Tampa Bay Buccaneers finalizing deal to make Bruce Arians new head coach


TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reached agreement with Bruce Arians on a four-year deal, plus a one-year option, to make him their next head coach, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Arians, who retired following the 2017 season coaching the Arizona Cardinals, has spent the 2018 NFL season working as a game analyst for CBS.

Arians, 66, was technically under contract with the Cardinals through the 2019 season. The league office’s original guidance to the Buccaneers was that no compensation was needed, but the Cardinals made a late argument to the league office that they should continue to hold Arians’ rights.

Rather than being drawn into a protracted dispute, the parties agreed to swap sixth- and seventh-round picks to resolve the matter, clearing the way for the Bucs to hire Arians. Tampa Bay receives Arians’ rights and Arizona’s 2019 seventh-round pick in return for the Buccaneers’ 2019 sixth-round pick, a source told Schefter.

Former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who was fired last month after three straight losing seasons in New York, will join Arians in Tampa Bay as defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini. Bowles played for Arians at Temple in the mid-1980s, and the two have remained extremely close. Bowles served as Arians’ defensive coordinator for the Cardinals from 2013 to ’14, a job that served as a springboard to the Jets’ head-coaching position.

Bucs defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, who was also on Arians’ staff in Arizona, joined the Bucs last offseason and is under contract through 2019.

The current plan is for Byron Leftwich to join the Bucs as offensive coordinator and for Harold Goodwin to join as assistant head coach-run game coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

In Tampa Bay, Arians will reunite with Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, who served as the Cardinals’ vice president of player personnel in 2013, and quarterback Jameis Winston, who attended Arians’ football camps as a youth in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Jaboo was a Birmingham legend,” Arians said prior to his Cardinals team facing Winston and the Bucs in 2016. “He would be fun to coach, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a winner and a great leader and obviously a heck of a young quarterback.”

Arians played a role in shaping Licht’s philosophies as a GM. When Licht traded up to select kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft — a move that drew leaguewide criticism — Licht then quoted Arians’ famous “no risk it, no biscuit” after the draft decision. Aguayo struggled and was cut the following season.

The Bucs are counting on Arians to orchestrate a quick turnaround much like he did in Arizona. The Bucs haven’t reached the playoffs since 2007 — the NFL’s second-longest postseason drought — and have finished with double-digit losses seven out of the past 10 seasons. Tampa Bay fired coach Dirk Koetter on Dec. 30 following consecutive 5-11 seasons.

Arians served as the Cardinals’ head coach from 2013 through 2017, amassing a 50-32-1 record (playoffs included), the best in Cardinals franchise history despite inheriting a team that went 5-11 under predecessor Ken Whisenhunt the season before he arrived.

Arians was twice named the AP NFL Coach of the Year (2012, 2014), becoming the 11th coach to earn the award twice and the first interim coach to win the award. In 2012, he stepped in for Chuck Pagano and guided the Indianapolis Colts to an 11-5 record (Arians went 9-3) and a playoff berth.

In his first season with Arizona in 2013, he led the Cardinals to a 10-6 record, then just the second time in the franchise’s 37 years that it had won 10 or more games. Arians’ Cardinals teams had double-digit wins three out of five seasons, and he is 1-2 in the postseason.

The Bucs also interviewed Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards and Dallas Cowboys defensive-backs coach/passing-game coordinator Kris Richard, but Arians was long considered the front-runner for the head-coaching job.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini contributed to this report.

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