The straight-shooter said point-blank several times the Bucs would check behind door No. 2 or 3 to see if an upgrade on the turnover-prone quarterback could be found.
Tampa opened access gate No. 2 and found a G.O.A.T. waiting.
"When did I die, and how did I get back? No way," he said. "Never did I think that he'd ever leave New England. This year, you kinda got a feeling, maybe. So you do your due diligence as an organization and you rank all the quarterbacks that might become available. We had him ranked No. 1. If it happened, we would make a concerted effort and we did."
As he's done so many times, the animated Arians again gave honest answers, not coated in hollow high fructose corn syrup, about the search for replacing Winston. He noted the team's backup plan would have been to chase Teddy Bridgewater, before he landed in Carolina, had the Bucs not thought they'd land Brady. Jameis' return was door No. 3.
The drum in Bucs Land is already beating loud that Brady's addition will boost a playoff-caliber roster where Winston failed. Arians continued that theme.
"What he brings to us more than anything is a proven leader," Arians said of Brady. "A leader of men that knows how to win championships. We've got a really good young football team that needs a leader like that."
For all his talent, Winston is a risk-taker who can get skittish in the pocket at times and makes some of the most dunderheaded decisions of any quarterback in the NFL. His historic 33 TD, 30 INT season, in which the QB played uber-banged up, had Arians and the Bucs looking for an upgrade.
Arians made it clear that the turnovers were the reason to move on from the former No. 1 overall pick.
"I think it was that regression in those last two ballgames after he made such good progress," Arians said. "Those turnovers in December made us look to see if, was there something better behind door No. 2."
Behind that swinging pine, Arians and the Bucs found the greatest quarterback of all time waiting. Brady is the polar opposite of Winston. At 42 years old, he's not as talented as the former first-rounder but abhors turnovers like a vegan reviles a T-bone steak. No one is calmer under pressure and knows how to avoid the backbreaking mistake better than Brady.
For Arians, eradicating the turnovers was the top priority.
"We were so close last year. I mean 7-9 doesn't sound close, but you eliminate 20 turnovers, we're in there," he said.
Arians noted that he still likes Winston, saying, "Nobody's gonna outwork him," and added he made some calls on the QB's behalf to try to land him on a roster, but the Bucs leaped at the chance to move on.
But if the man who published a book called "The Quarterback Whisperer" couldn't tame Winston's natural instincts to put the ball at risk, who will?
Now, the Bucs plow forward with the optimism of 1,000 suns after adding Brady.
Arians said he's not concerned about how his offense will fit the aging quarterback, noting they'll work together and collaborate on building the offense. First, Tampa needs the shutdown due to COVID-19 to not wipe out the entire offseason.
"I just can't wait to get started. Hopefully, our country can kick this virus' ass and get back to going," he said.