Byron Leftwich

Bruce Arians Discusses Coaches, New Role, TE Options

Bruce Arians has made it clear that his decision to step down as Buccaneers head coach wasn’t because of tension with his franchise quarterback. Rather, Arians has continually mentioned his desire for a clear succession plan when it came to the coaching staff, and he saw a golden opportunity to pass on the reigns to Todd Bowles.

“No it really wasn’t hard,” Arians said during a recent appearance on the “Eye Test For Two” podcast (h/t to JoeBucsFan.com). “[Winning a championship is] great, but succession was really, really big for me. It didn’t happen in Arizona. It meant the world to me to make sure 34 families had jobs beyond February. The Super Bowl wasn’t guaranteed, there’s nothing guaranteed, but now our guys have 5-year contracts. Todd’s got a 5-year deal and all the assistant coaches are set for the future.

“I was probably done anyway, so why not do it now? I know a lot of people think the Hall of Fame is the end-all, be-all and if it happens, that would be the most unbelievable thing to be able to wear a gold jacket. But this meant more to me personally.”

When Arians stepped away from his gig, it was assumed that the move was influenced by Tom Brady‘s decision to renege on his retirement and return for the 2022 campaign. Both sides have said that wasn’t the case, and Arians even said he would have reconsidered had he known Brady’s intentions before making his own decision. Passing on the job to Bowles seemed like a natural move, especially with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich still around to direct the offense.

With Arians no longer roaming the sideline, the long-time coach has transitioned into more of an advisory role. When Arians stepped down, his new role was described as “Senior Football Consultant.” The former coach indicated that he’ll still be interacting with both the coaches and the players, and he’ll naturally be able to take on a lesser role when it comes to game day:

“It’s a ‘What do you think?’ job,” Arians said. “Everybody asks me what do I think and they know they’re getting a brutally honest answer, whether it be [owner] Joel Glazer, [general manaher] Jason Licht, Todd Bowles or Byron Leftwich. It’s been fun going to practice, watching and learning some more, watching us change, looking at the new guys. Man, that draft class is going to be a home run. Looking forward to getting to camp.

“That’s the beauty of my job. I get to be in the locker room, get to be around the coaches every day and still have a big hand in the draft. The relationships were always the biggest thing for me. Building a new team, watching the new guys come in. Now, Sundays might be different sitting upstairs. I might be able to still holler loud enough to cuss out the refs from up there.”

Since he’ll no longer be responsible for devising a game plan, Arians will have more of an opportunity to contribute to team building. One of his more pressing issues will be figuring out how to proceed following tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s decision to retire. Fortunately, Arians doesn’t sound too worried about the team’s depth at the position.

“It’s a step back, that’s for sure,” Arians said. “[H]e’s a Hall of Fame player. But I really like the room right now. I love the young kids we’ve got in there and Cam Brate’s a good veteran player that Tom really trusts. Now, he’s not Gronk. That size and what he brings as a blocker and receiver I think is unmatched. You don’t replace that guy, but we also have Codey McElroy … I think it’s time for him to break out as a receiver.”

Bruce Arians’ Retirement Decision Was Long Contemplated, Dependent On Tom Brady

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. 

“It was 90 percent that [this] year would be my last, anyway” he said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Arians will turn 70 midway through the 2022 campaign, meaning that his coaching career was likely nearing an end in the very near future. However, he publicly stated that he wouldn’t retire this offseason in the aftermath of the Bucs’ playoff loss to the Rams.

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 Brady had 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.

Bruce Arians Stepping Down As Buccaneers HC; Todd Bowles To Take Over Role

Bruce Arians‘ 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 Larry Foote and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers will split defensive coordinator duties.

Bucs Notes: Brady, Arians, AB

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.

Latest On Tom Brady’s Retirement Decision, Buccaneers’ Plan At QB

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.”

[RELATED: Tom Brady Has Not Ruled Out Playing In 2022; Bucs Interested In Wilson, Watson]

Meanwhile, former player (and current FOX Sports Radio host) Rich Ohrnberger tweeted that Brady and head coach Bruce Arians 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 Bill Belichick 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.

