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If Byron Leftwich was a player, he would have been benched by now

John Romano | A change in the coaching staff needs to be on the table considering Tampa Bay’s declining, and atrocious, offense.
Published Oct. 23, 2022|Updated Oct. 24, 2022

Are you done screaming? Have you run out of four-letter words?

Have you put down all implements of destruction and taken one step away from the TV?

Because there is still an uncomfortable question remaining after Tampa Bay’s nausea-inducing 21-3 loss at Carolina on Sunday that must be asked and answered:

Where is the hope?

Seven weeks into an increasingly miserable season, the Bucs are going backward. And there is little on the horizon to make you think this nonsense can be corrected.

Either everyone horribly misjudged the amount of talent on this roster, or else the Bucs are victims of gross mismanagement. You can blame the offensive line for struggling, you can blame the receivers for underperforming, you can blame the defense for a lack of splash plays.

But, in the end, this is the responsibility of the people in charge.

Is general manager Jason Licht at fault for signing a handful of past-their-prime free agents who can’t get off their crutches, while also failing to find a suitable answer at left guard?

Is Todd Bowles at fault for his steady-as-she-goes approach that has minimized the sense of urgency for a team that is already struggling to stay afloat?

Is Byron Leftwich at fault for Tom Brady’s worst seven-game start since 2002?

The appropriate response is yes.

Followed by yes and yes.

A team with this much talent should not look this lifeless and befuddled. A team with this many stars should not lose back-to-back games against crappy teams.

So, again, where is the hope?

Bucs receiver Chris Godwin stretches out in an attempt to catch an incomplete pass during the second half Sunday.
Bucs receiver Chris Godwin stretches out in an attempt to catch an incomplete pass during the second half Sunday. [ RUSTY JONES | AP ]

You’re not going to find it on the injured list. Ryan Jensen and Julio Jones are not going to miraculously transform this woebegone offense. Christian McCaffrey might have helped, but he went to San Francisco. Rob Gronkowski might have helped, but he went to Hollywood.

Does that mean firing Bowles is the answer?

That sounds harsh after seven games as head coach, but it at least needs to be considered. The Bucs went all in on this season and immediate results were expected.

The problem with that scenario is Bowles is also the de facto defensive coordinator. And the defense, while not wrapping itself in glory Sunday, has played well enough to win most of these games.

The issue is the offense. And that falls at Leftwich’s feet.

Maybe he got dealt a bad hand with both starting guards leaving in the offseason, Gronkowski retiring, Jensen getting hurt early in preseason, and Brady looking haunted and miserable. But the NFL is a results-oriented business and the results have gone horribly awry for Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator in 2022.

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The Bucs routinely ask dozens of struggling players to hand in their playbooks every training camp, so shouldn’t struggling coaches be held to the same standard?

Look, I like Leftwich. He’s a super nice guy, and I wish him no ill will. But a lot of people have invested a lot of themselves in this season, and it’s irresponsible to give Leftwich much more time to figure out what’s gone wrong.

The Glazers spent a ton of money. Fans were coerced into buying two years’ worth of season tickets. Brady put his legacy on the line for one more shot at glory.

And everyone deserves better than an offense that is scoring a paltry 17 points a game.

Replacing coaches in midseason is not as easy in the NFL as it is in other sports. The intricacies of a playbook need to be worked out in the offseason and training camp, so overhauling a unit in October is an impossible task. What you need is tweaking. A change in voice. A change in play-calling.

Replacing Leftwich would likely mean promoting quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen, which may seem like putting a bandage on a compound fracture.

Bucs coach Todd Bowles talks to the media after Sunday's latest loss.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles talks to the media after Sunday's latest loss. [ RUSTY JONES | AP ]

The fantasy would be convincing Bruce Arians to put down his golf clubs and return to the sideline to rescue this offense. It might be awkward. It might be ill-conceived. It might even be insane.

But it might also appeal to Arians in a Hall of Fame-affirming way.

It’s also entirely possible that I am overreacting, along with a few million other people. The Bucs still have 10 games remaining, and they’re still in a ridiculously winnable division.

The concern is that they’re not just stuck in a rut, but that they’ve shifted into reverse at about 100 mph. They scored seven offensive touchdowns in the first four games against Dallas, New Orleans, Green Bay and Kansas City. That’s not good, but it’s not embarrassing against quality opponents.

Since then, the Bucs have three offensive touchdowns against Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Carolina. And that’s just pathetic.

So, does it deserve something as radical as a coaching change at midseason?

Only if you need a reason to believe.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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