TAMPA, Fla. -- With Jameis Winston coming off a three-interception performance in Week 1, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians wanted to clear his quarterback's mindset. Arians told him to “be fearless and let it fly,” believing that focusing on avoiding mistakes would only hamper Winston, who’s been plagued by turnovers throughout his career.
"The last four years -- I don’t care. I’m only judging you on what you’re doing today with us,” Arians said to him. “Play quarterback the way we want to play.”
Winston went on to throw seven touchdowns and just two interceptions in a two-week span, including a 55-40 road win over the Los Angeles Rams. Arians will try to get his quarterback on track again this week after another setback -- a five-interception, six-turnover performance against the Panthers in London in Week 6.
What will his message be coming off the bye as they prepare to take on the Tennessee Titans? Arians will tell you he’s not one for rah-rah speeches, but players and coaches say his words -- whether it'd be encouragement or a kick in the rear -- have a way of resonating.
Here are some of his most memorable nuggets -- and what they tell us about how he coaches.
'You’ll never go broke putting money in the bank': This may seem contrary to Arians’ knack for taking shots downfield, but the big play may not always be there. It’s OK to check down. It’s about making positive gains. “Any positive play is a good play,” Gabbert said. “It’s beautiful [to check down] -- any yards are good, staying ahead of the chains, not going three-and-out ...”
"Bucs don't beat Bucs": Arians has used this phrase with every team he's coached -- it's about not self-destructing with penalties/mental errors, drops and turnovers. He wants his players to focus inward, rather than on the opponent, believing if they can do this, the rest will take care of itself.
"Scratch where it itches": Arians' offensive philosophy isn't always about taking shots downfield -- it's taking what the defense gives you. “If it ain’t broke, you really don’t gotta fix it,” running back Peyton Barber said. “If they haven’t stopped it, then why change?”
"Be fearless, and let it fly": “As a quarterback, it means just really trusting your reads and cutting it loose -- no hesitation in the pocket, trusting your eyes and your feet, if you see a guy open, throw it,” said backup QB Blaine Gabbert. “You’re not necessary gonna be reckless, but he wants you to take chances, calculated risks and push the ball down the field.”
Said Winston, “It just shows his confidence in his system and in us as human beings [and] as players."
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich added, “Why not? Why wouldn’t you [play fearlessly]? This is the wrong time to get to this level of football and get scared or nervous when you’ve been dreaming your whole life to get to this point. A lot of these guys dreamed this stuff for 20 years, so they’re just living out their dream.”
"You find a mudhole, you stomp all the water out of it before you go to the next one": Arians explaining why his offense ran the ball on seven consecutive plays while trying to hold a lead against the Giants.
"Get the job done ... finish the f---ing game": "He says it all the time," Bowles said. "It's the focus every week." This isn't just about coming out on top when the clock hits zero -- it's Arians' philosophy on calling games. Drew Stanton, who played for Arians in both Indianapolis and Arizona, explained, "You don't win football games in the first half. You can lose them, but you don't win them. You have to be smart in the first half. ... That was a B.A. saying -- 'You play in the first half to see what you need to do in the second half.'"
“Trust, Loyalty, Respect”: This is Arians’ mantra to players. They even have T-shirts with the phrase. That’s the core philosophy of every team he’s coached.
How to mold players
"Coach 'em hard, hug 'em later": A coaching philosophy Arians adopted from Bear Bryant, whom Arians served under from 1981-82. It was actually one of the last things Bryant said to Arians before he left to take the head-coaching job at Temple. Bryant passed away three weeks later.
"I am looking for football players, not soccer players": Arians uses this analogy to describe how some players look great in shorts but don't show up when the pads come on. That’s how Shaq Barrett earned his starting job in the fourth preseason game and how Jack Cichy earned himself a roster spot coming off a torn ACL.
"There's a lot of people on the street who could be doing your job": Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said he reminds players and coaches of this. "I've heard it enough over the years," Bowles said.