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. Sean Payton stepping away from the Saints created nine full-time vacancies available this year.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 2-7-22 (1:45pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Coaching Rumors: Saints, Texans, McDaniel, Giants, Broncos

The Saints began their cycle of head coaching interviews this week, conducting meetings with the following candidates: former Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson (1/30; hired by Jaguars), former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores (2/1), Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn (2/2), their current special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi (2/3), their current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen (2/4), and Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy (2/6).

New Orleans also requested permission to interview Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. There were some early reports that permission had been granted, but that hasn’t been confirmed and nothing has been scheduled, as of yet. ESPN’s Saints’ reporter Mike Triplett also mentioned that current offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael was offered an opportunity to interview for the position, but Carmichael declined. Despite being a part of Sean Payton‘s staff since Payton’s tenure in New Orleans began back in 2006, it appears Carmichael has no interest in running the show in the Big Easy. Whether he has retirement or another destination in mind or he is just comfortable in his role, Carmichael will not be the Saints’ next head coach.

Here are a few more notes from the ongoing coaching searches and staff changes throughout the NFL, starting with the other head coaching vacancy:

  • Houston recently narrowed their list of head coaching candidates down to three: Brian Flores, former quarterback Josh McCown, and Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Well, according to USA Today’s Josina Anderson, the Texans are now down to two candidates, with Gannon being informed Saturday that he will not be receiving the head coaching position, leaving Flores and McCown as the two remaining names.
  • New Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel reportedly has interest in holding on to some of the defensive assistants currently under contract in Miami, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. This includes current defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, who followed Flores to Miami from New England. The lack of staff turnover would be a positive for a defensive unit that played well during the team’s seven-game win-streak in the back half of the season.
  • The Giants were able to add a piece to Brian Daboll‘s new staff while missing out on another today. ESPN’s Jordan Raanan tweeted out that Andy Bischoff will become the Giants’ new tight ends coach. Bischoff followed David Culley from Baltimore to Houston and will make the lateral move over from the Texans with their head coaching position still in the air. Unfortunately, the Giants did not get their running backs coach, as Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweeted out that Deland McCullough has turned down Daboll’s offer, choosing instead to remain the running backs coach at Notre Dame, believing it gives him the best opportunity to eventually become a head coach.
  • New Broncos’ head coach Nathaniel Hackett is also looking to fill out his staff. The Broncos are planning to interview Jon Embree who most recently held the position of tight ends coach/assistant head coach in San Francisco. Embree parted ways with the Niners after being asked to take a 60 percent pay cut after San Francisco’s NFC Championship loss. The man who has coached George Kittle since he was drafted in 2017 would be a nice addition to Hackett’s system.

Jaguars Hire Doug Pederson As HC

Jacksonville’s winding path toward hiring a head coach is coming to an end. Doug Pederson will land the job, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). The Jaguars have since announced the hire.

Pederson interviewed twice with the team, which is close to bringing in ex-Vikings GM Rick Spielman for a high-ranking front office position alongside Trent Baalke. Pederson, who led the Eagles to a win in Super Bowl LII, did not coach last season but was connected to multiple jobs during this year’s hiring cycle.

The former Philadelphia HC will soon work with another highly drafted quarterback, and Pederson spoke with Trevor Lawrence on the phone earlier Thursday night, Schefter tweets. While Pederson’s final season with Carson Wentz ended in the Eagles radically changing course, the veteran play-caller will have a chance to work with one of the top QB prospects to enter the NFL in many years.

At the end of this search, the Jags were also linked to recent Raiders interim HC Rich Bisaccia and Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich. The latter was believed to be in talks with the Jags about a deal last week, but momentum stalled. The former Jacksonville first-round pick may well have bowed out of this search earlier Thursday. Leftwich indeed balked at pairing with Baalke, according to Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com.

Pederson, 54, was the first candidate to meet with the Jaguars during the new in-season interview period. He also met with the Bears and Saints in the weeks following that initial Jags discussion.

