New coach arrives in Tampa Bay with a critical mission to fix the former No. 1 overall draft pick and fix the fortunes of a moribund franchise.
Plaxico Burress thought he knew it all.
Then Bruce Arians showed up.
As the 66-year-old Arians makes his seventh stop in the NFL, the central question to whether he will be successful with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers revolves around whether he’ll be successful with quarterback Jameis Winston. While Winston has obvious talent, he also is tied with Blake Bortles for the most turnovers (74) by a quarterback over the past four seasons.
Bucs management is banking on Arians’ history with quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer carrying over to Winston.
The most important quality Arians has is his ability to work with just about any player with any personality … be it the obsessive-compulsive Manning, the laid-back Palmer or even the guarded-and-somewhat-distrustful Burress.
Arians was able to get through to Burress in a matter of moments.
“I came into my first meeting with Bruce and he had a list of things he said I could work on that could make me better,” Burress said more than a decade ago. “He had this list of things because he had really studied everything I did, including my footwork. I look at it and said to myself, ‘This man did his homework.’”
Arians coached Burress for only one season in Pittsburgh in 2004 before the receiver left in free agency for the Giants in 2005. Burress was in his fifth season when he met Arians and had already had two 1,000-yard seasons.
While Burress struggled through injuries in 2004, he set a career high by averaging 19.9 yards per reception as scored five touchdowns on only 35 receptions for the season. With the Giants, Burress helped them eventually win a Super Bowl in the 2007 season. In 2017, Burress spent time with Arians in training camp as a guest coach with Arizona.
What makes Arians unique is his ability to work with different types of people by finding out what makes them tick.
“Knowing Bruce, he’s already studying Jameis and figuring out how he thinks and what motivates him,” said Palmer, who went through a renaissance in his career with Arians. Palmer was traded by Oakland to Arizona in 2013 at the age of 34. Many people around the league thought Palmer was essentially done when he arrived in Arizona.
Palmer responded by posting three of the best seasons of his career, including career highs in passer rating (104.6), touchdown passes (35) and yards per pass attempt (8.7) in 2015. He led the Cardinals to the NFC Championship Game that season.
“Bruce just has a way of relating to people that unique. For me, he was perfect because I like to attack downfield. He doesn’t believe that you can put together a lot of 14-play drives all the time. Defenses in this league are just too good for that.
“You have to take shots and he’s going to be aggressive like that. That’s why I felt like I worked so well with him. His play calling played into my style,” Palmer said.
So did Arians’ personal style of relating to players.
“Just the way that he knew how to talk to players,” said Palmer, who retired after the 2017 season. “That’s one of the things that I missed most. Just being in a meeting and hearing him put a couple of curse words together or a curse word and something else that tells you he noticed something about you from practice or wherever.
“It might be just one of those meetings where you’re taking notes and kind of falling asleep because you’re not into it, but then Bruce says something and you kind of sit up, take notice and start laughing.”
At the same time, Arians is not simply just about being funny or relatable.
“Oh, he’ll get in you in practice if something is not right. He’ll let you know and it won’t be pretty … with Jameis, I think he’s going to be perfect. With the way Jameis likes to play and how aggressive he is, that’s a good match.”