Born: October 2, 1952
Bruce Arians was born October 3, 1952 in Paterson and grew up in York, Pennsylvania. He attended York Catholic High and starred for the Fighting Irish football team at quarterback. He attended William Penn High School, also in York, before accepting a scholarship from Virginia Tech.
Bruce spent his first three seasons with the Hokies as a backup quarterback—two of those years behind Don Strock. Bruce earned the starting role as a senior in 1974 under coach Jimmy Sharpe. Virginia Tech won just four games. Bruce threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for another 8 out of the team’s wishbone offense.
The following season, Bruce accepted a job as a graduate assistant and over the next 8 years worked as an assistant at Mississippi State and Alabama, serving under Bear Bryant as the running backs coach. Bruce got his first head coaching job at Temple in 1988. He led the Owls for six seasons and went 27–48. Among the future NFL starters he developed were defensive backs Kevin Ross and Todd Bowles.
In 1989, Bruce was hired by Kansas City Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, to work with the team’s running backs. On the same staff were Tony Dungy and Bill Cowher. During the 1990s, Bruce returned to the college ranks, where he served as an offensive coordinator for Mississippi State and Alabama.
In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts hired Bruce as the quarterbacks coach. He developed a close working relationship with rookie Peyton Manning, who quickly developed into a star. In 2001, Bruce went to work as offensive coordinator for the Browns under Butch Davis. One of the team’s defensive coaches was Chuck Pagano. In 2004, Cowher—now the coach of the Steelers—hired Bruce to work with Ben Roethlisberger. In 2007, he became the team’s offensive coordinator, a position he held through the 2011 season. Pittsburgh won two Super Bowls during his time with the club.
Following the 2011 season, Cowher's successor Mike Tomlin felt Bruce had become too close with Roethlisberger and decided to fire him. Bruce was ready to leave pro football when he received a call from Pagano, the new coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts planned to draft Andrew Luck and Pagano was looking for someone to nurture the young star. However, early in 2012, Pagano had to step down after being diagnosed with leukemia. Bruce was named interim coach and led the team to nine more wins and the team finished finish 11–5. He was named NFL Coach of the Year—the first time that honor had been bestowed upon an interim coach. Ironically, after Pagano returned to lead the club into the playoffs, Bruce missed the Colts Wild Card loss to the Ravens when he was hospitalized by an acute inner ear infection.
A few weeks later, the Arizona Cardinals hired Bruce as their head coach. He led the team to 10 wins in 2013. It was the best season by a first-year coach for the Cardinals in almost 90 years. In 2014, Bruce stepped into the ranks of elite NFL coaches when, despite a series of catastrophic injuries to his starting QBs, he kept his team in a neck-and-neck battle for the division lead with the Super Bowl champion Seahawks and guided Arizona to a playoff berth. He was named Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.
Bruce coached the Cards to a 13–3 mark in 2015, and got them all the way to the NFC title game. Unfortunately, they lost to the powerhouse Panthers. The 13 victories established a new franchise high. The team took a step backwards in 2016, however, finishing 7–8–1 and out of the playoffs. The Cardinals went 8–8 in 2017, after which Bruce announced that he was leaving coaching to work as a braodcaster.
During his first year away from coaching, Bruce got the itch. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered him their vacant job he decided to get back in. His first hire was his old defensive coordinator Bowles, who had just been shown the door by the New York Jets. He added 27 more coaches and assistsants before the season started. Bruce’s goal was to solidify the Tampa Bay defense. The team improved by two wins in 2019, from 5–11 to 7–9, and newcomer Shaq Barrett had a season for the ages at linebacker, but as good as the Bucs were against the run, they were still terrible against enemy passers. Quarterback Jameis Winston was a touchdown machine, but an interception machine, too, and it cost the Bucs a couple of wins. The team released Winston after the season and signed Tom Brady with a “win-now” goal for 2020.
Due to the pandemic, Brady did not have much opportunity to gel with his new teammates in the spring and summer, and it took a rough November for everyone to finally get on the same page. The Bucs had all the offensive weapons they needed at that point with wideout Mike Evans, the un-retirement of Rob Gronkowski, the revitalization of Antonio Brown and the pick-up of running back Leonard Fournette. From December on, Tampa Bay was literally unbeatble. The Bucs finished 11–5 and reached the Super Bowl with road playoff victories over Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay.
Against Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, Bruce tasked assistants Byron Leftwich and Bowles with giving the underdog Bucs their best chance to win. Bowles took advantage of injuries to Kansas City's offensive line and had Mahomes on the run all game, forcing him into numerous bad throws. Leftwich kept the Chiefs on their heels with a smart mix of running and passing calls, forcing an unusual number of penalties. Brady seized control of the game and the Bucs cruised to a 31–9 victory. The win made Bruce the oldest coach in history at 68 to win a Super Bowl.