Tom Bradyhas been a central figure in a number of offseason storylines, including not only his brief retirement. In remarks he made earlier this month, he commented on two of the most notable storylines involving his decision to keep playing for at least one more season.
One of those is the reported rift between himself and former head coach Bruce Arians. Growing disagreements between the two, many believe, led to the latter’s retirement, allowing Todd Bowles to take over on the sidelines. Arians himself has denied that sentiment, recently stating that he would have delayed his decision to step aside had he known Brady was coming back for at least the 2022 campaign.
When asked about the presence of tension between the two, Brady similarly said, via ESPN’s Jenna Laine, that there was “zero whatsoever.” He continued, “he and I have a great relationship. Part of the reason I chose here was because of Bruce… I have great respect for him. He knows how I feel about him – that’s the most important thing. And I know how he feels about me.”
Another major storyline is that of the deal believed to have been in place which would have sent Brady to Miami as the quarterback of a Dolphins team coached by Sean Payton. Brady offered a more vague response when asked about that situation, saying, “I had a lot of conversations with a lot of people. I’ve had for the last three or four years of my career, about different opportunities when I’m done playing football… I kind of made a decision of what I’d like to do, and [where] I’ll get to be in the game of football.”
The reported Miami arrangement has become a moot point for 2022 at the very least, with Payton set to work at Fox Sports this season, just as Brady will when he retires for good. That will allow the latter to return his attention to the Buccaneers, as he aims for an eighth Super Bowl title.
One of the biggest storylines of this offseason’s coaching cycle wasn’t one of the many outside hires made around the league, but the internal succession plan enacted in Tampa Bay. Bruce Arians recently shed more light on the thought process that went in to his retirement decision.
Arians’ tenure in Tampa Bay spanned three years. It included a 31-18 record, and the franchise’s second Super Bowl title. His remarks pointed to a fourth campaign at the helm, but things began to change as early as March, Stroud notes. Working under the impression that Tom Bradyhad retired, Arians weighed the possibility of an unproven QB room against his desire to see defensive coordinator Todd Bowles succeed him.
“I was going the other way. I was thinking [Brady] wasn’t going to play,” he said. “Had Tom not come back, I probably would still be coaching. I couldn’t give Todd that situation.”
Instead, Brady un-retired, leaving Arians free to step aside as HC. Doing so allowed him to keep both Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich – whom Stroud reports Arians “expected ” to each receive outside head coaching jobs – in Tampa Bay, along with Brady. Arians said that the continued presence of that triumvirate made it “the perfect time” for him to retire.
Now, the two-time Coach of the Year is set to work in Tampa Bay under the title of senior advisor to the general manager, which should grant him a similar role to the one he desired, but was denied, in Arizona in 2018. “I’ll be here every day once the season starts,” he said. “But I won’t have to be here every night.”
It remains to be seen what Arians plans to do after the 2022 season, but for at least the immediate future, the transition plan he envisioned is in place.
BruceArians‘ stint on the sidelines has come to an end. Peter King of Football Morning in America reports that the Buccaneers head coach is stepping down and will take a front office role with the organization. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will take over in Arians’ place. The Buccaneers have announced the move, adding that Arians will take on the role of “Senior Football Consultant.”
“[S]uccession has always been huge for me,” Arians told King. “With the organization in probably the best shape it’s been in its history, with Tom Brady coming back … I’d rather see Todd in position to be successful and not have to take some [crappy] job. I’m probably retiring next year anyway, in February. So, I control the narrative right now. I don’t control it next February because [if] Brady gets hurt, we go 10-7, and it’s an open interview for the job … I got 31 [coaches and their] families that depend on me. My wife is big on not letting all those families down.”
Arians also admitted that he considered retiring following the Buccaneers Super Bowl-winning 2020 season. Now, with Bowles still with the organization and Brady returning for another season (despite a brief retirement), Arians thought this was the appropriate time to step away from the sideline. As Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times tweets, Brady’s return helped “cement” Arians’ decision, as he wanted to hand over a championship-caliber team to his defensive coordinator. Arians said that his decision wasn’t health-related.
“It hit me after the Super Bowl,” Arians told King. “I thought really hard about going out on top. Then it was like, nah, let’s go for two. [The 2021 season] was a grind with all the injuries but still winning and getting to where we got. Immediately after, two to three weeks afterwards [I thought] … if I quit, my coaches get fired. I couldn’t do it then.
