all along, he’s said that he’ll honor the contract and coach until he’s truly had his fill.

Oh yeah, that’s the plan. I don’t have any plans on retiring,” Arians said of finishing out his contract during an appearance on the Pewter Report Podcast. “It’s just, when do I not want to go back to work? When I’m not excited about going back to work then I’m cheating somebody. I’m cheating the Glazer family, I’m cheating my players. Right now I can’t wait to get back to work.”

Arians is the third-oldest head coach in the NFL, after only Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. A three-time cancer survivor, Arians has already cemented one of the best comeback stories in NFL coaching history.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bruce Arians Plans To Honor 5-Year Deal

Three months after the Buccaneers’ second Super Bowl parade, Bruce Arians is not backing off the pledge he made at that time. The third-year Bucs HC not only wants to pilot a Bucs title defense but coach the team beyond 2021.

In 2019, Arians said he would retire if the Bucs won a Super Bowl. Now, the 68-year-old leader wants to finish out the five-year contract the Bucs gave him and could potentially coach beyond 2023.

Oh yeah, that’s the plan. I don’t have any plans on retiring,” Arians said of finishing out his contract during an appearance on the Pewter Report Podcast. “It’s just, when do I not want to go back to work? When I’m not excited about going back to work then I’m cheating somebody. I’m cheating the Glazer family, I’m cheating my players. Right now I can’t wait to get back to work.”

[RELATED: Bucs GM: Tom Brady Can Play Until He’s 50]

Tampa Bay deviated from its usual approach to contract structures this offseason, doing so in order to keep its Super Bowl squad together. The maneuvering involved a Tom Brady extension, which is packed with void years that stand to affect future Bucs payrolls. The Bucs are firmly in win-now mode, but Arians also dispelled the notion he would walk away when Brady does. Brady is signed through 2022.

I don’t know when that’s going to happen,” Arians said of his own retirement, “but no, I’m not tied to any players. … I could get extremely excited about having another young quarterback and going to war with one,” Arians said. “I’ll be honest with you. I’d be excited to take Blaine Gabbert to war because I love Blaine Gabbert. I think he is the most underrated player in the NFL. So yeah, when its not fun, then it will be time.”

Arians is the third-oldest head coach in the NFL, after Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, but he did retire after the 2017 season. A three-time cancer survivor, Arians spent 2018 in the broadcast booth. But he has made his comeback one of the best in NFL coaching history, ending a lengthy Bucs playoff drought and giving the franchise its second championship, and wants to continue this chapter beyond 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bruce Arians Returning To Buccaneers In 2021, Confident Team Can Keep FAs

It really sounds like the Buccaneers will be getting the full band back together in 2021. Rob Gronkowski has already said he isn’t retiring, and he’s previously indicated he only wants to play in Tampa. Tom Brady is expected back for at least one more ride, and quite possibly more.

And now we’ve got confirmation that the coach isn’t planning on riding off into the sunset either. “I ain’t going anywhere. I’m trying to get two, and then we’ll see,Bruce Arians said after the Bucs’ Super Bowl win, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). There had been some speculation that the 68-year-old Arians could be headed for retirement, but one championship clearly wasn’t enough to satisfy him.

Arians’ priority will now turn toward keeping all his guys, and he seems to think he’s got a good shot. “I’m very, very confident,” the team will keep its core, Arians said in a Monday press conference, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com. “I have all the trust in the world in (GM) Jason (Licht) and what he would do.”

These guys, they have a bond. There will be dollars involved. But I think that this group is so, so close that sometimes dollars don’t matter. But we’re going to do everything we can to get the dollars right too because they earned it.” Arians’ sentiment about the money not being a deal-breaker was echoed by Mike Evans, who has apparently said he’d be willing to knock off some of his $12.5MM salary for next year to help keep other players.

Stud pass-rusher Shaq Barrett and long-time linebacker Lavonte David are both set to be free agents, as is star receiver Chris Godwin. There will be a lot of guys looking to cash in, and despite Arians’ optimism it’s a simple fact of the NFL that it’ll be hard to retain *everybody*.

