The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in an absolute free fall. After losing consecutive games to what might be the two worst teams in the league, everyone is looking for answers. The man they are looking to is head coach Todd Bowles.
A Great Coordinator
Bowles has established himself in the NFL as a brilliant defensive coordinator. He was named assistant coach of the year in 2014 during his time in Arizona. He was the mastermind in building this Bucs defense that led them to a Super Bowl championship. There is no denying that we are looking at a great coach here.
However, his head coaching record is less impressive. Bowles was the head coach of the New York Jets from 2015 to 2018. During those four seasons the team was an underwhelming 24-40 under his leadership.
Not All On Him
With that said, there were many factors that contributed to the failures in New York. Dysfunctional management, bad quarterback play and an overall lack of talent. These are key things that played a part in him being fired after the 2018 season. They are also all problems that he doesn’t have to deal with now.
After being named head coach following Bruce Arians stepping down a few months ago, Bowles is getting something very rare in this league. Second chances don’t come around very often for a coach who have no history of success. Nonetheless, that is exactly what Bowles is getting.
After turning the Buccaneers defense into one of the best in the league, something we have not seen since the days of Sapp and Brooks, there is no question that he earned this position. He’s shown the intelligence and leadership that anyone would want from their head coach. Now he has to show a boldness that his mildmanered personality doesn’t portray.
Questions That Need To Be Answered
Changes have to be made within the Bucs coaching staff. The offense has sputtered and struggled all season long. Scoring 3 points against a lifeless and injured Carolina Panthers team on Sunday was just the latest in a disappointing year. Why this is happening is the question that people are asking.
From a talent perspective, the Buccaneers have an abundance. Guys like Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Tristan Wirfs, Chris Godwin, Shaq Mason, and Leonard Fournette are all highly respected stars at their position. Despite some inexperience on the interior offensive line, this team is loaded with talent.
It’s utilizing this talent that has been the issue. The Bucs have looked like an offense without an identity this year. They have struggled to run the ball, despite making this a priority in the offseason, and aren’t looking to throw the ball down field like they did under Arians.
Obviously, this comes back to coaching. The coach responsible is offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. This is the man who leads the offense and develops the weekly game plan as well as calls the plays on Sundays.
Leftwich was the offensive coordinator under Arians and was the play caller when the Bucs won the Super Bowl. However, it seems now that he was offensive coordinator in title only. It has been a very different team since Arians, one of the best offensive minds over the last 20 years, left the sidelines.
Now that Leftwich is on his own, one of the most talented offenses in the NFL has become one of the least productive. The Bucs have been both predictable and foolish in many of their play calls. To be blunt, Leftwich appears to be the anchor that is weighing the entire team down.
A Buccaneers’ Crossroads
Now Bowles is at a crossroads on what to do next. He can part ways with a coach who he won a Super Bowl with and who was highly endorsed by his predecessor or he could gamble his second chance on a guy who looks in over his head.
While this may seem like an obvious choice, there is a human element to it that makes it difficult. Leftwich was interviewing for head coaching jobs in the offseason. To fire him now, just seven games into the season, could be a death sentence to his career. However, if Bowles were to keep him could be a death sentence to his own.
In the end, this is a high stakes business. The Buccaneers are in a Super Bowl or bust year and will likely be starting over with a new quarterback next season. It seems dramatic to say that it’s now or never for Bowles, but if he doesn’t find success this season then things will only be getting harder in the years to come.
Bowles comes off as very likable, but more than that he is a very good coach. It would be a shame to see him waste his second chance because he didn’t have the courage to make this change. But make no mistake, this opportunity will have all but slipped through his fingers if he isn’t able to let Leftwich go.