NFL Coaching Rumors: Bruce Arians has 'lot of momentum' for Buccaneers gig, is big Jameis Winston fan

In a coaching cycle with a minimal numbers of attractive candidates willing to look at every single job, teams are thinking outside the box. Or inside the booth in the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who may be trying to woo former Cardinals coach turned NFL on CBS analyst Bruce Arians back to the sideline. 

There appears to be legitimate interest in both sides to make this happen: Arians already took an interview with Tampa Bay, one of several Tampa has had with candidates over the last week or so.

Also in the mix: Vikings DC George Edwards and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy

What makes Arians so intriguing is the fit with quarterback Jameis Winston, a controversial figure around the NFL both for his on- and off-field actions. Winston was suspended three games to start the 2018 season for an incident back in March of 2016 where he groped an Uber driver out in Arizona. The whole thing was ugly, including Winston's half-hearted apology after the suspension.

On the field he's been a mixed bag: Winston loves to extend plays, has no conscious when it comes to throwing a ball into tight windows or aggressively down the field ... and as a result he might be a perfect fit in Arians' system. With the Cardinals, Arians and Carson Palmer often repeated BA's trademark "no risk it, no biscuit" phrase. Arians' preference for deep drops and a vertical passing game flies in the face of en vogue offensive trends around the league. 

There's also a personal connection here, as Arians worked with Winston at a quarterback camp when Jameis was growing up. As noted by Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Winston actually credits Arians for giving him the dream of winning a Super Bowl when they worked together in Jameis' youth.

For the Buccaneers, the biggest problem right now in attracting the best candidates is their committal to Winston. In the wake of firing Dirk Koetter, GM Jason Licht came out and publicly supported Winston as the team's starter -- or at least a guy who will be on the roster -- in 2019. It makes sense, from a football business perspective. Licht is making his first real coaching hire here (he came in with Lovie Smith and the Koetter move was a proactive approach fueled by ownership when the OC was interested in the Dolphins job), but he's tied to Winston after taking him No. 1 overall in 2015. 

Unfortunately Winston's contract is problematic. The Buccaneers have his fifth-year option for 2019, but can't reasonably commit to Winston for the long haul right now and maybe not this offseason given what we've seen from Winston on and off the field. As such, finding a coach who understands he has to work with Winston, but also understanding the long-term future for Winston isn't guaranteed might be tough.

Arians previously said he would only return to the NFL for the Browns job, but it's clear the Buccaneers are an interesting opportunity to him. He might be the perfect candidate for a team with Winston too. He's not some young buck who wants to coach for 20 years. If Winston works out, great, and he can keep working with him. If it doesn't work out, the Bucs took their best shot and they can chase another QB. 

Tampa is close to where Arians lives now. Several key members of his staff in Arizona -- defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich -- are all available for hire now. 

There is a genuine sense this could work out for both parties and, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals would need no compensation for the Bucs hiring Arians as Arizona declined Arians' 2019 team option and allowed him to retire. Rapoport reported Sunday there is a "lot of momentum" for Arians to take the Bucs job and a deal could be done as soon as this coming week.

Plus, Licht and Arians worked together previously. When the Cardinals rebooted the coaching staff and front office in 2013, Licht was the VP of Player Personnel under new GM Steve Keim, who hired Arians as a head coach. So there's experience working together there as well and good experience, as the Cardinals took off quickly under Arians. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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