Crimson Tide Flashback: Bruce Arians with a Tom Brady sidebar


As everyone who follows the NFL has heard, Tom Brady un-retired and a Bruce Arians retirement quickly followed. Twice in his long coaching career, Arians was a Crimson Tide assistant.

The intricacies of the soap opera stories, of how the Tampa Bay thing went down, just keep spinning. A few people claim to know what happened. Shannon Sharp stated he was 99.9% sure Tom Brady gave the Tampa Bay ownership an ultimatum they could have his quarterbacking talents for another season, but only if Bruce Arians was no longer the coach.

Is that what happened? Even well-connected media people don’t know for sure. Whatever happened, it appears Bruce Arians chose (rather than being forced) to handle the exit gracefully. As Arians’ coaching mentor would have said, the now-former Tampa Bay Head Coach, handled himself and the situation with ‘class’.

That coaching mentor was Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant. Arians played football at Virginia Tech. After his college playing career was over he remained in Blacksburg as a Graduate Assistant for two seasons. His first onfield coaching position followed at Mississippi State. After three seasons in Starkville, Bryant hired Arians to coach running backs during the Bear’s final two seasons,

In the lead-up to the 2021 Super Bowl, Arians was asked about coaching influences. The two he named who had the greatest impact on his career, were both molded by Alabama Football. One was Jimmy Sharpe who was an  Alabama player and a longtime Bryant assistant, before becoming the head coach at Virginia Tech. The other coach was Paul Bryant.

Arians talked about how Bryant advised him before he left Tuscaloosa to become the Temple head coach.

"The last thing he told me when I was going off to Temple: ‘Coach them hard and hug them later’. And that’s been my mantra ever since. And Jimmy taught me how to make his players believe they’re going to win every single game, even though they probably didn’t have a chance because we stunk. But we went on the field every time thinking we were going to win the game."

The second lesson Arians learned from Sharpe, was one Sharpe had learned from Bryant.

That warm and fuzzy, but also real history, about Bruce Arians should make him an Alabama Crimson Tide legend. Except, there is one black mark Arians can never erase.

In 1997, Bruce Arians was the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks coach for Mike Dubose. 1997 was a dismal season for Alabama football. Going into the Iron Bowl, the Tide was 4-6. With 1:35 left in the game, the Tide had a 3rd-and-8 at its own 36-yard line. Alabama led 17-15 and Auburn had no timeouts. Even with an unsuccessful third-down run and a Tide punt, Auburn would have had at most 30 seconds, starting from around its own 20.

One Bad Crimson Tide Play Call

Bruce Arians called a screen pass to gain the first down. Ed Scissum struggled but made the catch. An almost immediate tackle caused a fumble that Auburn recovered. An Auburn field goal gave the Tigers an 18-15 win. Alabama finished the season at 4-7.

Some Alabama fans have never forgiven Bruce Arians for that call.

Note: 1997 Iron Bowl history provided by College and Magnolia.

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With the Arians’ retirement comes the end of an era. He was the last head coach among the Bear’s former assistants, who was still coaching.