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Arians cuts retirement short to take Bucs’ job

The Associated Press

Bruce Arians, the Arizona Cardinals head coach at the time, is shown during a game in September 2017.

The Associated Press TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Bruce Arians is the latest coach entrusted to transform the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers into winners.

The 66-year-old came out of a one-year retirement Tuesday to fill the team’s fifth coaching vacancy in a decade.

Arians replaces Dirk Koetter, who was dismissed Dec. 30 after leading the Bucs to 19 wins and no playoffs berths over the past three seasons.

Arians coached the Arizona Cardinals for five years, stepping down after the 2017 season with a 50-32-1 record that included one division title, two playoff berths, three seasons with double-digit wins and one NFC championship game appearance.

“Bruce Arians is one of the NFL’s most well-respected coaches over the past two decades and we are excited to have him leading our team,” Bucs owner/co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement.

“Throughout this process, we focused on finding the right coach with a proven ability to elevate our players and lead our team forward,” Glazer added. “Bruce has played a large role in the development and career success of some of our league’s best players and we look forward to seeing him continue that work here with our franchise.”

The Bucs, who’ve finished last in the NFC South seven of the past eight seasons, haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 — the second-longest drought in the league. They haven’t won a postseason game since their 2002 Super Bowl run under Jon Gruden, was fired 10 years ago this month.

Arians is the latest in a line of successors that includes Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Koetter, who landed the job in 2016 primarily because ownership felt his offensive expertise would accelerate the growth of young quarterback Jameis Winston.

Arians was believed to be the front-runner all along because of his familiarity with general manager Jason Licht, who was vice president of player personnel for two seasons in Arizona before moving to Tampa Bay as GM in 2014.

The Bucs fired Koetter after consecutive 5-11 finishes for a three-year record to 19-29.

Despite setting franchise single-season records for points, total yards, passing yards and touchdown passes, Tampa Bay lost 11 of 14 following a surprising 2-0 start with upset victories over New Orleans and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia.

The day after Koetter was fired, Licht made it clear that whoever wound up replacing the coach would inherit Winston as his starting quarterback.

“Jameis Winston will be here,” the GM said of the No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft, who’s due to earn $20.92 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract.

In other NFL coaching moves:

■ The Arizona Cardinals have hired former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach, a move aimed at providing guidance for young quarterback Josh Rosen and resuscitating the worst offense in the NFL.

The Cardinals announced the hiring after a long interview earlier in the day, saying Kingsbury had agreed to terms on a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth.

Kingsbury was fired after going 35-40 in six seasons at Texas Tech, but his teams were known for their high-scoring performances. His prized pupil in those days was current Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Tuesday’s hiring came barely a month after Kingsbury was hired as offensive coordinator at USC.

Kingsbury, also a former offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, where he worked with Johnny Manziel, replaces Steve Wilks, who was fired after going an NFL-worst 3-13 in his one season in Arizona.

■ Matt LaFleur has been named head coach of the Green Bay Packers, the team announced, confirming multiple reports from a day earlier.

The 39-year-old LaFleur spent this season as offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans, his first calling plays in the NFL. Before that, he was offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, helping direct a high-powered offense with coach Sean McVay calling plays.

LaFleur takes over for Mike McCarthy, who was fired during the season following a stunning home loss to Arizona on Dec. 2. Speech

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