Los Angeles – A willingness to take risks helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reach the Super Bowl and head coach Bruce Arians has no intention of changing.
Arians, who at 68 could become the oldest head coach to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy if the Buccaneers upset the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, lives his life by a five-word philosophy: “No risk it, no biscuit.”
The inspiration for Arians’ approach comes from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” which was pasted into a playbook by a colleague early in his career.
“It just talks about not being afraid to throw your hat in the ring, not being afraid to fail or to win, how to bounce back and keep on going,” Arians said.
“I’ll hit a lot of the balls in the water going for the green in two knowing I can’t get there. But I ain’t going to get there unless I try. And the one out of 10 that makes it — it’s a great feeling. That’s how I live life.”
That bold approach was in evident in the NFC title game, where the Buccaneers upset the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field to reach the Super Bowl.
Arguably the biggest moment of the game came shortly before halftime. With 13 seconds left in the half, Arians and quarterback Tom Brady opted for — and converted — a risky fourth-down play.
On the next play, Brady uncorked a 39-yard completion to Scotty Miller for a touchdown that put the Buccaneers ahead 21-10.
“Each and every game you have a feel for how it’s going,” Arians said.
“How your defense is playing, how your offense is playing, and are the risks worth the rewards? I can’t say that we ever go in there saying ‘Hey, let’s throw caution to the wind today.’ A lot of it is gut feeling depending on the circumstances of the game.”
Yet Arians says the Buccaneers do set out to impose their will.
“It all starts with attack,” Arians says. “We want to attack in all three phases — offense, defense, special teams.”
Over the course of a coaching career that has spanned six decades, Arians has forged a reputation as one of the NFL’s most prominent “quarterback whisperers,” a coaching guru with an instinctive feel for understanding the psychology of the most important player on the field.
His career has included stints working with some of the greatest quarterbacks the game has seen, including Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and now Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion.
“One of Bruce’s great gifts is that he knows exactly what’s going on inside the head of his quarterback,” said Tom Moore, Tampa Bay’s 82-year-old offensive consultant.
Arians, meanwhile, has relished the opportunity to work with Brady.
Having been tempted out of retirement by the Buccaneers in 2019, Arians admits he could scarcely contain his excitement when the franchise landed Brady in free agency last year, realizing the quarterback could have a transformative effect on the Bucs’ locker room.
“I thought Tom was the missing piece,” Arians said. “I knew how good a football team we had, and I knew what we were missing. And what we were missing was the belief we were good enough.
“The great quarterbacks all have it. They have the ability to will themselves onto other people, to make sure that everyone in the locker room has bought into the cause. And the cause is putting a championship in your trophy case. Tom brings that attitude to work every single day, and it permeates throughout the entire locker room.”
The relationship has not been without hiccups. Early in the season, Arians raised eyebrows after openly criticizing Brady’s performance after a 38-3 thrashing by the New Orleans Saints.
“I just answer questions honestly. If someone asks me why Tom threw an interception, I’ll tell them the truth. That is not ‘calling him out.’ That’s answering a question,” Arians said.
“And I really don’t know any other way. Tom and I have had a great relationship from day one. He wants to be coached hard.”
Arians, meanwhile, says Brady’s influence on the team is like “having another coach on the field.”
“He does such a great job working with younger and older players,” Arians said. “For him to come to another ball club and do what he has done is remarkable, especially when you consider he had no off-season.
“The continual growth from September to October to November until now. Just a fantastic player.”
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