Colts Know, Respect Bucs Coach Bruce Arians

Phillip B. Wilson

INDIANAPOLIS — As the Indianapolis Colts prepare for Sunday’s visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they are well aware of what that means in facing head coach Bruce Arians.

In two stints with the Colts, first as quarterbacks coach from 1998 to 2000 and then as offensive coordinator/interim head coach in 2012, Arians cultivated his reputation as “a quarterback guru” as well as an aggressive playcaller. He worked with Colts quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck as rookies.

While Reich wasn’t on either of those coaching staffs, he’s well-versed on Arians’ penchant for passing down the field. When Arians was last in Indianapolis, and filled in when then-head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, he was never shy about wanting Luck to look for chunk plays when throwing.

Arians admitted at one point, “I’m not a fan of dink and dunk,” referring to how many NFL teams often rely on short-range passes to move the chains.

In his first year with the Buccaneers, after coaching the Arizona Cardinals from 2013 to 2017, Arians has the weapons to execute his offensive philosophy. Buccaneers wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans rank second and third in receiving yards at 1,121 and 1,096 respectively. Of receivers with at least 40 catches, Evans ranks fourth in yards per catch at 16.6 and Godwin is 12th at 15.1.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is second in the league with 3,659 passing yards. He’s tied for sixth with 22 TD passes, but also has made his share of mistakes with a league-high 20 interceptions.

“I just know a ton of people who have worked with him and for him and just think the world of this guy,” Reich said of Arians. “I mean, a football guy through and through, a quarterback guru. His career speaks for itself.

“He’s a guy I’ve always looked up to as far as what he’s done on the field. His aggressive nature, I really have a lot of respect for him.”

The Buccaneers and Colts enter the season’s stretch drive headed in opposite directions. While the Bucs (5-7) have won three of four to emerge as an NFC wild-card playoff contender, the Colts (6-6) are on the brink of playoff elimination with losses in four of five games.

The Colts have struggled without their best big-play pass catcher, four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has missed four of five games with a calf strain. Hilton didn’t practice this week. Since he was drafted in 2012, the Colts are 1-8 without him.

While Reich has stuck to his one-week mantra of being 1-0, the Colts realistically must win out in the remaining four games to have a chance at returning to the postseason for a second consecutive season.

Arians, always known for his candor, conceded the Bucs must win out to make the playoffs. He addressed the situation with his players on Wednesday. If the Bucs don’t win out, “then you play for fun.”

That’s Arians, always ready to be blunt with perspective.

“You try to be like Bruce Arians, I could never pull that off, for sure,” Reich said. “I don’t know if anybody could, from what I understand. He has that ‘it’ factor. I respect that.

“Everybody has got to me comfortable in their own skin and do it their own way. Bruce has certainly been a model of that. You just know the players that play for him, they’ll die for him. But you know he coaches them hard and gets after them.”

Reich laughed when asked about his aggressiveness compared to Arians.

“I don’t have any problem with being aggressive in playcalling,” Reich said. “He’s a unique guy and he’s earned the respect he has around the league.”