Bucs HC Bruce Arians: 'I Don't Care Who's My QB. We've Gotta Have a Defense'

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IFebruary 14, 2020

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians prior to an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Images/Rick Osentoski)
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Bruce Arians was an offensive coordinator before making the leap to head coach, but his primary concern entering the 2020 season is defense. 

"I don't care who's my quarterback. We've gotta have a defense," the Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-year head coach said Thursday, per ESPN's Jenna Laine

Arians' comment comes as quarterback Jameis Winston's future in Tampa Bay is uncertain, which he also addressed on Thursday.

"Really nothing has changed," Arians said about Winston's status, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "What's Door No. 2? You know? Can we make the one we have better? All those things you go through right now."

Winston, the Bucs' 2015 first overall pick, is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Arians has been much more urgent about keeping outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett who is also hitting free agency:

PewterReport @PewterReport

#Bucs head coach Bruce Arians on the team keeping leading sacker OLB Shaquil Barrett @MOOCHIE048, who has now tied @WarrenSapp single season franchise sack record with 16.5 sacks, from hitting free agency: "He ain't going anywhere, he ain't going anywhere."

The 27-year-old expressed a desire to stay in Tampa Bay during last month's Pro Bowl, per Laine: "I don't know if it's gonna get done before [March], but I love that confidence that [Arians] gave me. I'm just ready to get it done and ready to start building my life in Tampa and be there for the long haul."

The Buccaneers finished last season at 7-9, their third consecutive losing campaign that extended their playoff drought to 12 seasons. However, defense was not the main issue in 2019. Tampa ranked first in rushing defense (73.8 yards per game) during the regular season but was weighed down by a 30th-ranked passing unit to rank 15th in overall defense.

Barrett was the central piece with an NFL-most 19.5 sacks. 

If the main problem had to be singled out, it would be Winston's inconsistent play. While the 26-year-old led the league with 5,109 passing yards, he also led the league with 30 interceptions. Winston underwent Lasik eye surgery to help with his accuracy issues:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Free-agent QB Jameis Winston underwent Lasik surgery. “Jameis did not want to count out any options that he had that could possibly help him with the game he loves so much,” said his spokeswoman Denise White. “He doesn’t want to miss out on any opportunity that presents itself.”

Winston seems to be doing what he needs to do to make the most of his first time as a free agent, and Arians is dedicated to doing what's best to make the Buccaneers better with or without Winston.