“Tom was kind of the key. When Tom decided to come back … and all of these guys back now, it’s the perfect timing for me just to go into the front office and still have the relationships that I love.”
While Arians is saying all of the right things, it may be tough for some to take these statements at face value. Before Brady reversed his retirement decision, there were reports that the QB and his head coach didn’t see eye to eye regarding the offensive game plan. Citing those issues, some pundits were stunned when Brady decided to return to Tampa Bay for another season. While we’ll never know one way or the other, it’s easy to wonder if Brady’s return was connected to Arians’ “decision” to step down. As King notes, today’s news will “increase the influence of offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Brady on game plans and play-calling,” so the future Hall of Fame QB will get his way, after all.
Arians, who will turn 70 in October, will finish his coaching career with a 80-48 record, including a 6-3 postseason record. Four of those playoff victories came during that Super Bowl season in 2020. Arians also had stints as the offensive coordinator with the Browns, Steelers, and Colts.
There were previous rumblings that Arians wanted Bowles to take over as head coach, but the accomplished defensive coordinator still flirted with head coaching vacancies around the NFL. Following an up-and-down stint as the Jets head coach, Bowlers was hired as the defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay in 2019. He has helped turned the Buccaneers’ defensive line into one of the best in the NFL. The Bucs ranked first in rushing yards allowed in both 2019 and 2020, and the defense has been top-10 in points allowed since the beginning of the 2020 season.
Today’s move will now open a hole at defensive coordinator. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). the likely scenario is that inside linebackers coach LarryFoote and defensive line coach KacyRodgers will split defensive coordinator duties.
The Buccaneers cruised on Super Wild Card Weekend to a mostly stress-free victory over the Eagles in January. While they were all smiles on the field, in the locker room, Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs was preparing himself for a lengthy recovery. Wirfs left the game early in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury and, soon after, found out that he had suffered two torn ligaments, including one off the bone, and was initially thought to need surgery to repair his ankle.
Here are some other notes from the NFC South, starting with another note from central Florida:
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, head coach Bruce Arians has announced that quarterback Kyle Traskwill be given a legitimate chance to replaceTom Brady in training camp. With the retirement of Brady leaving the position behind center wide open for the taking, the second-year player out of the nearby University of Florida will attempt to show his worth as the team’s second-round pick from last year. Veteran Blaine Gabbert spent the 2021 season as Brady’s primary backup, but he is heading back to the free agent market, unless Arians and company decide to bring him back. As of right now, Trask is the only active quarterback on contract in Tampa Bay. It has yet to be seen whom his competition will be.
On Monday, news dropped that the University of Alabama’s director of sports science, Dr. Matt Rhea, is expected to join the staff in New Orleans, according to Josh Pate of CBS Sports. Rhea has worked with the Tide for two years after a similar stint on staff with the Indiana Hoosiers. He also brings with him 13 years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach.
The Panthers acquired former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore via a trade with the Patriots last season. After overcoming an early quad injury to start the season, Gilmore put forth an impressive performance in eight games for Carolina. The Panthers would love to bring Gilmore back on a new deal, but, with Gilmore expected to draw offers up to $14MM, he is expected to test free agency, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Over the past week, Mike Sando of The Athletic and former player (and current FOX Sports Radio host) Rich Ohrnberger both reported that recently-retired (?) Buccaneers QB Tom Brady had grown frustrated with some of the team’s coaching. Ohrnberger specifically delineated issues that Brady had with HC Bruce Arians, and he added to that narrative with a series of tweets on Saturday night. Per Ohrnberger, not only did Arians take a figurative red pen to the game plans that Brady and OC Byron Leftwich would devise together, but Brady and Leftwich also had significant disagreements, particularly with respect to the run game.
Ohrnberger further noted that there is a feeling of resentment towards Arians in the building, because he has a “much lighter work schedule” than others players/coaches. In his own Twitter thread, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times adamantly refuted Ohrnberger’s reporting, saying that Arians — now 69 and with a history of health problems, including a recent Achilles injury — accepted his post on the condition that he would not be heavily involved in the game-planning, and that he did not take a red pen to anything. Stroud added that Arians’ work schedule was lighter by design, thereby implying that no one within the organization resents him for it. In fact, Stroud says he has not heard anything from any player or assistant to lend credence to Ohrnbeger’s report:
Now for more out of Tampa, beginning (of course) with additional Brady-related items:
Arians himself fired back at Ohrnberger’s original reports on the matter (via Stroud in a full-length piece), though Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes this is a classic example of protesting too much. In Florio’s estimation, Ohrnberger — who played with Brady for three years in New England and who enjoys a close friendship with Buccaneers assistant coach A.Q. Shipley — has plenty of credibility here, and Florio is inclined to believe Ohrnberger’s take on the Brady/Arians rift.
