Bruce Charles Arians (born October 3, 1952) is an American football coach who is the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL) and a former player. He was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals from 2013 to 2017, and also served as offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts. He also coached at the college level, serving as head coach at Temple and as an assistant at Mississippi State and Alabama. Arians is known for his trademark slogan "No risk-it, no biscuit," which encourages aggressive play and risk-taking.
Arians was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers from 2007 to 2011 after being promoted from wide receivers coach, a position that he had held with the team since the 2004 season. With the Colts, he also served as interim head coach for the during the 2012 season, when their rookie head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. Arians guided the Colts to a 9–3 record over his tenure, which lasted from October 1 until Pagano's return on December 24; he was named AP NFL Coach of the Year for the season. He became the head coach of the Cardinals in 2013 following a lone season in Indianapolis. Following the 2014 season, in which Arizona posted an 11–5 record, Arians was named 2014's AP Head Coach of the Year, the second of his career.
A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Arians graduated from William Penn High School in York, Pennsylvania. He previously attended York Catholic High School, where he was a standout scholastic quarterback.
Arians attended and played college football at Virginia Tech. As a senior in 1974, Arians was the starting quarterback in a wishbone offense for the Hokies football team. That season, he completed 53 of 118 passing attempts (44.9% completion pct.) for 952 yards with three passing touchdowns and seven interceptions. He rushed for 243 yards and eight touchdowns. Arians held the Virginia Tech school record for most QB rushing touchdowns in a season with 11. The record has since been broken by Jerod Evans, in 2016. He was also the first white player to share a dorm room with a black player in VT history. His roommate was James Barber, father of Ronde and Tiki Barber.
College coaching career
Arians began his coaching career in 1975 as a graduate assistant at Virginia Tech. He was forced to resign after the death of 19 year old Bob Vorhies, who suffered a heat stroke while doing punishment drills. Arians then held an assistant coaching position at Mississippi State University (running backs and wide receivers) from 1978–80 before heading to the University of Alabama to coach the running backs from 1981–82 under Paul "Bear" Bryant.
Arians was also the head coach at Temple University from 1983–88. While head coach for the Owls, he compiled a 27-39 overall record over six seasons. All six of Temple's wins during the 1986 season were later forfeited; running back Paul Palmer, who was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1986, had signed with a sports agent before the season, making Palmer ineligible. Besides Palmer, other standout players Arians coached at Temple included cornerback Kevin Ross, safety Todd Bowles, offensive guard John Rienstra, and running back Todd McNair. Ross, Bowles, and McNair would all later serve as NFL assistant coaches with or under Arians.
After coaching at Temple, Arians held positions with Mississippi State (offensive coordinator, 1993–95) and Alabama (offensive coordinator, 1997) in between NFL assistant coaching jobs.
NFL coaching career
At the end of the college football season in 1988, Arians was hired in the NFL as a running backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. It was during this time with the Chiefs that he worked with the coach who brought him to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bill Cowher. He also spent one season as the tight ends coach of the New Orleans Saints in 1996.
Following this stint was when he made a name for himself when he got the job as the quarterbacks coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. He was the first quarterback coach of Peyton Manning when he arrived in the NFL. Afterward, he was hired as offensive coordinator (2001–2003) for the Cleveland Browns under Butch Davis. In 2002, he helped the Browns finish 9–7 (2nd in the newly aligned AFC North) and to a wild card playoff berth where they lost to the Steelers (36–33) in the first round. It was during his tenure with the Browns that he first worked with Chuck Pagano who served as the Browns secondary coach from 2001 to 2004.
Arians' coaching philosophy can be summed up with one phrase: “No risk it no biscuit, You can’t live scared.” His former quarterback in Arizona, Carson Palmer, says, “You play for him, you see he just has guts. He will let it rip let it fly no matter what.” He first developed this philosophy when the old timers at the bar he worked at in college told him, "In life you must take risks." During games he will always give the quarterback at least two options based on how the defense lines up. "One option will give us a chance to make a first down and the other option will give us a chance to score a touchdown." All his quarterbacks must believe, “If I have the right match up and the opportunity is there to take a shot at the deep ball, take it. I don’t care if it’s a third and-and-three; if our best receiver is in single coverage and he’s running a deep post route, throw him the goddamn ball.”
