The Daily Courier


— Bucs have coach to thank —


TAMPA, Fla. — It took five coaching changes over a decade-plus of futility before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally got it right, luring Bruce Arians out of retirement. Two seasons later, the 68-year-old quarterbac­k expert has them in the Super Bowl.

Signing Tom Brady was a big part of solving the team’s woes, and so was the offencemin­ded Arians’ commitment to building a defence capable of giving him a realistic shot at transformi­ng the Bucs from perennial losers into championsh­ip contenders.

The two-time NFL Coach of the Year with the Indianapol­is Colts and Arizona Cardinals won two Super Bowl rings as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He didn’t get his first full-time pro head coaching opportunit­y until he was 61.

“I couldn’t be happier for our players. They put in so much work, and our coaching staff has done such a great job,” Arians said after Sunday’s 31-26 victory over Green Bay in the NFC championsh­ip. “Ownership gave us everything that we’ve needed, and I just couldn’t be any more elated for these guys and the job they put in.”

The first challenge was changing the culture of an organizati­on that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2007. The next was building on a strong nucleus of defensive talent and assembling an impressive group of playmakers that’s helped Brady’s transition to a new team after 20 record-setting seasons with the New England Patriots.

“There were times when I never thought it would happen, I never thought I would get a head coaching job,” Arians said. “After the cancer scare in Arizona, sitting out that year and coming back, this has been the most rewarding year of coaching in my life.”

Arians inherited a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in more than a decade and hadn’t won a post-season game since its 2002 Super Bowl championsh­ip run under Jon Gruden.

Gruden was fired six years later, followed first by Raheem Morris and then Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter before Arians got a crack.

“I’m so happy for him, absolutely. It’s amazing,” said Brady, who’s in the Super Bowl for a record 10th time after going 6-3 in nine previous trips with the Patriots.

“For me, I don’t think about what it means for me. I do think about what it means for everyone else,” Brady added. “It’s an amazing achievemen­t for B.A. I’m so happy for him and the staff he put together.”

That staff includes defensive co-ordinator Todd Bowles, offensive co-ordinator Byron Leftwich and special teams co-ordinator Keith Armstrong, a trio of Black assistants making NFL history under Arians. Tampa Bay is the first team to reach a Super Bowl with a staff featuring three Blacks serving as co-ordinators.

“It’s taken a lot of different people over the course of the season on offence, defence, special teams, to come through and that’s why we’re still playing,” Brady said. “Again, just an incredible journey for all of us. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”


While Brady’s quest for a seventh ring has commanded much of the spotlight during the team’s bid to become the first to play a Super

Bowl in its home stadium, the defence has carried the team the past two weeks in wins over New Orleans and Green Bay.


As well as Brady played in building a 21-10 halftime lead, the six-time Super Bowl champion contribute­d to the Packers getting back in the game by throwing intercepti­ons on three consecutiv­e possession­s in the second half. He conceded afterward that the stellar job the defence did against Rodgers was the difference in the game.


With Antonio Brown sitting out with a knee injury, young receivers Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson both contribute­d to the NFC championsh­ip win. Miller had a 39-yard TD reception a second before halftime, and Johnson drew a pass interferen­ce penalty on third down, giving the Bucs a chance to run out the clock after the Packers trimmed what once an 18-point deficit to five with just over two minutes remaining.


Dropped passes have hindered the offence at times during the playoff. Brady wasn’t as sharp in the second half against the Packers; however, one of his three intercepti­ons went off the hands of Mike Evans. Chris Godwin had a big drop in the first half, but redeemed himself with a 52-yard reception the next play.


Safety Jordan Whitehead left the NFC title game with a shoulder injury. Arians said Monday it was too soon to speculate on how it might impact his status for the Super Bowl.


7 — takeaways by the defence this post-season, leading to 41 points.

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 ?? The Associated Press ?? Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones fumbles after being hit by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jordan Whitehead during the second half of the NFC championsh­ip in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday.
The Associated Press Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones fumbles after being hit by Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jordan Whitehead during the second half of the NFC championsh­ip in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday.

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