Arians retired as Cardinals coach after the 2017 campaign, but his time away from the game ended up only lasting one season. Having Tom Brady and making a deep playoff run appears to have rejuvenated him, and he could very well coach into his 70s at this point.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers’ Bruce Arians Has Succession Plan For Todd Bowles

Will Bruce Arians retire after the Super Bowl? “Hell no,” the coach says. But, someday, the Buccaneers head coach plans to hand things off to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com

I think [our defense has improved by] lightyears,” Arians said of Bowles recently. “Just the mixture of all those guys in the secondary [and] solidifying the front. Again, going into last season, we had to get Shaq Barrett back [and] we had to get Ndamukong Suh back. Keeping everybody there [and] now getting Vita Vea back. And, that secondary was key. Getting guys that could play man-to-man, that were aggressive bump-and-run type people that could also play zone, rather than soft zone players. It took a while, but I think Todd has just done a tremendous job and we’ve been winning with defense.”

Bowles’ defensive prowess is undeniable — his units were stellar in Arizona and even his Jets defenses were decent. However, his win/loss record in New York was rough. In four years, he had only 24 wins in total, despite a 10-win campaign in 2015.

Meanwhile, speculation persists about Arians’ plans, despite his denials. The 68-year-old has retired twice before. His most recent “retirement” came in 2017, after leaving the Cardinals. Previous to that, Arians also claimed to be walking away in 2011, when he peace’d out on the Steelers. Today, win or lose, Arians says he’s coming back for at least one more season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs’ Bruce Arians: “Hell No” I Won’t Retire

Bruce Arians is having too much fun to stop now. If the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl, the veteran head coach says he won’t be tempted to leave on a high note. 

[RELATED: Bucs Want To Re-Sign AB]

Hell no,” said Arians when asked about the possibility of retirement (Twitter link via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). “I’m going for two. If the Glazers will have me back.

At least, it was a fair question. Arians, 68, has retired twice before. Most recently, he retired as the Cardinals’ head coach after the 2017 season. He was also claimed to be walking away in 2011, when he parted ways with the Steelers.

Arians has won two Super Bowls as an assistant, but he’ll be going for his first ring as a head coach. Win or lose, the Glazers will almost certainly want him back. The same goes for wide receiver Antonio Brownthe Bucs reportedly want to re-sign the controversial star, who has stayed out trouble since coming to Tampa Bay. In the regular season, Brown caught 45 passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns in eight games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Brown, Brady

Previously slated to return in Week 14, Christian McCaffrey has run into another setback. The All-Pro Panthers running back suffered a quadriceps injury during the team’s bye week, and Matt Rhule said it tightened up during Wednesday’s practice, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. Rhule pointed to an offsite workout for the cause of McCaffrey’s latest malady, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. A high ankle sprain and a shoulder ailment have limited McCaffrey to just three games this season. Rhule said earlier this week McCaffrey was set to play against the Broncos on Sunday. This latest update could change that status. Given McCaffrey’s long-term importance to the Panthers, it would not exactly surprise at this juncture if the team opted to hold him out for the rest of the season. But it is too early to tell on that front, and Rhule said Wednesday that McCaffrey wants to return as soon as possible.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • The Panthers placed eight players on their reserve/COVID-19 list this week after two tested positive for the coronavirus. This appears to have stemmed from an outside gathering of players, with NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills indicating a bye-week gathering led to the virus cases, via Person (on Twitter). Seven of those players — including starters Shaq Thompson, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Derrick Brown — remain on Carolina’s COVID list.
  • Antonio Brown should be in the clear on finishing the 2020 season, and a recent change for his civil trial date could affect his 2021 free agency. A Florida judge moved the Buccaneers wide receiver’s trial date — for a civil case stemming from Britney Taylor’s rape allegation — to Dec. 6, 2021, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The NFL suspended Brown eight games this season, but Taylor’s allegation did not factor into that ban. The Taylor suit threatens to lead to another Brown ban, but that issue will be tabled for a while.
  • Tom Brady‘s assimilation to Bruce Arians‘ offense has not gone especially smoothly, despite the future Hall of Famer’s sporadic success in his first Bucs season. Particularly, the bevy of deep passes Arians’ offense calls for have resulted in Brady struggling as of late. From Weeks 8-11, Brady was just 5% (1-for-19) on passes that traveled 20-plus yards in the air, and ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine notes the Bucs staff had discussed adjusting the offense before their bye week. Arians said recently coverage recognition, and not ability, contributed more to Brady’s deep-ball issues. It will be interesting to see if the staff made larger-scale changes to the offense during the bye, considering Brady’s penchant for quick-strike, shorter passes. The Bucs, who have lost back-to-back games, will face the Vikings on Sunday.
  • The Falcons are set to interview Saints assistant GM Terry Fontenot for their GM post. One of three known candidates to succeed Thomas Dimitroff, Fontenot has been with the Saints for more than 15 years.