Pederson clashed with Eagles management during his Philadelphia tenure, and SI.com’s Albert Breer notes his interest in the Jacksonville job cooled a bit because of the Jags’ commitment to Baalke. But Spielman’s potential arrival — for a position that could outrank Baalke’s — may have been enough to convince Pederson. The two share an agent, Breer adds (Twitter links).

The former Chiefs offensive coordinator went 42-37-1 as Eagles HC, with 2020’s disastrous 4-11-1 season heavily impacting that mark. Still, Pederson oversaw one of the most remarkable playoff runs in modern NFL history. The Eagles won Super Bowl LII as the NFC’s No. 1 seed but did so despite being underdogs in all three playoff games without Wentz. With notable assistance from then-OC Frank Reich, Pederson guided future Jaguar Nick Foles to two dominant performances to close out the Eagles’ championship run. The Eagles did not win 10 games in a season again under Pederson, however, with Wentz not playing up to his MVP-level form of previous years.

The Jaguars are attempting to shake off Shad Khan‘s poor Urban Meyer hire, and the team is in need of upgrades at most positions, having gone 4-29 over the past two seasons. Lawrence represents a potentially high-end centerpiece, adding to this job’s appeal despite the franchise’s struggles for most of the past decade and change. The Jags are also set to hold nearly $60MM in cap space, providing more resources for a rebuild. If nothing else, Khan figures to give Pederson plenty of time after the quick Meyer unraveling.

Byron Leftwich To Bow Out Of Jaguars’ HC Search?

For a short span last week, Byron Leftwich looked like the frontrunner to become the next Jaguars head coach. A week later, the former Jags quarterback looks likelier to stay in Tampa.

Leftwich is expected to remove his name from consideration for this position soon, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. While Leftwich has also been connected to the Saints’ HC vacancy, the sides have not yet scheduled an interview.

The three-year Buccaneers offensive coordinator was believed to be negotiating with the team that once drafted him last week, following his second interview. But those talks did not last long. Cardinals exec Adrian Wilson was also linked to joining Leftwich, replacing GM Trent Baalke, but the latter remains in place as Jags GM. A report early this offseason indicated Baalke’s presence could deter certain candidates from pursuing this job, and the Jags have since been in contact with ex-Vikings GM Rick Spielman for a position that could outrank Baalke’s.

This has become quite the complex search, featuring some moving parts. Matt Eberflus was the first to receive a second Jags interview, but he opted for a Bears HC offer. The Jags soon sought a Kevin O’Connell interview, but timing nixed it. The Vikings now have an agreement with the two-year Rams OC. Doug Pederson and Rich Bisaccia remain in the mix for the Jacksonville gig, while Leftwich could well be sticking around in Tampa post-Tom Brady. Were Leftwich to move into a head coaching position, Bruce Arians would be Tampa Bay’s play-caller, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com tweets. Arians last called plays with the Cardinals.

Here is how the Jags’ HC search looks:

Doug Pederson Added As A Candidate For Saints’ HC Job

The list of names being linked to the league’s newest head coaching vacancy continues to grow. The Saints have already completed an interview with Doug Pederson, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). 

[Related: Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Rapoport notes that the interview took place on Sunday, making Pederson the fifth candidate whose name has been attached to New Orleans. The 54-year-old has already been listed as a candidate for the jobs in Chicago, Denver, Minnesota and Jacksonville. While the level of interest on each side has differed in all four of those cases – the first two on that list have already hired their new coaches, and Pederson doesn’t appear to be a finalist for the other two openings – the buzz he is generating is certainly notable.

After being fired by the Eagles last year, Pederson was out of the NFL in 2021. There is certainly an interest around the league for the Super Bowl LII champion, though, including from the Saints, who are in catch-up mode relative to the other HC-needy teams.

In a related tweet, Rapoport details the schedule for the other Saints’ interviewees this week. The plan is, apparently, to meet with each of Brian FloresAaron Glenn and Dennis Allen in that order. The only exclusion from that list is Byron Leftwich, whom the team has put in an interview request for.

Here’s an updated look at the Saints’ coaching search: