Before it gets out of hand, please understand this isn’t about Tom Brady forcing Bruce Arians out.
And it’s not going to lead to Brady leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 in some sort of trade to the Miami Dolphins (although 2023 will be here soon enough).
Bruce Arians retiring as the Bucs coach Wednesday night, seemingly unexpectedly, hit the NFL like a trick play out of the deepest part of his playbook. But just like a trick play never sees the light of day without practice, Arians prepared for this.
He’s been preparing since February of 2021 after his Bucs won Super Bowl LV.
That’s when Arians, then 68, started mulling retirement because the idea of going out on top appealed to him.
“I thought really hard about going out on top,” he told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday. “Then it was like, ‘Nah, let’s go for two.’ Last year was a grind with all the injuries but still winning and getting to where we got. Immediately after, two to three weeks afterwards, it was like, ‘Can’t let my coaches hanging.’ I got 31 families that depend on me. If I retire in February, it’s open interviews. My wife is big on not letting all those families down.”
Arians, who leaves the profession with an 80-48-1 record, also wasn’t all that excited about chasing more wins to seal a legacy.
“The simple answer is that I have accomplished more than I ever dreamed I could during this incredible coaching journey,” he said. “Winning Super Bowl LV at our home stadium, with my mom and family in attendance, was really the last item I wanted to check off my career bucket list. For me, this is about more than just trying to add more wins to my coaching record.”
And Arians is big on making sure his successor — defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who was promoted to head coach Wednesday evening — has a good team ready to go for the 2022 season.
Bowles, who previously coached the New York Jets and was the interim coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2011, takes over a team that won the NFC South last season and after hitting a rough month in which Brady retired, now has perhaps the best quarterback in NFL history back from what turned out to be a temporary sabbatical.
“I am appreciative of the Glazer family and [general manager] Jason Licht for having faith in me to take on this role, and to coach Arians for his support and guidance over the past four decades,” Bowles said in a statement released by the team. “Tampa has become home for my family, and we are excited to remain part of this community for years to come.
“As an organization we have all the pieces in place to continue the winning standard that has been established here in recent years.”
The key piece the Buccaneers obviously enjoy is Brady, who at age 44 last season, was every bit as deserving of the MVP award as eventual winner Aaron Rodgers.
When Brady retired not long after the Buccaneers lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles in the divisional round of the playoffs, there were rumors he and Arians butted heads.
And even Arians has admitted there were moments the two men disagreed.
But it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t enough to force Arians out because Brady and the coach had a good relationship — professional disagreements notwithstanding.
“Thank you, BA for all that you have done for me and our team,” Brady wrote on his Instagram account Wednesday night. “You are an incredible man and coach, and it was a privilege to play for you. You are a true NFL legend and pioneer for all the work you have done to make the league more diverse and inclusive.
“Smart, tough, and loyal are a few of the words to describe your style. I will always remember the conversations we had when you recruited me two years ago and all of the things we discussed came true 💯.
“We all benefited from your leadership and guidance and I’m so proud of everything we accomplished. You were a huge part of the decision to join the Bucs and I’m forever grateful.”
Brady, by the way, will attend a press conference Thursday in Tampa at which both Bowles will be introduced as the new head coach and Arians will get his sendoff to his new job as Senior Football Consultant.
It all makes sense. Even for an unexpected trick play.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero