TAMPA — Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich could be close to landing a head coaching job with the Jaguars, though there are reports that Jacksonville continues to consider other candidates.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is in Las Vegas today to interview for a head coaching job with the Raiders. He will be joined in town by John Spytek, the Bucs’ vice president of player personnel, who will take a spin on the roulette wheel for the Raiders’ general manager’s job.
As many as four Bucs assistant coaches could follow those men out of town as coordinators, cutting deeply into Bruce Arians’ staff.
About half of the 22 players who started the NFC division playoff loss to the Rams can be unrestricted free agents.
Last, but not least, Tom Brady is trying to decide between family and football.
Welcome to the unstable Jenga tower known as the Bucs.
A year ago at this time, they were a couple of weeks from winning Super Bowl 55 and planning a boat parade. By next week, the team that won 29 games the past two seasons could begin a nosedive.
The breathless speculation about Brady’s future may be closely intertwined with what occurs with the coaching staff and in free agency.
Arians was asked if he would give endorsements of Leftwich and Bowles to other teams.
“If they would ask, but they’re not going to ask,” he said. “And I’m damn sure not calling them.”
As much as Arians would be happy to see his former assistants land NFL head coaching jobs, there would be a snowball effect if they did.
Though most of, if not all, the Bucs’ coaches are under contract for 2022, the team can’t stop an assistant from leaving for a promotion to a coordinator’s position.
Barring some sort of gentleman’s agreement not to raid Arians’ staff, Leftwich, if hired in Jacksonville, could pluck receivers coach Kevin Garver as his offensive coordinator and linebackers coach Larry Foote as his defensive coordinator.
If Bowles were to get the Raiders’ job, he could take, say, defensive backs coach Kevin Ross as his defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Harold Goodwin as offensive coordinator.
Brady, meanwhile, will watch all this unfold and think … what? That he has just as good a chance to win a Super Bowl with the Bucs in 2022 as when he arrived in 2020, when one of the best coaching staffs was intact?
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For as much scrutiny and second-guessing that Bowles got for his zero blitz in Sunday’s final seconds against the Rams — a call that resulted in a long Matthew Stafford completion to receiver Cooper Kupp to set up Matt Gay’s winning field goal — he still is considered one of the best defensive minds in the game.
If Bowles left for the Raiders but Foote remained in Tampa Bay, at least there could be some continuity; he has been groomed to eventually take over. But potential free agents including cornerback Carlton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh could follow Bowles to the Raiders or wherever he may land.
Same is true on the offensive side. Receiver Chris Godwin (if he doesn’t get the franchise-player tag again), running back Leonard Fournette, center Ryan Jensen and guard Alex Cappa know they work well in any offense run by Leftwich.
Brady is the ultimate competitor, and he proved he can still compete at a championship level by leading the NFL with 5,316 yards passing and 43 touchdowns this season.
“As I’ve gotten older, I think the best part is, football is extremely important in my life, and it means a lot to me,” Brady said on his Let’s Go! podcast. “And the biggest difference now that I’m older is, I have kids now, too, and I care about them a lot as well.”
Winning is important to him, and a depleted coaching staff and roster likely wouldn’t be favorable factors in a decision about whether to return to the Bucs.
And tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is contemplating retirement again, also may tie his future to Brady’s.
No Brady? No Gronk? His coaching staff raided?
Would Arians, who turns 70 in October, still be back for next season?
All these things are unlikely to happen. But it will be interesting to see how the Bucs try to keep things together.
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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