And if Ohrnberger is, in fact, accurate, then that would obviously add more ballast to the rumors that Brady actually wants to play in 2022 and that he is simply trying to finagle his way out of Tampa. Indeed, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, longtime Brady teammates Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman believe Brady will be back, though Volin suggests it will be with a different team despite what he classifies as a “great relationship” between Brady and the Bucs. Volin adds that Brady may also want to buy into an NFL ownership group, and he names the Raiders and Dolphins as possibilities in that regard.
Bucs receiver Mike Evans is on the team’s side when it comes to the divorce between Tampa Bay and fellow wideout Antonio Brown. In a recent interview with Matt Harmon of Yahoo! Sports, Evans detailed the moments leading up to Brown’s famous midgame exit in the Bucs’ Week 16 matchup with the Jets, and he indicated Brown’s departure was spurred by his lack of targets. “You know, he was saying he wanted the rock, and I mean, rightfully so,” Evans said. “But like, yo, come in the game, AB. … They’re calling for us, because me and him are both on the pitch count, because we’re both coming back from injury. And so I’m trying to get him to come in the game. And he doesn’t come. So I go back on the drive. I do my two plays. I come out. And then I see [Arians] still trying to get him to come in the game. And they had like a falling out somehow. And AB goes off. … So I’m telling him, please don’t go out like this. And they’re calling me to come back in the game. So I just left him alone like, all right.”
Now for one from the non-drama department. Per Greg Auman of The Athletic, the Bucs are promoting Tim Atkins from quality control coach to defensive and special teams assistant (Twitter link). Atkins was on DC Todd Bowles‘ staff with the Jets and has spent the last three seasons on the Bucs’ staff.
When Tom Brady announced his retirement, he cited a desire to focus his “time and energy on other things that require [his] attention,” including his family and business ventures. However, there might be more to his decision. According to Mike Sando of The Athletic, the future Hall of Fame quarterback had “grown frustrated with some of the Buccaneers’ coaching.”
Meanwhile, former player (and current FOX Sports Radio host) Rich Ohrnberger tweeted that Brady and head coach BruceArians had issues seeing “eye-to-eye” regarding the offensive game planning. According to Ohrnberger, Brady and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich would spend mornings working on the week’s game plan. Arians, meanwhile, would be rehabbing his Achilles injury, and the HC would later enter the offensive meeting and “take the red pen” to his OC’s and QB’s draft. Leftwich and Brady both felt “undermined,” leading to “tension” in the locker room.
Brady’s intensity, desire for perfection, and stubbornness has often led to tension with coaches. While he obviously shared the same championship-focused vision as BillBelichick in New England, there were continuous rumors of issues between the two, rumors that seemed to be (partly) confirmed when Brady ultimately left the Patriots.
This reported tension with Arians has only fueled the fire regarding a potential Brady return. Either way, as Sando writes, his tenure in Tampa Bay is absolutely done, and the organization now has to figure out their QB situation moving forward. We heard recently that the front office could have their eye on big names like Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson. NFL Network’s James Palmer reports (via Twitter) that the organization isn’t interested in pursuing a QB via the draft, mostly because the team is encouraged by the development of 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask.
Although Matt Eberflus landed the Bears job because of the Colts’ defensive performance, Chicago’s new HC is planning more of a CEO-type role for himself. Eberflus is not planning to call defensive plays for the Bears this season, via The Athletic’s Adam Jahns (on Twitter). Instead, new Chicago DCAlan Williams will handle that responsibility. Williams, 52, has previous DC experience, working under Leslie Frazier in Minnesota in the early 2010s, and has enjoyed a few tours as a DBs coach. This will be an interesting transition for Eberflus, a first-time HC. It will not be a notable transition for the Bears, who spent much of the past two seasons with their head coach operating in a CEO-type capacity. Matt Nagy handed off play-calling duties to then-OC Bill Lazor in each of the past two seasons.