LB Kevin Minter added, “[Arians] said, ‘They’re hiring at Walmart down the street.’ He said this a few years ago. I’m not exactly sure if it was a Walmart, but he said, ‘They’re hiring down the street.’ Guys were kind of bulls----ing that day in practice, so he kind of got on our asses a bit.”
"Snot bubbles and tears don’t win football games": Arians wrote this in his book “Quarterback Whisperer” when discussing how the Colts were too emotional in the first half (they trailed 21-3) against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 7, 2012, while trying to win for Chuck Pagano. The Colts would pull off the win 30-27, Arians called this the greatest victory of his career.
"If a doberman jumped out of a car with a gun, your a-- wouldn't be stretching": Arians explaining why his players don't have organized stretching before practices (they're expected to do it on their own). Minter said, “His whole thing is, ‘You’re a pro. Be a pro. He’ll give us a slotted time to warm up. Warm up on your own. Don’t do it on his time.’”
"M-----f-----": "He says that more than anything," Leftwich said. "I've never heard [anybody] say that more than him. He can't get through a day without saying the MF word at least 10 times on the field, at least 10 times in the office [laughs]. That's his No. 1 word. He don't direct it toward anybody. It's just a word that rotates in his vocabulary all the time. It's good and bad." Gabbert added, “It’s all in context. I’ve heard many of those directed at me.”
Arians on Arians
"I'm 66 and sexy": Those were the exact words of Arians (now 67) in his job interview with the Buccaneers, and a response to those who questioned if he was able to handle the demands of the job after multiple health scares and retirement after the 2017 season. It also speaks to his style, as general manager Jason Licht called him, “The coolest damn coach in the NFL.”
Arians has always prided himself on his swag, going back to the days when he first started dating his wife Christine in high school and took extra jobs so he could afford nice clothes when he took her out. Today, he’ll proudly rock his Ray-Ban glasses with a Kangol hat, a plaid suit and Jordan high-tops. The week of his birthday, he proclaimed he is now “67 and swaggy.”
"I'm not a father figure. I'm the cool uncle you'd like to have a drink with": Arians has said this many times when asked about his relationships with players. He also said this when asked about babysitting Ronde and Tiki Barber (their father, James, was his roommate at Virginia Tech), his first experience with young children. He tries to be this way with players, and he has even been known to have a celebratory drink or two in the parking lot after games.
"Thank you for coming to my house. I hope you get home safe": Arians "house" is CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, where Arians is 4-1 all-time. Arians opened his news conference with this after his final game with the Cardinals, a 26-24 victory over the Seahawks. Arians added, "There is no better place to celebrate than this locker room." (The Bucs go to Seattle to play the Seahawks in Week 9.)
"We don't like anybody in our division. I'll have dinner with them ... but I ain't drinking with them": Arians, when asked about the Rams in 2015
“Don’t park the b---- or I’ll tow your ass": Do not park in the coaches' parking spot, which happened on two consecutive days in 2016 when Arians and the Cardinals were featured on "All or Nothing." Lawrence Okoye learned this the hard way. Though he didn't park in Arians' spot, he parked in a spot reserved for fans who had tickets to attend practice because he was running late and was subsequently cut.
"The fact that their gender's different -- who gives a s---?": Arians when asked about hiring Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar full-time. Arians has been a champion of diversity, assembling a coaching staff with those two women as well as African Americans in all three coordinator positions (Leftwich, Bowles and Keith Armstrong) and at assistant head coach (Harold Goodwin).
"It's a short elevator ride back to the s---house": Arians on his Cardinals team not letting success go to their heads in 2014. Arians knows this well -- despite his success with Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers opted not to renew Arians' contract as offensive coordinator after the 2011 season. This was after Mike Tomlin told Arians he would try to get him a raise.
"No risk it, no biscuit": This isn't just Arians' coaching philosophy -- it's how he lives his life. "If you don't try great shots, you won't hit one," he said in NFL Network's "A Football Life." "You can't live scared." Gabbert added, “You’re not gonna get anywhere in life not taking chances.”
Arizona Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss contributed to this report.