New Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles calls replacing Bruce Arians ‘bittersweet’

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Todd Bowles earned his way in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball.

He’s not afraid to talk offense.

The new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t be shy about sharing his ideas with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and quarterback Tom Brady.

“I’m the head coach. I get to do whatever I want,” Bowles said Thursday, a day after taking over because Bruce Arians moved into a front-office role. “I’m not going to call plays. I understand that. But I have input on how defenses are trying to attack them. I have input on certain situations going into the half, two-minute or third downs or going for it or not going for it and those types of things. That’s my job and I have the freedom to do that. At the same time, I understand and respect Byron and Tom a great deal and they know that. I think we’re off to a good start from a communication standpoint and we just have to keep building.”

Bowles gets a second opportunity after going 24-40 in four seasons with the New York Jets from 2015 through 2018. He also was an interim head coach in Miami for three games in 2011. He becomes only the 12th minority to get a second head coaching opportunity since 1963, according to data in the NFL’s 2022 Diversity and Inclusion Report.

“When I first started in New York, you try to do things the right way and you don’t do it your way, you end up having regret. So I’m going to do it my way,” Bowles said.

Arians joined Bowles at his introductory news conference and learned the Buccaneers will induct him into the team’s Ring of Honor this season. Brady also was in attendance.

Arians, who turns 70 this year, said his decision to step down as coach was about “succession” and making sure he turned the team over to Bowles with an opportunity to succeed. When Brady unretired on March 13, Arians realized the time was right.

“Succession is way important to me,” Arians said. “This has been my dream for a long time. Guys that know me, they knew I wanted one of my guys to take over.”

Arians dismissed reports of friction with Brady, saying it “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Bowles and Arians have a relationship that dates more than 40 years. Bowles played safety for Arians at Temple in the 1980s and was defensive coordinator on Arians’ staff in Arizona before joining him in Tampa.

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“He is the most influential coaching figure and father figure that I have ever had in this league,” Bowles said, adding that it was a bittersweet feeling when he got the news from Arians.

Bowles made it clear he has a different personality than Arians.

“The only thing we have in common is our bald heads,” Bowles said. “He smokes, I don’t. He drinks, I don’t. So, we never got in each other’s way.”

Arians led the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl title in 2020 and an NFC South title in 2021. With Brady back, Bowles takes over a team that has championship aspirations.

“Good players make good coaches so you always want to have good players,” Bowles said. “I’m not going to apologize for inheriting a talented team. I’ve had less success with a team. It’s different to the fact that I don’t think I can go into this trying to be Bruce. I would fail miserably if I tried. … I can be me.

“I understand a lot of things I’ve learned from my coaching experience, especially from him so I’m going to take that approach. The one thing I know is I know I can coach football players regardless if you’re an All-Pro or a rookie. All of your players want to be coached and help them get better. I can help people get better and I’m going to use my approach.”

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