Reactions To Antonio Brown Signing With Buccaneers

Antonio Brown is officially a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the two sides have finalized a one-year contract. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweets that the deal is worth slightly more than a minimum salary, although there are per-game roster bonuses, individual incentives, and team incentives.

Besides Brown’s continued antics over the past year-plus, it’s not overly surprising that he had to settle for this kind of incentive-laden deal. Bruce Arians had previously dealt with Brown when he was the wide receivers coach in Pittsburgh, and the Buccaneers head coach had consistently stated that the Bucs wouldn’t be signing the wideout. Perhaps the low-risk contract has partly swayed Arians’ opinion.

One individual who was clamoring for Brown was Tom Brady. The quarterback is signed through the 2021 season, so if the wide receiver is a productive member of the offense, there’s a chance he could stick around beyond the 2020 campaign.

Here’s some more news and notes pertaining to the AB signing:

  • ESPN’s Jenna Laine writes that Brown’s signing is all about maximizing Brady’s window. While Arians may have previously been against adding the wideout, Laine believes Tampa Bay’s continued offensive injuries (a list that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scott Miller, and O.J. Howard) may have changed his mind. Plus, Laine writes that the “feeling inside the organization” is that Arians has a strong personality that can keep Brown in line, and there’s also Brady’s positive influence. The writer also points out that Brown was teammates with three members of the coaching staff: offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El, and outside linebackers coach Larry Foote.
  • Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic wonders why the Buccaneers are taking the unnecessary risk of signing Brown. Tampa Bay is leading the NFC in point differential, and while that has mostly been thanks to the defense, the offense has been plenty competent. Brown’s talent means he could naturally provide the passing game with a significant boost, but Kapadia thinks it’s more likely that “he’ll be a problem.”
  • Here’s a fun one for fans of conspiracies. Following public reports of the Seahawks interest in Brown, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com wonders why Seattle let that information leak in the first place. One argument could be made that the Seahawks “recklessly invited a competitor to swoop in” and sign the wideout, while another argument could be made that the Seahawks deliberately leaked the news. Why would they do that? Florio writes that the Seahawks may have been doing the modern-day version of the Trojan Horse, hoping that Brown’s signing would derail his suitor’s season. In another piece, Florio notes that those “within league circles” wonder if Pete Carroll “repeatedly confirmed interest in Brown in the hopes that someone else would sign” the receiver.
  • Greg Auman of The Athletic explores the 22-month span that saw Brown going from a star wideout with the Steelers to a low-salary, midseason signing with the Buccaneers. The story starts in December of 2018, when Brown was benched for Pittsburgh’s season finale and subsequently missed his exit meeting with Mike Tomlin.

NFC South Rumors: Arians, Saints, Okung

Having battled three different types of cancer and being set to turn 68 in October, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians falls into the higher-risk category for potential coronavirus complications. But Arians will coach this season, and he is not planning to do so from the press box. The second-year Bucs HC will coach from the sideline while wearing a mask and a face shield, he said recently.

As far as on the field, I’ll maintain a mask and probably a shield just for personal use and coach like I’ve always coached,” Arians said. “I’m very confident. Like I said, the protocols that are in place are extremely safe.”

