Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has garnered something of a reputation of being a quarterback whisperer over the course of his tenure as a coach in a variety of positions at the NFL level.
Arians was Peyton Manning’s quarterbacks coach at the beginning of the future Hall of Famer’s career. A few years later, he came to Pittsburgh as the wide receivers coach but spent five years as the offensive coordinator for Ben Roethlisberger. He worked with Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer after that.
After retiring as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach following the 2017 season, Arians is back on the sideline, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the next challenge on his plate is former first-overall draft pick Jameis Winston, who has been compared to Roethlisberger a time or two. Shannon Sharpe noticed that himself.
“Bruce Arians worked with quarterbacks. Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer. It’s documented”, he said on his show with Skip Bayless. “He knows how to work with the quarterbacks. Now, they’re different. He doesn’t ask any quarterback to be anything they’re not”.
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) January 10, 2019
One thing he does treat his quarterbacks the same in is asking them to hold onto the football for a greater amount of deep passing attempts, which has correlated to an increased sack rate. Roethlisberger and Luck in particular were among the most-frequently sacked quarterbacks under Arians, and now both are among the least.
Sharpe sees the comparisons between Winston and Big Ben, however. “I think Jameis Winston is equally as talented as Ben Roethlisberger”, he said. “He’s nothing like Peyton, he’s nothing like Luck. I believe he can play like Ben, and Arians got the best out of Big Ben. I believe he’ll get the best out of Jameis”.
Did he get the best out of Roethlisberger, though? In his five seasons under Arians, Roethlisberger completed 63.4 percent of his passes, averaging 3958 yards per 16 games, throwing touchdowns on five percent of his passes and interceptions on 2.5 percent. In the time since then, he has completed 65.5 percent of his passes, thrown for 4645 yards per 16 games, and thrown touchdowns on 5.1 percent of his passes to interceptions on 2.3 percent. His sack frequency also dropped from 47 per 16 games to 29.
“The question that I have for Jameis is can he cut down on the turnovers and get is mind clear and free off the field”, Sharpe wondered. Winston has had multiple off the field issues going back to college, and has thrown an interception on 3 percent of his passes, including a career-high 3.7 percent in 2018.
Bayless added of Arians, “he will not tell Jameis what he wants to hear”. I’m not sure where he got this from, considering the reason the Steelers let him go was because his relationship with his quarterback was too buddy-buddy.