September 29, 2023

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Todd Bowles / AP

On Sunday, October 16th, the 3-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers walked into the Acrisure Stadium to take on the 1-4 Pittsburgh Steelers. Fans of both teams, media, and analysts were expecting the visitors to make ugly work of dominating a team that not only is going through huge changes and rebuilding but was missing several key starters and backups on a defensive unit that was already experiencing trouble.

The Bucs’ high-powered offense was nearly 100% healthy; the defensive unit was getting into a groove. No result in the NFL is guaranteed; there’s even a popular cliché.

Game recaps have been done to death at this point. So let’s talk about something else.

Starting with the obvious, Tom Brady and his absence to attend a wedding. The man is, without doubt, one of the GOATs, if not the GOAT. He has proven time and time again that he marches to his own drum and has the awards and accolades to back himself up. You don’t have his career without being able to give 100% effort, 100% of the time, with 100% of the execution.

But what is becoming clear is that football isn’t his priority anymore. The one thing that made the “forgotten man”, who fell all the way to 199, was the dedication he showed to the game. It seems that it may even cost him his family. But football is not his priority right now, and if Sunday is anything to judge, that needs to change. The final season of partying, personal issues, and insert other reasons for missing practice and meetings, could tragically be a lasting image.

Brady is the GOAT for a reason and has been written off for at least half of his career at some point. His hands keep getting heavy for a reason; it’s time to rediscover that reason.

I’m only going to comment on this briefly: When Cameron Brate was lying hurt on the field, the game was still being played. Brady checked on Brate and did the sensible thing of keeping his arm warm when there wasn’t anything he could do. While the rest of the team went to stand with Cameron in solidarity, two players remained firmly seated on the bench. They know who they are, and people in the stadium know who they are.

The biggest issue that faced this team wasn’t discipline or players struggling to execute plays, it simply came down to coaching, or lack of effective coaching, to be precise.

Starting with the obvious, the one positive thing from the embarrassment in Pittsburgh was that the rumour suggesting that Byron Leftwich is merely a ceremonial OC, and Brady calls the plays, has been emphatically put to rest. Unless Tom Brady has forgotten how to football, the complete refusal to target a defensive unit that is beaten up and fielding 2nd and 3rd string players rests solely on the shoulders of Leftwich. While he hasn’t been able to explain why he refused to attack the opponent’s weak point, few should expect him to be able to.

Look behind the numbers, and it’s easy to see that the Bucs’ offensive coordinator has flattered to deceive throughout his coaching career. From being sacked for a 3-13 showing in Arizona to frequently being exposed as out of his depth in Tampa. Leftwich was always a decent QB; however, his records suggest that he has been anything but a good coach/coordinator. Former head coach, Bruce Arians, might be frustrated that Leftwich has yet to receive a Head Coaching role, despite multiple interviews; maybe he just isn’t qualified?

Moving on up, Head Coach Todd Bowles is walking with purpose towards very thin ice. At 3-3, having lost games to Kansas City, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh, two of those losses were not acceptable for a team that apparently has playoff aspirations. Bowles is quickly establishing that he is one of the elite defensive coordinators in the NFL but is not capable of leading a team. Beyond the halcyon days of 10-6 and missing the playoffs due to tie-breakers as HC of the NY Jets, Bowles has seen his teams repeatedly underperform, draft poorly, and finish with losing records.

With this being generally accepted as Brady’s last ride, jettisoning Byron Leftwich may be the only option remaining for Bowles. It not only saves Brady’s potentially final season; but, ultimately, his own job.

Problems start at the top, and the buck stops with the Head Coach. Bowles has already shown that he is slow to make adjustments through games when things are going wrong; can he change his staff when it needs changing before it’s too late to save even himself?