As the first quarter of the NFL season is in the books, Bruce Arians may be thinking, “Been there, done that.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-2 through Week 4 in their first season with Arians at the helm. And quite honestly, this season’s 2-2 feels a whole lot better than last season’s 2-2.
But what’s funny about the start of this season is that Arians has started a season in the exact same way before.
In 2013, Arians took the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. A franchise who went 5-11, 8-8, and 5-11 prior to the arrival of Arians. Similar to the Bucs horrendous tenure before 2019.
So, what’s the big deal?
Well, that 2013 Cardinals team started their season 2-2 with alternating wins. Sounds familiar right?
Do you know what else sounds familiar? Their defensive coordinator was none other than Todd Bowles. In 2013, Bowles led the Cardinals defense to a seventh overall team defense ranking. You know who Bowles and Arians selected with their 2nd round draft pick in 2013?… LB Kevin Minter. Hmmm…
Jameis Winston Doing His Best Carson Palmer
But the familiarity that strikes me the most comes from the offensive side of the ball. Arians took the Cardinals job with Carson Palmer at quarterback, the 2003 No. 1 overall draft pick. Arians also took the Bucs job with the 2015 No. 1 overall draft pick at quarterback in Jameis Winston. The only difference is that Palmer was entering his 10th season as a pro, whereas Winston has entered his fifth season.
Through the first four games in 2013, Palmer threw for 1,010 yds, four TDs, and six picks, accumulating a rating of 68.9 and, of course, a record of 2-2.
On the flip side, Winston has thrown for 1,167 yds to go along with nine TDs, five picks and a rating of 95.8 through the first four games of 2019. Also good for a 2-2 record.
And Bucs fans are still calling for Winston’s head after a 2-2 start…
In that 2013 season, Palmer finished with 24 TDs, 22 INTs, 4,274 yds and a rating of 83.9. Palmer also finished 10th overall among NFL quarterbacks. Some would say that the stat line is average for a former first-overall pick in his 10th season. But, that stat line was good enough to give the Cardinals a seventh overall team offense ranking in 2013.
The Cardinals finished the 2013 season with a record of 10-6, falling one game short of the NFL Playoffs.
Let’s not forget the hype Arians received for reviving Palmer’s career in Arizona after a short and underwhelming stint in Oakland. Palmer was voted to the Pro-Bowl under Arians in 2015 after throwing 35 TDs. What was Arians also known for in 2015? Leading the Cardinals to the NFC Championship Game.
Going Back to ’16
The last time Winston played a full 16-game season was in 2016. In that year, his second year as a pro, he finished 11th overall among NFL quarterbacks. Winston tallied 4,090 yds, 28 TDs, 18 INTs, and an 86.1 rating. The Bucs finished the 2016 season with a record of 9-7, missing the NFL Playoffs (that sounds familiar).
So, when comparing the way the Bucs have started the 2019 season to the 2013 Arizona Cardinals in Arians’ first season, it’s almost identical. The only stat left to be compared is the overall record at the season’s end.
The Bucs kicked off their five-game road trip in Los Angeles last weekend, defeating the Rams 55-40 in an absolute barn burner. The Bucs now have four straight games away from Raymond James Stadium, easily the toughest part of the team’s season. The win in Los Angeles, however, just may give Tampa the juice it needs to make a run.
The Bucs currently sit at second place in the NFC South, which a win on Sunday at New Orleans would propel them atop the division. When looking at the NFC South, and the rest of the Buccaneers’ schedule, is 10-6 too lofty of an expectation?
Based on Arians’ past, the Bucs present, and the NFC South’s dwindling status, anything close to 10-6 may punch a ticket to the NFL Playoffs.
Now that’s something Bucs fans would like to get familiar with.