Bruce Arians is what you call an NFL “lifer.” While his head coaching career hasn’t been one of the longest, his influence as an offensive coordinator has been great. One area where Arians also excels is off the field with the fight for racial equality. Let’s look at his career and see how he’s battled for social justice.
Bruce Arians as an assistant coach
Arians’ influence as an assistant and offensive coordinator has impacted the careers of many great NFL players. According to Pro Football History, from 1998 to 2000, Arians was the quarterbacks’ coach for the Indianapolis Colts. He helped lay the foundation for one of the most legendary NFL careers, Peyton Manning. Though Manning had a bumpy start to his career, he weathered the storm with Arians’ help.
Arians also spent eight seasons as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, serving as an offensive coordinator for five of those years. He helped the Steelers get to two Super Bowls and win one. In 2012, Arians’ stepped up as interim head coach of the Colts when head coach Chuck Pagano fell ill. The team rallied behind Arians and went 11-5, qualifying for the playoffs.
Arians’ career as a head coach
After getting the Colts to the playoffs in 2012, Arians got the opportunity to become a head coach in the league for the first time. The Arizona Cardinals hired him in 2013. In Arians’ first three years, Pro-Football-Reference reports he led the Cardinals to double-digit wins with records of 10-6, 11-5, and 13-3. The team qualified for the playoffs twice under his expert tutelage. His overall playoff record was 1-2. Arians retired following the 2017 season.
Last year, Arians returned to the sideline with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team went 7-9 despite having multiple dangerous weapons on offense. The team struggled in large part due to inconsistent quarterback play from the strong-armed Jameis Winston. Winston threw over 30 touchdowns but also threw over 30 picks. With Tom Brady under center this year, Bucs fans are looking forward to seeing what Arians can do with a different quarterback.
Arians’ lifelong fight for racial equality
Arians played at Virginia Tech in college. While he was there, he roomed with fellow Hokies’ player James Barber. Barber’s sons Tiki and Ronde played in the NFL years later. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Arians was the first white player the team asked to bunk with a black player. This experience opened Arians’ eyes up to racism and the role it played in society.
Another situation that shaped Arians’ views on race relations happened in his hometown of York, Pennsylvania. According to the York Dispatch, in the summers of 1968 and 1969, Arians saw race riots eventually quelled by the National Guard on the streets he grew up on. It’s what led him to become an outspoken voice for racial equality.
So what are Arians’ views on the current unrest in our country, particularly in the wake of the killing of George Floyd? He sees the protesting as a step in the right direction, but he hopes that’s not all we see come out of it:
“I think right now, I love the fact that people are upset and they’re raising their voices, but don’t stop … It’s one thing to march and protest. It’s another thing to take action. And when the protesting is over, I’d urge everybody to take action. Do something positive to help the situation. Just don’t go back to being silent, because then it’s going to happen again.”
After early-life situations made him consider the fight for racial equality in this country, it’s clear Arians has spent a career and a lifetime trying to effect positive change.