Tom Brady to join Buccaneers: Bruce Arians brings experience with Manning, Big Ben and other franchise QBs

Bruce Arians is the self-proclaimed “quarterback whisperer.” A few years ago, he authored a book with that title while offering insight into what he looks for in a franchise quarterback. 

Tom Brady, who on Tuesday announced that he would not return to the Patriots in 2020, has agreed in principle to become the Buccaneers’ quarterback, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. In Tampa Bay, Brady will take over a Buccaneers offense that finished third in the NFL in scoring, averaging about 29 points per game. Receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans each recorded 1,000-yard receiving seasons while earning Pro Bowl berths in the process. 

Brady will also have the opportunity to work with Arians, who coached against Brady numerous times during the quarterback’s two decades in New England. While Brady will eventually explain what convinced him to sign with the Buccaneers, there’s a good chance part of his decision is based on the opportunity to work with Arians, a self-proclaimed players’ coach who runs his own tailgate after his team’s games, regardless if his team wins or loses. 

Here’s a full look at Arians’ previous experience with franchise quarterbacks.

Arians’ QB track record 

Peyton Manning (1998-2000): Arians was the Colts’ offensive coordinator during Manning’s first three NFL seasons. Manning has previously shared a story about his “a-ha” NFL moment that occurred during a practice with Arians. After hesitating to throw a pass in practice, Manning explained to Arians that the window to throw was “this small” while making a gesture with two of his fingers. 

“That’s open in the NFL,” Arians replied. 

After a rocky start (Manning was prone to turning the ball over as a rookie), Manning quickly developed into one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. While Arians wrote in his book that Manning would sometimes suffer from “paralysis from analysis,” Manning eventually gained confidence with his footwork, film study, and mastery of the Colts’ playbook. With Arians giving him the luxury to audible out of plays at the line of scrimmage, the Colts went 3-13 to 13-3 from Manning’s first to second season. In 2000, their final season working together, Manning led the league in completions, passing yards and touchdown passes, putting in motion what was to come over the next 15 years. 

Ben Roethlisberger (2007-11): While he and Roethlisberger both arrived in Pittsburgh in 2004, Arians, who won a Super Bowl as Pittsburgh’s receivers coach, was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2007. That season, Big Ben earned his first Pro Bowl selection while throwing for a then franchise record 32 touchdowns. He also drastically cut down on his interceptions, throwing 10 less picks in ’07 than he did the previous season. 

Like he had done with Manning, Arians handed the playbook over to Roethlisberger after he saw Big Ben take more accountability in terms of mastering the offense. In 2008, Arians’ trust in Roethlisberger paid off on the game’s biggest stage. Three years after having the worst statistical game ever by a winning Super Bowl quarterback, Roethlisberger lofted the game-winning pass in the final minute of the Steelers’ victory over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. 

Despite Roethlisberger’s continued growth over the next three seasons, Arians did not have his contract renewed by the Steelers after the 2011 season. At the time, Steelers president Art Rooney II did not feel that Arians’ offense did enough to protect Roethlisberger. He was replaced by Todd Haley, who also did not receive an extension after his contract expired following the 2017 season. While their time together was cut short, Arians helped Roethlisberger transform from an athletic, mobile quarterback to one of the league’s most revered passers. 

Andrew Luck (2012): While they were only together one season, Arians and Luck made that season count. Filling in for then Colts head coach Chuck Pagano (who was battling leukemia), Arians, who continued to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator during Pagano’s departure, worked closely with Luck, who he called the most intelligent quarterback he has ever coached. With Arians’ guidance, Luck helped lead the Colts to a 9-3 record with Arians serving as interim head coach. While his completion percentage wasn’t necessarily good, Luck managed to throw for a then-rookie record 4,374 yards while helping the Colts clinch a playoff berth. 

Carson Palmer (2013-17): Despite his success in Cincinnati earlier in his career, Palmer was still considered an NFL bust in some circles before arriving in Arizona in 2013. Also coming to the desert that year was Arians, who at age 61 was given his first NFL head coaching opportunity. Arians made the most of his opportunity, leading the Cardinals to a 10-6 record during his first season on the job. Arians won his second NFL Coach of the Year Award in 2014 after leading Arizona to an 11-5 record despite a rash of injuries that included Palmer re-tearing his ACL. 

Despite Palmer’s injury and age (36), the former Heisman Trophy winner had arguably his best season as a pro in 2015, throwing 35 touchdowns while being selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in nearly a decade. Palmer’s success carried into the postseason, as he led Arizona to a victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the second round of the playoffs. 

Palmer attributes a slew of his success in Arizona to Arians, who, as he had done with Manning and Roethlisberger, gave Palmer full command of the Cardinals’ offense. Arians and Palmer would meet constantly, inside and outside of the Cardinals’ facility, throughout the week while going over integration of the team’s weekly offensive game plan. By game day, Palmer knew the Cardinals’ game plan like the back of his hand, and the results led to him joining the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor in 2019. 


Carson Palmer enjoyed a career resurgence with Bruce Arians. 

Jameis Winston (2019): While this marriage was not as successful as the previous four, Winston did lead the NFL with 5,109 yards in 2019, the eighth highest single season total in NFL history. Winston’s play down the stretch helped the Buccaneers win four straight games after a 3-7 start. Unfortunately for Winston and the Buccaneers, he also led the NFL with 30 interceptions, which is why Arians and the Buccaneers wanted an upgrade at the position. 

What’s next for Brady

After having a professional but subservient relationship with Belichick in New England, Brady will have a much more cooperative relationship with Arians, who routinely dines with his quarterbacks both in-season and in the offseason. While some coaches are afraid to get close to their quarterbacks, Arians wants his quarterbacks to think of him as their “cool uncle.” And while the 67-year-old Arians could be a grandfather to several NFL starting quarterbacks, that’s not the case with the 43-year-old Brady.

Brady will also be encouraged to take more chances, as Arians encourages his quarterbacks to throw to the open man, even if it means throwing a deep post on a down and distance calls for a safe pass. “No risk it, no biscuit” is one of Arians’ favorite sayings, and it’s one that has served him well when it comes to working with his quarterbacks. 

Above all, Brady will get the opportunity to play for a head coach who has a proven track record when it comes to having success with elite level quarterbacks. Brady also has a head coach that is as driven to win his first Super Bowl as a head coach as Brady is to win his seventh ring as a starting NFL quarterback. 

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