The 8-9 season was the last straw.
So was Leftwich the sacrificial lamb for what, in my opinion, should have been a firing of Todd Bowles without hesitation? In my opinion, he was cut loose to quiet the roar of the fan base for a coaching change. While it must be noted that Leftwich was still a little wet behind the ears as an offensive coordinator and still had and does have much to learn, he probably was not near as bad as most fans and observers gave him the blame. From the beginning, back when Bruce Arians brought him in as a coordinator with little experience or track record, it raised some eyebrows. In that first 2020 Bucs’ Campaign with Tom Brady behind center. The first half of that season brought as many questions as it did answers. The record was respectable but not very Tom Brady-ish. After the bye week, we all know the Bucs’ afterburners kicked in en route to a home Super Bowl routing of the Chiefs. The questioning of Leftwich’s abilities as O.C. quieted down. In 2021 the Bucs’ offense was again a juggernaut, so there wasn’t much to criticize (except for Bowles calling an all-out blitz and leaving a safety, Antoine Winfield, to cover Cooper Kupp. We all know that went over like a Led Zeppelin.).
Who was really behind the 2022 offensive scheme?
It’s been talked about that after Tom Brady came aboard, he was given broad authority over the offense. While it must be noted that even if that first sentence was true: Arians’s influence upon the playcalling still loomed large. Not surprising when looking at the overwhelming results, stat-wise, in those first two seasons under Brady/Arians. Then it happened. A course of events was set in motion by Brady coming back to the team after a very short retirement. Arians, in turn, retired from the sidelines, making way for Todd Bowles to ascend to the throne. This created a vacuum within the Bucs’ Offense that the team never did recover. My thought is that Tom Brady filled that void. That thought is supported by Brady himself when he said this season that, and I paraphrase, “biscuit ball was dead.” We had a different group of guys now. It is extremely doubtful that his comment was describing anything that Leftwich would be pushing. Leftwich is clearly a biscuit ball disciple, having learned most of what he knows from Arians (as far as coaching goes). Clearly, it was Mr. Brady’s influence that now drove the ship offensively, supplanting Arians. You could see it in much of the game day schemes. Shorter passes and more dump-offs to the running backs. When Biscuit Ball reappeared in the second Carolina game, wrapping up the division. It appeared that maybe the Bucs had seen the light. The offensive stats for that game were as if they had been plucked from the 2020/2021 seasons. With the resounding positive outcome from that home game, do you think Leftwich, as the offensive coordinator, would completely ignore that success the following week in Atlanta? Surely, not. But an extremely confident GOAT just might. And why not? His way of doing things has seldom failed him.
Was Brady to blame?
In my opinion, there is no doubt at all. In factual words, though, the world may never know with any certainty. It could turn out that Leftwich received just the right amount of credit for the poor season and deserved the axe. In reality, it probably isn’t as simple as either statement. If Leftwich gets another chance at coordinating an NFL Offense, which is very possible at some point, we will all have a better understanding of how much responsibility for the poor offensive season belonged on his shoulders. One thing to me is clear, and that is no matter which assessment of Leftwich is deserved, he was a sacrificial lamb to save Bowles’s job. The second thing that is also clear to me is that One Buc is only prolonging the inevitable parting of ways with Bowles. I cannot, with any faith, say that Bowles is any better than Lovie Smith or Dirk Koeter; etc., etc… You get the idea. He doesn’t seem to be much of a motivator or innovator. Not the kind of Head Coach that can get more out of a team than what their worth is, and next season the Bucs’ worth should be a good bit less than what it was supposed to be this season. Maybe One Buc got it right in firing Mr. Leftwich. Maybe they didn’t. I’ll take the latter. Go Bucs!!!