Breakfast With Bruce Arians’ Ex-Roommate: Tony Dungy

January 23rd, 2019

The Sage with another can’t-miss column


There’s a new sheriff at One Buc Place, wielding a sharp stick and an even sharper tongue.

Take it from the man who roomed with Bruce Arians 30 years ago in Kansas City.

Arians and Tony Dungy were assistant coaches on Marty Schottenheimer’s staff for three seasons, beginning in 1989. And yes, they could have starred together in a remake of The Odd Couple.

While 33-year-old Tony Dungy studied the Bible in his bedroom during their brief stint as roommates, 36-year-old Bruce Arians was enjoying a cocktail and telling a dirty joke over the phone.

While Dungy was calmly explaining pass cover techniques to his very talented group of defensive backs, Arians was informing Christian Okoye and fellow back Barry Word that mistakes wouldn’t be tolerated, using language that would make a rap artist blush.

They have stayed in touch through the years, so when Arians was introduced as Tampa Bay’s new head coach two weeks ago, Dungy attended the press conference.

“I wanted to see Bruce and welcome him to Tampa,” Dungy said during a recent breakfast. “Bruce is loyal. This staff has guys that coached with him at Temple, He’s got three guys that played for him at Temple 40 years ago. He speaks the truth to them and they’re going to speak the truth back.”

And yes, in case you’re wondering, JoeBucsFan picked up the breakfast check.

Until their families arrived in Kansas City, these two disparate personalities shared an apartment in Independence, just east of Kansas City.

“Funny guy, classic,” Dungy said of Arians..”He’s as down to earth as you could be. He’s very smart, very good at motivating people. We had a good team and Bruce wasn’t the offensive coordinator, but he had ideas. We could hang out and have fun. He could accept me for who I am.”

During the course of our 45-minute chat, Dungy used the word “straightforward” four times in describing Arians.

“You have to be yourself and players respond to that,” Dungy said. “His guys loved him. Arizona is obviously a tough place to work, but Bruce got the offense going and he did a good job with Carson Palmer. He knows how to move the ball.”

He also knows how to move the needle. In his regular-season debut as a CBS analyst last September, Arians described Pittsburgh tight end Jesse James as being “wide-ass open.”


“Bruce is going to get the most out of his guys,” said Dungy. “It takes you a little while to get accustomed to him — he could blister some people. Remember that his background was Bear Bryant … that’s his coaching hero in life. Mine was Chuck Noll.”

Dungy believes Todd Bowles will be a key hire as defensive coordinator.

“Todd’s an aggressive guy and he’ll be different,” Dungy said. “He’s going to challenge them and the Bucs will do more things on defense. He played for Richie Petitbon, so expect pressure and a very aggressive approach.”

I asked Dungy if Bucs fans should anticipate a switch to a 3-man front.

“Looking at the talent, especially up front, I don’t think they will,” he said.

At the age of 66, Arians doesn’t figure to be a long-term answer for the Bucs. That doesn’t mean he won’t make a major impact, starting with his relationship with Jameis Winston.

“He’ll create a winning culture and a winning attitude,” Dungy said. “He’ll hold people accountable and he’ll get Jameis going. I’m not sure of the game plan in Tampa. Will Bruce be here only two years and then Todd Bowles is going to be the head coach?

“One thing I do know is he’s not going to accept bad play. In KC, you couldn’t make mistakes, whether you were Christian Okoye or the 10th guy on the depth chart. I would tell my guys that if we want to win, we can’t make mistakes. That’s how you lose in the National Football League.

“Over in his room, Bruce would say, ‘If you want to be on the field, you can’t make mistakes because you’re a reflection of me and I’m not putting a mistake out there. Don’t think you’re getting in the game if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Arians tells his players that his door is always open, but you might not like what I’m going to say. Buc fans already love what he has to say — and how he says it.

Ira Kaufman began covering the NFL in 1979, as a New York Giants beat writer. He arrived on the Buccaneers beat in 1985. Eventually, the corporate leash was removed from his neck when he joined in July 2016. The award-winning Ira Kaufman Podcast fires twice per week, and Ira’s columns appear thrice weekly, except when Ira is on special assignment. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter also is a popular guest on various national radio and local TV programming.

