With the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers sitting at 3-4, some are beginning to question whether or not Tampa Bay should fire offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.
In what many believe to be Tom Brady’s final NFL season, his victory lap hasn’t been all that victorious — at least not by Brady’s usual standards.
After dominating in power rankings early on in the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now 3-4 after a devastating 21-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That, coupled with a few other close losses, have made the Bucs a topic of conversation for all the wrong reasons.
With these discussions comes the usual hunt for a scapegoat — is it the GOAT himself, or is someone else to blame? Injuries to the offense, especially to the wide receiver core and the offensive line, have clearly had an effect on the team’s underwhelming performance on offense.
But the blowback isn’t coming just onto Brady and his teammates, as head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich are being questioned after the slow start.
Could these two be fired mid-season the way Matt Rhule was recently kicked out of Charlotte? The answer is a resounding no for several key reasons.
Byron Leftwich is not losing his job anytime soon despite Bucs struggles
NFL fans tend to have short memories and limited patience: lest we forget that this team, coached by Byron Leftwich on offense and Todd Bowles on defense, just won a Super Bowl. During that season, the Bucs faced myriad struggles in another slow start as Brady worked on his chemistry and tinkered with the playbook. A Week 13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was the turning point — yes, that late in the season — and the Wild Card Bucs went on the road and went on a tear. The next season, they won the NFC South before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams.
Despite being 3-4, the Bucs are still winning the NFC South. It would be preposterous for the team to fire Leftwich, whose guidance has already brought tangible success at the highest level, because the team now has a losing record.
Also, firing Leftwich, who has built a rapport with his quarterback and offense over the past few seasons, would cause more upheaval than it would bring success. The Bucs are not at the point where they have to take such drastic measures — the Panthers were, but not their division rival.
It’s easy to call for someone’s job when things go south, but firing Leftwich would cause more problems than create solutions. It cannot be overstated how much offensive line injuries have hurt this team, lest we forget Mike Evans was suspended against the Packers and the Bucs have played games with Evans, Julio Jones and Chris Godwin sidelined.
Critics have called the Bucs predictable on early downs, but the reality is that they aren’t left with many options. A debilitated offensive line leaves little time for plays to develop, limiting the playbook and also adding pressure on Leonard Fournette to make runs happen with limited blocking.
And hardly anyone is even talking about how much the absence of Rob Gronkowski has transformed this team. Gronk was an unparalleled passing option until he hung up his cleats, and his blocking paved the way for a Patriots Super Bowl in 2018. The Bucs are definitely missing Gronk this year, and their offense shows it.
No one would dream of benching Tom Brady, and blaming Brady for offensive mishaps is missing the reality of the issue: the Bucs have a problem with “execution”, as Brady recently put it. There are certainly coaching decisions to be criticized, but the Bucs are a force with everyone in. That’s something they’ve proven time and time again over the past two years.
Do Bowles and Leftwich have their own adjustments to make, especially before it’s too late in the game? Absolutely. But firing both of them right now is a surefire way to destroy any hopes of No. 8 for Brady.