BY IRA KAUFMAN
Todd Bowles will soon be looking for a new offensive coordinator. It’s foolish to debate the point.
Despite a full year from Tom Brady and a decent defense, the Bucs find themselves 8-8 heading into Atlanta for the regular-season finale.
Tampa Bay made the playoffs again, but the Glazers won’t be fooled again.
Ownership realizes that in any other NFC division, the Bucs would be at least four games out of first place.
It is what it is — and what it is isn’t particularly pretty.
Somebody has to take the fall for mediocrity … and it figures to be Byron Leftwich. For too much of this season, the offense has been abysmal. Even in recent wins, the Bucs struggle to score points until a sense of urgency kicks in and Brady pulls off another late comeback.
From the time Bruce Arians took a backseat and handed all the offensive keys to Leftwich, this pewter vehicle has been stuck in neutral. For thousands of Buc fans, the chant “fire the cannons” has been replaced by “fire the offensive coordinator.”
Leftwich hasn’t helped himself at the podium, where he consistently fails to take responsibility for Tampa Bay’s offensive woes. He keeps reminding everyone the only thing that matters is points.
He’s correct, of course, but that assertion isn’t helping his cause.
Let’s compare the 2022 Bucs with another team that will likely be seeking an OC replacement.
Brady has taken every snap through 16 games while the Patriots counter with Mac Jones and rookie Bailey Zappe under center. New England’s primary targets are Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
You see any names there that keep opponents up at night?
Yet the Patriots, who are 8-8 in a much better division, have scored 45 more points than the Bucs. To be fair, New England has returned five interceptions for touchdowns. Still, the point total between these two franchises shouldn’t be close.
The talk up in New England is that Bill Belichick is focused on bringing Bill O’Brien back to his offensive staff. O’Brien did a nice job in Foxboro working with Brady and he likely would like to return to the NFL. One of my co-workers on this ultimate Buc website has been touting O’Brien for months as a smart replacement for Leftwich in 2023.
Somehow, someway, the Bucs need more help orchestrating this offense than the Patriots. New England has scored more than 20 points 10 times this season, compared to only six times for Tampa Bay. The Pats average more yards per snap than the Bucs.
That’s crazy. That’s unacceptable.
Remember that scene toward the end of “The Godfather,” when Michael Corleone gives the death stare and tells Carlo, “You have to answer for Santino?” Leftwich will soon have to answer for an offense averaging 18.5 points and a team that has needed four fourth-quarter comebacks just to reach .500 in a dreadful division.
It’s not personal, Byron, it’s business.
If Brady returns next fall, he’s not going to want Leftwich calling the shots. And if Brady retires or moves on as a free agent, the Glazers won’t trust Leftwich working with a new quarterback.
Bruce Arians won’t be happy to see Leftwich depart — unless it’s for an NFL head coaching job. That’s not going to happen at this point. Leftwich’s reputation in league circles has taken a major hit.
Perhaps he’ll have an opportunity to reinvent himself, but it won’t be at One Buc Place.
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This content was originally published here.