If Bruce Arians becomes the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his primary task will be to fix Jameis Winston.
Bruce Arians retired as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals after the 2017 season, as that franchise shifted toward a rebuild. Arians has surfaced as a candidate for head coaching jobs now, with his assertion he’d only return to coach the Cleveland Browns as the launching point.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers interviewed Arians for their head coaching opening over the weekend, and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times has backed up prior indications the former Cardinals’ coach is the front runner for the job. Stroud added that there have been no contract negotiations yet, but it may only be a matter of time before that occurs.
If Arians takes the job in Tampa Bay, it probably comes with his acceptance of Jameis Winston. But the two worked together at a quarterback camp when Winston was young, and the coach is apparently still a fan.
Winston will be playing on a fifth-year option next year, which is only guaranteed for injury, but the team has announced he will be back as the starting quarterback. Of course nothing has to be official until March, but the Buccaneers won’t find any clearly better options on the free agent or trade market this offseason.
Winston was less erratic over his final six starts this season, with three interceptions over 214 pass attempts and a 97.7 passer rating as he completed 63.5 percent of his passes over that span. The issue will be taking that into next season, or ideally building on it.
Arians served as quarterbacks coach for the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-2000, which was the first three seasons of Peyton Manning’s career. After three years with Cleveland Browns, he became wide receivers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers and then served as offensive coordinator while forging a close relationship with Ben Roethlisberger from 2007-11.
Arians’ “retirement” after Pittsburgh ended quickly, as he landed back with the Indianapolis Colts as offensive coordinator and took over as interim head coach following Chuck Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis. He worked with a rookie named Andrew Luck in that lone season with the Colts, and parlayed that into the head coaching job in Arizona.
In five seasons under Arians with the Cardinals, Carson Palmer played the best football of his career from ages 34-38. That’s obviously not a perfect comp for a 25-year-old Winston in Tampa Bay, but it only bolstered Arians’ resume as a quarterback guru with another high-level pupil.
Winston is heading into a make-or-break year, and the Buccaneers need confirmation one way or the other about him as the guy for the future beyond next season. If anyone can succeed where Dirk Koetter ultimately failed, it may be Arians. And No. 1 on his checklist, should he take the job, will be getting the best out of Winston on a consistent basis.