When Bruce Arians handed the keys to the Buccaneers to Todd Bowles, he surrendered control of the club’s future.
That future is starting to look a whole lot different than it did a year ago. Tom Brady is gone, riding off into retirement. So too is offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, whom the Buccaneers fired after a disappointing 2022 season in which the talented Tampa Bay offense finished 15th in total yards per game and 32nd in rushing.
Leftwich’s firing didn’t come from Arians, who maintains a close relationship with the former NFL quarterback. The decision was made by the person Arians chose to succeed him, which pained Arians, but was ultimately necessary to help the Buccaneers improve.
“It was hard. It was very hard for me. But it’s Todd’s football team,” Arians said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show. “I handed it to Todd for a reason. He’s got to build it in his image. There’s no hard feelings between the two guys. Their philosophies just didn’t match.
“I’ve got all the trust in the world in Todd Bowles. I feel terrible for Byron; I still think Byron will be a head coach soon, and he should be.”
Bowles tabbed longtime Seahawks assistant Dave Canales to replace Leftwich, and the former lieutenant to Pete Carroll arrives to a challenging situation at quarterback. With Brady out of the picture, the Buccaneers will turn to third-year signal-caller Kyle Trask, a former second-round pick who has thrown just nine passes in his NFL career.
Trask will take over with only slightly more experience than a rookie quarterback, but has the benefit of spending the last two years learning behind a legend — and a quality teacher in veteran Blaine Gabbert. Because of this, Arians thinks the Buccaneers — for whom Arians still works as a senior advisor to general manager Jason Licht — will be just fine.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Tampa Bay won’t explore other options under center in an offseason that is expected to include plenty of quarterback movement around the league.
“I think we’re in good hands with Kyle Trask,” Arians said. “I love Kyle, he’s been there two years now. … Blaine Gabbert was a great mentor for him. But just like three years ago, you’ve got to search what’s behind door number two. Three years ago, we never would’ve guessed Tom Brady was behind door number two. So you do your research, you do all your homework, and then you decide what’s best for you. But right now, I’m very comfortable if Kyle’s our guy.”
Trask has only seen action in one game over two seasons, largely spending his first two years as a student training for greater responsibilities whenever the Brady era came to an end. Such a time arrived at the start of February, when Brady recorded and posted a farewell message from a beach, promising that this time, his retirement is legitimate.
Trask is the only quarterback on the roster entering 2023, meaning it’s time to prove the last two years weren’t for naught. Arians might be taking a company line when explaining why he’s confident in Trask at the start of the always-optimistic offseason, but without any other legitimate options under contract at this point, he doesn’t have much of a choice.
And if there’s one way to earn Arians’ respect, it’s with work ethic.
“A guy that worked his ass off to get to where he’s at,” Arians said when asked what he sees in Trask. “And he’s worked extremely hard every single day. He’s got all the size, he’s got the arm, he’s got the stature of what we like. And he’s mobile. Now, he’s not a burner, but he’s mobile enough to do some things. Looking at all the young quarterbacks today, he’s not 4.5(-second) Jalen Hurts-type of guy, but he can do a lot of things that help us win, especially with the players around him.”