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TAMPA — Bruce Arians handed it over to Todd Bowles on Thursday afternoon.
And it was a sight to behold. An NFL coach who might have a chance at winning another Super Bowl and make a case for getting into the Hall of Fame preferred to empower someone else over enriching his own reputation.
“A number of people have already asked, ‘Why are you stepping away when you have a chance to go to the Hall of Fame and win another Super Bowl?'” said Arians, wearing his trademark Kangol hat and with a celebratory cigar in his shirt pocket at the ready. “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 of my desire to raise up guys to take over. And that’s more important to me than anything.”
This is how prosperous kingdoms in ancient times were handed over, with a beloved and benevolent monarch willingly handing over his crown to someone he trusted. This is how American government was authored, with everyone enjoying a peaceful transition of power.
But this is rare in the NFL.
Coaches with big egos and great teams on their hands rarely wish to give that up. And coaches inheriting new teams normally take over losing or broken situations.
Not this time.
Bowles, who took over a difficult situation as the New York Jets coach in 2015 and managed a 24-40 record, understands he’s in a unique situation. He has a wonderful opportunity.
The Buccaneers were Super Bowl champions in 2020 and were disappointed after 2021 because they finished with a 13-4 record, won their division, but were bounced from the playoffs in the divisional round by eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles.
Now that team with championship aspirations and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady belongs to Bowles.
“Good players make good coaches, so you always want to have good players,” Bowles said. “I’m not going to apologize for inheriting a talented team. I’ve had less successful teams, so I’m not going to apologize for this, never in a lifetime.”
There will be change in Tampa Bay.
“We’ll do a couple of different things,” Bowles promised. “There’s a lot of ways to win in this league, and everybody has a different way … I’m not trying to be Bruce, not trying to be [Bill] Parcells, not trying to be Joe Gibbs. I understand what I learned from them and will put my spin on it and move forward.
“If I tried to put on a Kangol hat and grew a goatee and came in here, you guys would look at me like I’m crazy. [You’d say] ‘Look at this clown, he’s mini-Bruce.’ I can’t do that. And I’m not going to do that. You have to be you in this league.”
Arians will become Tampa’s senior football consultant, a front office job in which he’ll be available to help general manager Jason Licht and Bowles and anyone who asks.
But this transition is real.
And it was, by every account, organic.
It was Arians who wanted this after Brady decided to return from his short-lived retirement because, at that point, he knew the next coach would have a good team.
“I wasn’t doing this after Tom retired,” Arians said.
That kind of suggests Arians might not have been able to keep working with Brady once the quarterback returned. But that’s not how it is at all. Arians felt comfortable to step away because Brady’s presence made the Bucs a jewel rather than a piece of coal to turn over to Bowles.
Arians’ relationship with Brady, the object of much speculation, was fine. Brady attended Thursday’s press conference to support both his departing coach and new coach.
“I see everything around me on the field,” Bowles said. “I know when you guys walk on the field. I know where you sit regularly. I know where you stand. I kind of know what everyone does on the practice field on both sides of the ball. I’ve always done that and always known that.
“I have never one time seen a rift or problem between Bruce and Tom. And I’m not a sugar-coating type of guy. I’m not going to sit here and say things so they’re quoted in the press. I have not seen that problem one iota. I have never seen it.”
It was Arians who texted Bowles on Monday and then informed him on a phone call that he was the new head coach. Tampa assistants were supposed to be off this week, so Bowles was at the Charlotte airport when he got the call.
“Initially I thought something was wrong with him,” Bowles said. “But once I talked to him and the more he talked about it, he was at peace and he’s perfectly fine. This has been his plan all along. And once I knew he was fine, I was comfortable with it and I was happy to have it.”
A handoff of power written just right.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmndoSalguero