After falling in the Wildcard Round to the Dallas Cowboys, the offseason began with the firings and/or retirement of six coaches, including Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich. Many felt more should firings should have followed–this is as good as it’s going to get. With no offensive coordinator interviews being made public at this time and no idea of the status of QB Tom Brady, there is little to no certainty on what the team looks like next season.
Leftwich fired after four seasons
After four seasons and a Super Bowl, Byron Leftwich has been relieved of his duties as the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the firing was necessary as the Bucs averaged just over 18 points per game in Leftwich’s first full season calling plays. That is down significantly from the prior two seasons with Tom Brady rostered, as the Bucs averaged 30.8 in 2020 and 30.1 in 2021.
So what was the major difference? It is my humble opinion that it was the absence of Bruce Arians after he retired upon Tom Brady un-retiring just weeks after retiring (say that 3 times fast). Many believe that the abrupt retirement of Arians was sparked by the future Hall of Fame quarterback deciding to return and stemmed from previous issues between the coach and quarterback.
Amongst those issues, the Bucs failed tremendously in their running game, averaging less than 3.5 yards per attempt and 76.9 yards per game, not to mention only five total rushing touchdowns (2020: 16, 2021: 18). All 3 of those totals were the worst in the NFL, and worse in franchise history. It was clear to see, in every game this season, that Leftwich didn’t learn anything while under Arians the first three seasons here, including a previous stint in Arizona as the QB coach and interim offensive coordinator, where they spent four seasons together. In that time frame, Leftwich failed to learn from Arians; and it was evident this season. Although he’s still not found a job, there are some teams that are interested. The best advice for Byron, stick to being a QB coach.
Why the Brady-Effect ultimately screwed the Bucs’ roster
Although many fans are on cloud 9 after 3 seasons with Brady under center, it’s hard to ignore at this point the potential damage that the team faces regarding the salary cap. The Bucs will be $54.5-million over the cap and have a bunch of players who may not be in pewter and red next season. Three of the 24 players with expiring deals are considered one of the highest rated at their position, Tom Brady (third), Jamel Dean (sixth), and Lavonte David (seventh). $35 million of the cap does count for Brady as dead cap and could be reduced if he does decide to return to the Bucs.
Of course, the Bucs would love for David and Dean to return to the team next season. Amongst those, I’d expect the Bucs to extend offers to most of their free agents. Of the 24 players, I’d expect the Bucs to extend offers to at least 12 of those players (Sean Murphy-Bunting, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Lavonte David, Jamel Dean, Mike Edwards, Will Gholston, Aaron Stinnie, Anthony Nelson, Carl Nassib, Patrick O’Connor, and possibly both safeties Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan).
In a truly messed up way, the Bucs are paying the ultimate price after obtaining Brady. Time will tell everyone how this story plays out–as Bucs fans are learning, there’s a price tag with every Lombardi, and the Bucs are feeling the wrath.