New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will not call offensive plays for the team, instead handing that responsibility to offensive coordinator/pass-game coordinator Byron Leftwich.
“Obviously I’ll have a big hand in it,” Arians added Wednesday on “The Rich Eisen Show,” in his first public appearance since being named the Bucs’ head coach on Tuesday. He said he feels “very, very comfortable” with Leftwich calling plays.
Arians has called plays in 14 NFL seasons, including all five years of his tenure as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach, but he clearly has faith in Leftwich, who turns 39 on Monday. In June 2017 — just a few months after Arians made Leftwich the Cardinals’ quarterbacks coach — Arians said Leftwich would be a head coach “early and fast.”
A former top-10 pick as a quarterback, Leftwich was promoted to interim offensive coordinator in Arizona midway through this season after the firing of Mike McCoy, but the Cardinals released him after the season. He has two years of experience as an NFL coach, in addition to one year as a coaching intern.
Meanwhile, Arians also reconnected with another former top aide: Fired New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles will be his defensive coordinator. The Chicago Bears reportedly made a push seeking Bowles’ services to run their defense after Vic Fangio’s departure to join the Denver Broncos, but multiple reports Wednesday said the deal with Tampa Bay was done after the Buccaneers and Jets resolved offset language in his previous contract.
“He’s like a son to me,” Arians said of Bowles. “He thought hard about (being the Bucs’ defensive coordinator). I was doing my best sell job, and this happened. We’re really excited to be back together.”
Bowles was Arizona’s defensive coordinator under Arians from 2013-14 before landing the Jets’ lead job. The Cardinals finished those years ranked seventh and fifth, respectively, in points allowed.
Arians also voiced full support in quarterback Jameis Winston, saying, “this thing will be built around him.”
“I think he can win it all,” Arians continued of Winston. “He has the intelligence, the toughness and obviously the arm ability to lead a team. Now we’ve gotta put the right pieces around him, we’ve gotta do some things defensively, but if anybody can do things defensively, Todd Bowles can do it.”
Later Wednesday, The Athletic reported the Bucs’ new special teams coordinator will be Keith Armstrong, who spent the past 11 years with the Atlanta Falcons and has 22 years of experience as an NFL coordinator.
Armstrong, 55, reportedly interviewed for the Buffalo Bills’ special teams opening on Tuesday. He once played for Arians, when the latter was the head coach at Temple, and got his coaching start as a graduate assistant on the Owls’ staff under Arians.
The Buccaneers officially will introduce Arians on Thursday.
—Field Level Media