Had Tom Brady chosen to stay retired, Bruce Arians likely still would be coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Arians, who surprisingly announced Wednesday that he was retiring from coaching and taking a role in the Buccaneers’ front office, explained his reasoning Thursday in a news conference, saying having Brady back gave him confidence that successor Todd Bowles would inherit a competitive team.
“I thought about it after the season, but it wasn’t right,” Arians told reporters in Tampa. “Obviously, going through the combine, going through all that process, trying to build next year’s team without Tom, and then when Tom said he’d come back, it was like, ‘Whew, now it’s easy.’ We’re in the best shape we’ve ever been. There’s no better time to pass the torch than now.
“I don’t know what February brings, but I know what today brings, and it makes me really happy.”
Arians couldn’t pinpoint exactly when he made his decision to retire, but he said it happened “shortly” after he spoke with Brady and learned that the quarterback was returning for the 2022 season. The 44-year-old QB announced his retirement in early February but decided less than six weeks later to continue his playing career.
“(General manage) Jason (Licht) and I have been talking about this, and obviously we included (team owner) Joel (Glazer) and Tom and a couple other people,” Arians said. “It’s something — it wasn’t spur-of-the-moment.”
He added: “I don’t know the exact date or time, but (it was) shortly after Tom and I talked and Jason and Joel. I sat down with my wife and then we said, ‘Let’s do this.’ And then we talked about what’s next, stepping over to the front office and doing that job. So there’s no actual minute that it happened. It was building. I felt very comfortable after talking with Tom that the franchise was in great shape.”
Those comments echoed ones Arians shared in a team statement Wednesday night and in a conversation with NBC Sports’ Peter King, who broke the story of his retirement along with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
“Tom was kind of the key,” Arians told King. “When Tom decided to come back … and all of these guys back now, it’s the perfect timing for me just to go into the front office and still have the relationships that I love.”
Rumors about friction between Brady and Arians have swirled since the season ended, and the timing of Arians’ departure has the look of a successful power play by his Super Bowl-winning signal-caller. But Arians insisted he and Brady have a “great relationship.”
“People gotta write (expletive),” the coach told reporters Thursday. “It couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Arians now will transition into a new role as a senior football consultant for the Bucs — a position he admitted he doesn’t know much about.
“Obviously, I have a job now, and the title’s pretty good,” he said. “We’ll figure out what the hell it means soon, but it’s pretty damn good. I get to stay and have the relationships that I love. … Whatever my title means, I’m there.”
Brady will be, too, preparing to play his 23rd NFL season at age 45.