One thing Arians cannot stand is when coaches play not to lose. He considers conservative coaching to be a cardinal sin. In his book, he writes, “That’s not my way brother. I’ll never be too afraid to throw it and take the heat if it’s incomplete. My job as an offensive coach is not to allow our defense to retake the field. Run out the clock and kneel down-that’s my job.”
Arians has as an image of what the perfect NFL QB looks like. In his book he wrote “It’s something you cannot see. He must have- a big lion’s heart, a heart that beats for an entire franchise." Arians says heart is exhibited when a quarterback plays through pain, when he smashes into a 320-pound defensive linemen on third down to gain six extra inches for the first down. Or when he throws a pick and runs forty yards down field to make a tackle. What he calls “grit” is a must have ability to make the dozens of decisions that need to be made in the twenty five seconds the quarterback walks on the line of scrimmage and scans the defense to when the play is over.
On the practice field Arians is known to spend most of the time with his quarterbacks reviewing what transpires during the three to four seconds of a basic pass play. He believes the first thing the quarterback has to understand is his protection, because the defense can always blitz one more guy than your linemen can block. Because of this the quarterback has to look and read what will coming from the opposing defense.
A primary reason Arians is known as a quarterback whisperer is the special relationship he has had with all of his quarterbacks as well as the production he has gotten out of them. "My quarterbacks have to be a member of my family, and that has nothing to do with football," he says. "Trust is everything. We have to connect on a deep level in order to really be able to build something together. Trust brings a higher level of communication and a higher level of commitment and accountability. We have to care for one another. It's all about family, family, family." While being a caring coach, Arians is also known to be a hard coach on his quarterbacks. When Peyton Manning had a bad game the first time he faced the Patriots his rookie year—he threw three interceptions midway through the fourth quarter of the game—he was so frustrated he begged Arians, who at the time was the team's quarterback coach, to be pulled. Arians responded by saying "F--k no. Get back in there. We'll go no-huddle, and maybe you'll learn something." While Arians has this hard style of coaching, his former quarterbacks have always had the utmost respect for him and attribute him as a big factor in their success.
Arians is known to socialize with players more than most NFL coaches. After Cardinals home games he is known to pull his car up. The trunk will be open and he will be handing out drinks to his players. He writes "If a player had a bad game, I'm going to give him a beer and big sincere hug. If a player had a great game, I'm going to give him a beer and a big sincere hug."
After the 2003 season, Arians was hired as the Steelers wide receivers coach, and in 2007 was promoted to offensive coordinator. He then went on to win Super Bowl XLIII. Despite his success in Pittsburgh, he had his fair share of critics. He was a gambling man who liked to take big risks, risks that didn't sit well with fans. For instance, on a 3rd & 1, instead of running the ball or making a short quick pass, he wanted to air it out downfield. According to Arians, “I got booed in the Super Bowl parade. I look over and I hear 'get a full back,' and I say never.” In Arians' offense the quarterback is often exposed: Ben Rothlisberger took a high number of sacks every year and it left the Steelers front office unhappy. This led the front office to not renew Arians contract as an offensive coordinator. a position he held until his contract expired after the 2011 season.
On January 28, 2012, Arians agreed to become the offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts, replacing Clyde Christensen. On October 1, 2012, Arians was named the interim head coach of the Colts following coach Chuck Pagano's leukemia diagnosis. Arians led the Colts to a 9–3 record, part of one of the biggest one-season turnarounds in NFL history. The nine wins are the most by an interim head coach in NFL history. After winning only two games in 2011, the Colts returned to the playoffs. Pagano returned to the Colts as head coach on December 24, 2012, with Arians returning to his role as offensive coordinator. Arians missed the Colts wild-card game loss against the Baltimore Ravens due to being hospitalized with an illness, which was described by doctors as an inner ear infection or a virus; Arians had missed practice on January 3 due to the flu. Arians was named the 2012 AP Coach of the Year, making him the first interim head coach to win the award.