Arians has had cancerous tumors to be removed from his prostate, skin and kidney. He enters the season as NFL’s third-oldest head coach, behind Pete Carroll, who are both 68. Two head coaches — Sean Payton and Doug Pederson — have tested positive for COVID-19 thus far. The Eagles HC tested positive earlier this week. Players and coaches are currently being tested daily. This arrangement will continue for two weeks before the league reassesses.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Russell Okung dealt with a health scare last year but did not opt out of the 2020 season. However, the Panthers‘ recently acquired left tackle is considering retirement. But Okung will wait on a decision for now. The 11th-year veteran will keep his options open as he goes further into camp, advisor J.I. Halsell told NFL reporter Josina Anderson (Twitter link). It’s possible the 31-year-old blocker wants to learn more about what this season’s COVID-19-defined environment will bring. Okung has a $13MM salary awaiting him this season but has already made a considerable amount of money in his career.
  • Emmanuel Sanders made the initial contact between he and the Saints in free agency, the 11th-year wide receiver said, per The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell (on Twitter). The former Steelers, Broncos and 49ers wideout wanted to play with Drew Brees in New Orleans, and that helped lead to the two-year, $16MM deal he signed in March. Sanders also assisted the Saints with another free agent receiver, with a Brees-Sanders-Bennie Fowler workout in Denver leading to the latter’s signing this week (Twitter link via Terrell).
  • The Falcons plan to use recently signed cornerback Darqueze Dennard as a slot and boundary cornerback in training camp, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. Dennard mostly worked as a slot defender in Cincinnati. Atlanta signed Dennard earlier last week. He will join a cornerback crew that features third-year player Isaiah Oliver and first-round rookie A.J. Terrell.
  • Given Brees’ year-to-year status, the Saints are obviously not eyeing a contract-year trade of Alvin Kamara. But no known extension talks have taken place between the Saints and their standout back. However, a deal that pays the three-down back just less than what Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott make ($16MM and $15MM AAV, respectively) is a solution The Athletic’s Larry Holder envisions (subscription required). Kamara, one of several running back starters in contract years, has said he wants to stay in New Orleans.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brady Fallout: Bucs, Belichick, Colts, Hoyer

The Buccaneers‘ signing of the most accomplished free agent in NFL history triggered a ripple effect in several cities. That started in Charlotte. Although neither Bruce Arians nor Jason Licht spoke to Tom Brady until Wednesday of last week, the Bucs believed they had a “shell of a deal” with Brady by Tuesday, Peter King of NBC Sports reports. This was hours before the future Hall of Fame quarterback announced he would no longer return to the Patriots. The Bucs’ discussions with Brady’s agent, Don Yee, Tuesday prompted them to bow out of the Teddy Bridgewater pursuit, King adds. Bridgewater’s Panthers offer prompted the Bucs to give him an answer, and they chose to stay in the Brady pursuit without a full commitment. The Bucs had been linked to Bridgewater for weeks.

At February’s end, the Bucs’ quarterback hierarchy went Brady-Bridgewater-Jameis Winston, King notes. Tampa Bay had also been linked to Philip Rivers in February, but it became clear the Colts were his top option.

Here is the latest fallout from the Bucs’ Brady signing:

  • Brady’s camp expressed interest in the Colts, but King notes the interest was not mutual. The prospect of a Rivers-Colts partnership surfaced shortly after the Chargers revealed they would not re-sign him, and while the notion of Rivers-over-Brady sounds interesting based on the veterans’ accolades, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets the Colts’ preference of going with a one-year quarterback arrangement probably did not align with Brady’s hopes of a multiyear commitment. Rivers signed a one-year, $25MM deal; Brady became a Buccaneer for two years and $50MM fully guaranteed. Brady also expressed interest in the 49ers, and the Titans were a long-rumored suitor. These franchises joined the Colts and Raiders in leaving the Brady race early.
  • Early this offseason, Brady’s camp put out feelers to other teams, and ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham notes many executives around the league viewed the quarterback as being driven by ill will toward Bill Belichick that they could not tell if he wanted out of New England or merely wanted Robert Kraft to step in and broker a new Pats deal. Belichick refused to give Brady the extension he sought last summer, and Wickersham adds that a Brady-Belichick conversation in late 2017 about the quarterback’s future with the Patriots ended with a “blowup.” This meeting appears to have happened just before Wickersham’s “tension in New England”-centered report that indicated Kraft’s intervention helped drive the Jimmy Garoppolo-to-San Francisco deal. The Patriots gave Brady an incentive package in 2018, leading to his extension-in-name-only 2019 contract.
  • As for the Patriots‘ plans, they may actually be planning a Brian HoyerJarrett Stidham quarterback battle. Hoyer could have earned more money elsewhere but wanted to return to New England because he was told he will have a chance to vie for the starting job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link). The Patriots, as of now, do not have Andy Dalton on their radar and are viewed as being high on Stidham, who has attempted four NFL passes.