Bruce Arians is as white as snow, but he shares the frustration of Black NFL coaches not getting serious consideration for head coaching jobs in the league.

The 68-year-old Arians, who can become the oldest head coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl Sunday if his Tampa Bay Bucs beat the Kansas City Chiefs, didn’t get his first full-time NFL head coaching gig until 2013. If you do the math, you’ll notice he was 60 then and had been an NFL assistant for nearly two decades.

That’s why it’s no accident that Arians’ coaching staff is the most diverse in the league. All three of his coordinators – Todd Bowles (defense), Byron Leftwich (offense), and Keith Armstrong (special teams) -- are Black. So is his assistant head coach/run-game coordinator (Harold Goodwin).

Eight other assistants on his staff, including five primary position coaches, also are Black. In addition, he has two women on his staff (assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar).

“I didn’t get a [head-coaching] shot until I was 60, and [Indianapolis Colts coach] Chuck Pagano had to get sick with leukemia for me to even become a head coach,” Arians said this week.

“I was the winning offensive coordinator in the Super Bowl [in 2008] and didn’t even get a phone call” to interview for a head coaching job. “So my own lack of opportunities has made me want to give more opportunities to more people.

“The minorities on my staff are all great, great coaches. The women, that was a door that needed to be knocked down. Lori and Maral are great teachers. They worked their tails off and they’re more than qualified.

“Inclusivity and diversity are great ways to teach. The more input you have from different types of voices, the better output you get.”

No risk it no biscuit

One of Bruce Arians’ favorite sayings is “no risk it no biscuit.” The meaning is fairly obvious: you have to take chances to be successful.

“Inclusivity and diversity are great ways to teach. The more input you have from different types of voices, the better output you get.”

Bruce Arians

“When I was young, one of my coaches put the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling in our playbook,” Arians said. “It just talks about not being afraid to throw your hat in the ring, fail or win, bounce back, and keep on going.

“I apply it to both football and everyday life. You’re not guaranteed the next day. I hit a lot of [golf] balls in the water going for it in two knowing I can’t get there. But I ain’t gonna get there unless I try. And that one out of 10 that makes it, it’s a great feeling.”

That, in a nutshell, explains why the Bucs, who hadn’t made the playoffs since 2007 and hadn’t won a playoff game since 2002, pursued and signed 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady last March.

They finished 7-9 in Arians’ first season as head coach. When you’re a 68-year-old head coach, the future is now.

“I knew how good a football team we had, and what we were missing,” the Bucs coach said. “And what we were missing was that belief that we were good enough.”

What better way to get your players to believe they’re good enough than by signing arguably the best quarterback of all time? Though it took a while for the G.O.A.T. to get on the same page with his new teammates. After a 27-24 Week 12 loss to the Chiefs, the Bucs were only 7-5 and fighting for one of the NFC’s three postseason wild-card spots.

“Football isn’t like basketball or baseball or a lot of other sports,” said former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who will work his second Super Bowl Sunday as the CBS game analyst. “In football you’re coming into an environment with a lot of people that is structured already.

“It’s like a rookie coming in, albeit one with six Super Bowl rings. But when you come in, you don’t just impose your will right away. You need to learn them and they need to learn you. You’re coming in and trying to fit in. I don’t care who you are. You’re still trying to fit in. And that takes time.”

At one point, there were questions about how well Arians and Brady were getting along. In a late November loss to the Rams, Brady threw a bad interception on the Bucs’ last drive that cost them an opportunity at a comeback win.

When asked after the game about the interception, Arians said Brady had misread the coverage. While that was indeed what happened, you never heard Bill Belichick ever say that to reporters.

“Hey, you know me,” Arians said this week. “I answer questions honestly. If somebody asks me why he threw an interception, I’ll tell them the truth. That isn’t calling him out. It’s just answering a question honestly. I don’t know any other way.

“Tom and I have had a great relationship from Day 1, and it’s gotten better and better. He wants to be coached hard. He knew what he was getting into when he came here.”

The Bucs had a bye the week after that Week 12 loss to the Chiefs. They came out of that bye a different team and haven’t lost since.

With Brady and the offense finally getting on the same page, the Bucs won their last four regular-season games, then beat three straight division winners on the road in the playoffs to become the first team ever to play in the Super Bowl in their own stadium.

The Bucs have averaged 34.3 points per game in their seven straight wins. Todd Bowles’ defense has forced 12 turnovers in those games, including seven in the Bucs’ three playoff wins.

“This is the most rewarding year I’ve had in coaching,” Arians said this week. “Probably because of the pandemic and everything we’ve had to deal with. Watching this team grow and get better and better. It’s been a fantastic year. I’m very, very thankful.”

An unexpected opportunity

Nine years ago, Arians had pretty much given up hope of ever becoming an NFL head coach. Unexpectedly dumped by the Steelers after five years as their offensive coordinator, he was considering early retirement.

Then he got a call from the Indianapolis Colts’ new head coach, Chuck Pagano, who offered him a job as his offensive lieutenant.

Four games into Arians’ first season with the Colts, Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. He took a leave of absence to deal with his illness and Arians was named the team’s interim head coach.

The Colts, who were 2-2 when Arians replaced Pagano, won 9 of their next 12 games and made the playoffs. Even though he was the interim coach, Arians was named the NFL’s coach of the year. After the season ended, he was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as their head coach.

“There were times when I never thought it would happen,” Arians said. “When I never thought I would get a head coaching job. I mean, Chuck had to get sick with leukemia for me to even become a head coach.”

Pagano recovered and remained the Colts’ head coach through 2017. He announced his retirement last month after spending the last two years as the Bears’ defensive coordinator.

Arians spent five years in Arizona. He had just one losing season and three double-digit-win seasons. He took the Cardinals to the playoffs twice.

But he had some health scares. In 2013, he had cancerous cells scraped from his nose. In December 2016, he was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, which is the most common type of kidney cancer. He had to have surgery to remove a small part of his kidney. He also was hospitalized with chest pains at one point.

He announced his retirement following the 2017 season. He took a job with CBS as a game analyst.

“The broadcasting thing was fun,” he said. “Just being in the locker room. Seeing coaches. Seeing players. Going to practice on Fridays. I had no itch to come back.

“But I got excited when this job became available. Because of [Bucs general manager] Jason Licht [who had been the Cardinals vice-president of player personnel his first year in Arizona] and the ownership here. And then, when all of my assistants [from the Cardinals] became available and we could put our whole group back together, my wife got excited. And when she got excited, then I got excited about it. It’s been a blessing.”

And now he has a chance to become the oldest Super Bowl-winning head coach in league history if his Bucs can beat the Chiefs Sunday.

Arians’ 95-year-old mother Catherine, who still lives a stone’s throw from York, Pa., where Bruce was born and raised, will be at Sunday’s game, along with about 50 other family members. His father Bert, who was a machinist, passed away several years ago.

“My dad was my first coach and the best coach I ever had,” Arians said. “I wish that he could be there Sunday. But everybody else will be there.

“My dad worked seven days a week, night shift. The work ethic he instilled on our entire family -- you go to work, you do the best you can, and keep your head up high. Your name is what you have that you take the most pride in.”