Here is the latest from the NFC coaching carousel:
The Buccaneers are set to go through a major transition, with Tom Brady‘s retirement ending a brief but successful era that likely doubled as the second-highest peak in franchise history. But Bruce Arians is not eyeing a rebuild. The fourth-year Bucs HC denied a report that indicated the team would allow assistants to pursue other jobs even if the new positions were not promotions, per The Athletic’s Greg Auman (on Twitter). It looks like Arians will keep both coordinators — Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles — for the 2022 season, so Tampa Bay will still feature considerable continuity despite Brady’s departure and the presumptive exits of some key free agents.
Circling back to the Bears, the team made some additional hires in recent days. New OC Luke Getsy‘s right-hand man on the Justin Fields front will be Andrew Janocko, Chicago’s new quarterbacks coach. Janocko spent the past seven seasons with the Vikings, ending the run by serving as their QBs coach in 2021. He also worked as the Vikes’ receivers coach and assistant O-line coach at points during his long Minnesota tenure. The Bears also hired James Rowe as their secondary coach. Rowe will come over after serving as the Colts’ cornerbacks coach. David Overstreet, Indianapolis’ assistant DBs coach, will also follow Eberflus and fill the same position with the Bears. Overstreet moved up from the quality control level with Indy in 2021.
Former Packers offensive line coach James Campen landed a job as the Panthers‘ O-line coach, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. Following a 12-year tenure in Green Bay, Campen will begin the 2022 season with a new team for the fourth straight year. He coached the Browns, Chargers and Texans’ O-lines from 2019-21.
Giants running backs coach Burton Burns is expected to retire, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post tweets. Burns, 69, began coaching in 1981 and spent the past two years as the Giants’ RBs coach — his only NFL position during his career. Fellow college-staff veteran Kevin Sherrer is expected to follow Burns on the way out, per Dunleavy. Sherrer served as the Giants’ linebackers coach last season and migrated to the NFL level, like Burns, for the first time in 2020.
To replace tight ends coach Justin Outten, who made a big leap to become the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, the Packers promoted John Dunn. Although this is a promotion, after Dunn spent the 2021 season as an offensive analyst in Green Bay, he coached Jets tight ends from 2019-20.
When Saints’ former head coach Sean Payton retired, he left the door open for a return. Although he made it clear that he has no intention of coaching during the 2022 NFL season, Payton didn’t rule out a return later on.
“My plans are not to be coaching in 2022,” Payton said. “I still have a vision for doing things in football and, I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point.”
Because Payton is under contract with the Saints through the 2024 NFL season, this “mini-retirement” means that whichever team wants to sign him for the 2023 season will have to negotiate with the Saints to do so. Even though Payton told radio personality Dan Patrick that he heard two teams reached out through back channels, those channels never reached Saints’ general managerMickey Loomis, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. This means that whatever the level of interest those two teams had, it didn’t rise to the point where they were ready to talk compensation.
The most recent example would be when the Buccaneers pulled Bruce Arians out of his recent retirement from coaching the Cardinals three seasons ago. This is a precedent the Saints’ would stray away from as Arians lack of success in Arizona led to the Cardinals essentially nudging him into retirement. When the deal was made to send Arians to Tampa Bay, the Cardinals received a sixth-round pick and gave the Buccaneers Arians and a seventh-round pick.
Payton is currently considered in much higher demand than Arians was at the time. Mortensen laid out three past transactions that he considers a little more on par with Payton’s current value. The most pricey example was about 20-years ago when the Buccaneers gave the Raiders two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8MM cash in exchange for Jon Gruden, who lead his new team to a Super Bowl victory over his old team. The Gruden deal differs a bit from the Arians deal because Gruden wasn’t thinking of retiring and there was really no threat to his job. Raiders’ owner and general manager Al Davis had some questions over Gruden’s value, but there was never talk that his job was in jeopardy.
Another similar deal came back in 1997, when Bill Parcells decided he didn’t want to coach for the Patriots anymore. Parcells’ contract restricted him from coaching anywhere else, so the Jets attempted to circumvent the restriction by hiring a key Parcells’ assistant, Bill Belichick, as their head coach and hiring Parcells as an “advisor.” After the Patriots threatened legal action, the commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, helped the two sides come to an agreement wherein the Patriots would send Parcells to the Jets in exchange for a first-, second-, third-, and fourth-round pick (spread over the following three years). Even though this deal doesn’t include any “mini-retirements,” it follows the current situation a little more closely than the Gruden deal.
