Three seasons ago, Bruce Arians was out of coaching, seemingly for good at age 65.
At age 68, Arians became the oldest coach ever to win a Super Bowl.
People go to Florida to retire. Arians went there to thrive and carve out the greatest moment of his professional life.
There was a CBS pregame report said Arians had a plan, if the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, to step aside as the coach, assume a different role in the organization and hand the head-coaching duties to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Listening to Arians after the game, the source of that report might as well have come from Mars.
“Hell no, I ain’t going anywhere,’’ Arians said. “I’m coming back to try to get two … and then we’ll see after that. This football team, I love these guys. We have a great staff and great team. Hopefully Jason [Licht, the general manager] and I can come up with a plan to keep most of them and try to repeat.’’
Remember when Arians, having stepped away as the Cardinals head coach in 2017 citing health reasons after five seasons, was working as a CBS analyst in 2018?
Did you honestly believe Arians, a three-time cancer survivor, would coach again?
“I think I’d have been smoking something illegal to really imagine this happening,’’ Arians said.
There’s a long list of former NFL coaches who fled to the comfort of the TV booth and never returned to the sideline.
Licht talked Arians out of his cushy TV gig and onto the Tampa Bay sideline before last season. And now, Arians has become a different, more evolved coach who delegates more than he used to.
Arians, it seems, has been spot-on with every button he’s pushed this season.
The only time, perhaps, that he’s been off base all year came after the game as he stood on the postgame ceremony platform holding onto the Lombardi Trophy and he said, “This belongs to the coaching staff and our players. You won this thing. I didn’t do a damn thing.’’
About 30 minutes later, Arians was at it again with his self-deprecation, saying, “I don’t do anything, man. My coaches do it all. And we have great, great players. Jason does a great job with the players. I just try to get out of the way and not screw it up.’’
After the Bucs’ win over the Packers in the NFC Championship game, Arians called it the “most rewarding year coaching in my life.”
He had been to three Super Bowls as an assistant coach with the Steelers, winning two. And now this, his first as a head coach.
“He deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the success we’ve had this year, holding this thing together,’’ Tom Moore, Arians’ 82-year-old offensive consultant who worked with him in Indianapolis, said. “I’ve known Bruce a long time, and you can see it — he’s having fun.’’
Moore said this before Sunday’s Super Bowl. Imagine the fun Arians is having now.