On January 17, 2013, the Arizona Cardinals and Arians agreed on a 4-year deal that would make Arians their head coach. In the 2013 NFL draft Arians took a chance on troubled LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who had been kicked off the LSU football team as well as arrested for possession prior to the draft. Arians is the first Cardinals coach since Norm Barry back in 1925 to record at least nine wins in his first season, with a record of 10-6 for 2013.
The Cardinals finished the 2014 season with an 11–5 record and were the #5 seed in the NFC. The 11 wins tied a Cardinals franchise record for most wins in a season. Arians led the Cardinals to a 9–1 start, best in the NFL, but injuries to starting quarterback Carson Palmer (who was 6–0 as the starter) and backup Drew Stanton, (who was 5–3 as starter) led to the Seattle Seahawks claiming the divisional title with a 12–4 record. Roughly half the team was put on IR between week 8 and week 17. The injury plagued Cardinals were eliminated by the Carolina Panthers in the first round of the NFL 2015 playoffs, 27–16. Following the season, Arians was named AP Head Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.
On February 23, 2015, the Cardinals announced a new four-year deal with Arians which will keep him with the Cardinals through the 2018 season. After starting 3–0 for a second consecutive season, in 2015, Arians led the Cardinals to a franchise record in season wins, ending the season with a 13–3 record. The Cardinals defeated the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Playoffs, Arians' first playoff win as a head coach. The next Sunday, in the NFC Championship, the Cardinals were defeated again by the Carolina Panthers, this time in a 49–15 blowout.
In the 2016 season, Arians led the Cardinals to a record of 7–8–1.
After the 2017 season, where he led the Cardinals to an 8–8 record, Arians announced his retirement from coaching after five seasons with the Cardinals.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On January 8, 2019, Arians agreed to terms on a 4-year contract to come out of retirement and became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Arians has stated in the offseason for the Buccaneers that he can win now with the team he has. He also put his faith in Jameis Winston, saying "I think with (quarterbacks coach) Clyde Christensen and (offensive coordinator) Byron Leftwich, he's in great hands."
Arians has assembled the largest coaching staff in the NFL for the 2019 NFL season, at a total of 28 assistants. Arians made it known one of his intentions was fixing the defensive secondary. In the 2018 season the Buccaneers surrendered a league worst passer rating (110.9), yards per attempt (8.2) and completion percentage (72.5).
Arians and his wife Christine run a charity called The Arians Family Foundation, which supports and develops programs to prevent and remedy the abuse and neglect of children. The Arians Family Foundation supports the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program.
Arians is a prostate cancer survivor. He and his wife Christine have a son, Jake (born January 26, 1978), who spent part of the 2001 season as the placekicker for the Buffalo Bills, and a daughter, Kristi Anne (born December 15, 1980).
Head coaching record
|Temple Owls (NCAA Division I-A independent)|
* 1986 team was 6–5 on the field, but had to vacate their wins due to the presence of an ineligible player on their roster.
|Won||Lost||Ties||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|IND*||2012||9||3||0||.750||2nd in AFC South||—||—||—||—|
|ARI||2013||10||6||0||.625||3rd in NFC West||—||—||—||—|
|ARI||2014||11||5||0||.688||2nd in NFC West||0||1||.000|
|ARI||2015||13||3||0||.813||1st in NFC West||1||1||.500|
|ARI||2016||7||8||1||.469||2nd in NFC West||—||—||—||—|
|ARI||2017||8||8||0||.500||3rd in NFC West||—||—||—||—|
|TB||2019||7||9||0||.438||3rd in NFC South||—||—||—||—|
* Interim head coach