Belichick’s return to New England had a very similar ring to his arrival in New York. After the Jets arranged for Belichick to succeed Parcells as head coach, Belichick went to his press conference and, instead of introducing himself as the new head coach, he introduce his resignation from the franchise. The Patriots soon requested permission to interview Belichick to replace Pete Carroll, but the Jets pulled the reverse card and demanded compensation, as Belichick was still under contract. Tagliabue stepped in, once more, and the Patriots sent New York a first-round pick in exchange for the coaching rights of Belichick.
All these examples, despite their different situations, provide a basis for the Saints to use in determining what they think they are due when another team inevitably comes calling. As a Super Bowl champion and long-tenured head coach, Payton is sure to fetch quite a price for whichever team decides to hire him.
With three-time MVP quarterback Tom Bradyannouncing his retirement earlier today, speculation has already started on the future of the Buccaneers’ franchise. Brady’s retirement has experts wondering about the futures of tight end Rob Gronkowki and head coach Bruce Arians. Both have flirted with retirement before.
Contributing to the postulation on Arians’ situation is head coaching interest in the Buccaneers’ coordinators on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich recently had his second interview for the Jaguars open coaching position. Reportedly, talks have stalled as Leftwich has expressed issues with current general manager Trent Baalke continuing in that position, with Leftwich preferring Cardinals’ vice president of pro scouting Adrian Wilson to replace the polarizing GM. The Saints have requested an interview with Leftwich, who previously received interest from the Bears before they hiredMatt Eberflus. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has interviewed with the Bears, Jaguars, Raiders, and Vikings. With the Bears’ job taken, Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels being the presumed frontrunner in Las Vegas, and Jacksonville having conducted multiple second interviews Bowles’ opportunities for a head coaching job are starting to dwindle, as well.
More cause for speculation has risen from an article from Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. In the article Wilson reports that Arians has informed the entire coaching staff that they have permission to seek jobs around the league regardless of whether or not the new position would be a promotion. With the potential exit of the two New England-legends and the impactful group of Buccaneers heading into free agency, this permission could potentially be an opportunity to abandon ship before the start of a Tampa Bay rebuild.
In terms of those free agents, joining free-agent-to-be Gronkowski are three other significant role players: wide receiver Chris Godwin, center Ryan Jensen, and cornerback Carlton Davis. Godwin is expected to be the top free agent priority in Tampa Bay after he received the franchise tag for this past season. Jensen came over three years ago from the Ravens on what then made him the highest paid center in the NFL. Davis was a key contributor due for a big contract year on defense before being placed on IR after Week 4 of the season and missing eight weeks during a crucial year.
The domino-effect of Brady’s retirement is already looming large over the Buccaneers’ prospects for the 2022 NFL season. Tampa Bay has the entire offseason to navigate these obstacles and mitigate the potential fallout. After winning a Super Bowl just last year, the departure of Brady could be as game-changing to the Buccaneers as his arrival was nearly two years ago.
Tom Brady‘s 2021 season is over. Following a thrilling loss to the Rams in which the Buccaneers just fell short of their comeback bid, Brady was asked about how he will contemplate whether to come back or not. Brady’s thoughts were clearly still centered on the loss he had endured moments before.
“I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. So, we’ll just take it day by day and see where we’re at,” Brady replied. He continued, “Truthfully, guys, I’m thinking about this game and not thinking about anything past 5 minutes from now.”
Our staff writer, Rory Parks, expanded quite a bit on Brady’s non-committal attitude going into the Divisional Round game, and it appears his attitude has not changed quite yet.
As a result of the one-year extension Brady signed last March, he is under club control through 2022, and he affirmed several months after he put pen to paper that he would honor his commitment. Indeed, he has long said that he wants to play until he is 45, and 2022 would be his age-45 season.
In brighter news for the Buccaneers, head coach Bruce Arians has already spread the news that he is not retiring. Through three years in Tampa Bay, Arians has already added a Lombardi Trophy to the case. The 69-year old plans to coach until he can’t anymore. He also told reporters (before today’s loss) that he would be “shocked” if Brady called it quits after this season. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see just how well Arians knows his veteran quarterback.