Sometimes things seem bad, but in reality it is a case of being darkest before dawn. That is not the case for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For this team things are every bit as bad as they appear.
They are coming off a loss out of their bye week to an unimpressive Cleveland Browns team. This loss drops the Bucs back under .500 at 5-6 overall. In a year that was considered Super Bowl or bust at the beginning of the season, this has been an absolute failure.
And it’s not just that the Buccaneers lost again, but more so how they lost. Abysmal play calling continues to be the norm. However, even that was overshadowed by horrible game management by head coach Todd Bowles at the end of this game.
So the question at this point is obvious. Is there any reason to have faith in Bowles moving forward? It may come as a surprise after this horrific showing, but I still truly believe the answer is yes.
What Bowles Does Well
With all the frustration and disappointment of how he managed the end of this most recent game, let us not forget that Bowles is a brilliant defensive mind. Under his leadership the Buccaneers have gone from one of the worst defenses in the NFL to one of the best. To say he has transformed the identity of this franchise would be an understatement.
And it’s not just the results that we’ve seen, but it’s also the development of the players under his leadership. He has been an integral part of gilding guys like Antoine Winfield Jr, Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis, Devin White and Vita Vea. But it hasn’t only been the young players that Bowles has shaped. We’ve also seen Shaq Barrett explode into a star player under his leadership.
To lose a coach that can develop talent and is brilliant from a scheme standpoint would be a massive loss. We can debate whether it’s better to have a great defensive vs offensive minded head coach, but the reality is that it’s rare to have a guy on either side of the ball that makes your team one of the best in the NFL.
This is a chapter of Bowles’ story that is still being written with the Bucs. We know that he is a cool, calm and collected presence that has been a positive in this turbulent season. This is a drastic change from previous head coach Bruce Arians, but both styles can be equally effective.
We know that Bowles has the respect of his players. This team, particularly on the defensive side, plays hard for him. They put in the work and prepare well and that is a reflection of accountability and expectation from the coaching staff.
We also know that he doesn’t throw anyone under the bus with the media. He won’t call out players by name or ever talk about their shortcomings in the game. Again, this is very different from the Arians approach, but is in no way an issue.
Where I was off put this week was his defending his missteps to the media this week. It’s okay to not criticize others through the media, but as a head coach he has to be accountable there. This was the first time I truly questioned Bowles ability to lead.
We have a pretty good idea of what Bowles is, both the good and the bad. However, if we were to look at potential replacements then we would have no idea what to expect. This is a classic case of choosing the devil you know vs the one you don’t.
We have seen countless coordinators fail as head coaches. Not only in terms of team success, but in developing their areas of expertise. Look no further than Nathaniel Hackett and the Denver Broncos this season. We’ve seen this story before in Tampa Bay and it’s the last thing we want to see again.
Of course there is always the option of bringing in an established college coach. We have seen the likes of Greg Schiano and Urban Meyer fail in epic proportions as established college coaches. College experience is not at all the same as NFL experience.
And then there is the previous head coaches, also known as the retread coaches. Todd Bowles would fall into this category. So if you don’t like what he brings to the table then you could try similar candidates such as Josh McDainels or Dennis Allen, but we’re seeing how those guys are playing out.
I’m not here to tell you that Todd Bowles is perfect. His end of game management is a problem and he can be too passive for my taste. However, he does a lot of good things too and this situation could be much worse.
It’s possible that the Buccaneers will fire him after this season. I couldn’t tell you that would be a mistake because this is a results based league and this team is not getting the results we expect.
What I will tell you is that Bowles is not the main cause of the Bucs’ struggles this year. With a competent offensive coordinator I believe a lot of his shortcomings can be overlooked because the good does still outweigh the bad. If given a second season to prove himself, with those staffing changes made to the offense, I still believe that Todd Bowles can be the man for the job.
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