16 Responses to “Breakfast With Bruce Arians’ Ex-Roommate: Tony Dungy”

  1. Jean Lafitte Says:

    So he’s more like a disciplinarian type coach? Is he the type of coach who will play his best players regardless of what they earn or perceived pecking order they’re supposed to be in? It would be refreshing and well received to have a coach play his best talent rather than protecting the legacy of the GM’s draft choices.

  2. Warthog Says:

    I recommend jumping on some Cardinals fan forums and reading back through the archives to when he was coaching there. Gives you an interesting insight into his style, and what fans thought of his personnel decisions, playcalling etc week by week.

  3. unbelievable Says:

    Don’t think you’re getting in the game if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    That sounds very Bellicheck-ish. And I mean that in a good way.

    We can only hope…

  4. rrsrq Says:

    Interesting…, last coach to have a plan to win was Arians roommate, though brief. I’m loving all the little connections to make the Bucs great again.

  5. DB55 Says:

    Why are we still talking about Dungy?

    If I have to give up cigarettes for Juul y’all gonna have to give up Dungy for anyone from this decade.

    Let’s stop living in the 90s. Sadly, the 90s is long past, my friends.

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    @Tony Dungy … “He’ll create a winning culture and a winning attitude. He’ll hold people accountable.” What Bucs’ fan could ask for anything more from Coach Arians. Love that word … ACCOUNTABLE.

  7. DB55 Says:


    With all due…. getting kinda tired of hearing people repeat the same storyline. BA hasn’t even held his first practice and everyone is already replacing him with a guy who won an avg of 6 games per season with the Jets. 🤮

    Frankly my father in law is 66 and I can garuntee he’d whoop most our arses including me. It’s 2019 people! If you’re 66 you got a harder than a 22 yr old and when it boils down to it isn’t that all that really matters? Ijs can we let the man live? Smh.

  8. Joe Says:


    Feel free to research how many NFL head coaches there have been 70 or over.

  9. MIke F Says:

    Great read!

    Cool connection. Hard not to be encouraged by the respect Dungy seems ti have for B.A..

    Thanks Ira and JBF!

  10. DB55 Says:


    There’s only 3 relevant coaches Bill, Coughlin and Carroll. All of which are 66 and no where near retirement. Winning at a high level and drafting at the bottom of the round. Coughlin is the only one to beat bill and Carroll the only one to actually compete on multiple occasions

    All the rest is wish wash if you ask me. You know i’d add Gruden to that mix but only bc of the tick rule game and then winning the Sb later but again wtfdik

    Pat Mahomes Sean McVay mAtt Nagy kliFF KinGBu9y. Blah blah blah. And Todd Bowles not much better he’s like having a Leslie Frazier as a HC. Competent but lacking vigor

  11. adam from ny Says:

    he said todd bowles is a leslie frazier…oh dang…lol

  12. adam from ny Says:

    big trouble in little china

  13. Pearl Spa KC Says:

    Bromance you can call it is

  14. Defense Rules Says:

    @Tony Dungy … “Over in his room, Bruce would say, ‘If you want to be on the field, you can’t make mistakes because you’re a reflection of me and I’m not putting a mistake out there. Don’t think you’re getting in the game if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

    That is such a great quote Joe. For years now, the Bucs have beat themselves week after week. An untimely turnover here, a missed tackle there, a penalty at the worst possible time. That’s been our Bucs … we beat ourselves. Opponents just wait for us to screw up. That’s on BOTH coaching AND the players. Coaches surely don’t teach players to fumble, or to jump off-sides, or to miss tackles or to miss assignments.

    Looking back to when Chucky left (10 years ago), Bucs win or lose an average of 9 games each season by 7 points or less (actually I was amazed at how many ass-whoppins we’ve received in that timeframe, but I digress). We’ve lost most of those 7-point differential games (as one would expect given our history?). But those games IMO are where seasons are made or broken … winners win the winnable games, and almost all 7-point games were certainly winnable IF we didn’t beat ourselves.

    I’m lovin’ what Coach Arians is saying right now, and what others are saying about him … but those are still just words and don’t count in the boxscore. Looking forward to better coaching AND better talent out on the field. And players being held accountable for shoddy play.

  15. Pickgrin Says:

    “If you want to be on the field, you can’t make mistakes because you’re a reflection of me and I’m not putting a mistake out there. Don’t think you’re getting in the game if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

    Every time I’ve heard some variation of BA’s approach – as above – I keep envisioning Donovan Smith getting his ass chewed out over and over again. Wonder why that is??

  16. Rod Munch Says:

    Loved the article Ira, great job!