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Byron Leftwich is tuning out everyone calling for his job

The Bucs offensive coordinator had a good game plan against Seattle in Germany. Can he keep it going?
Published Nov. 26, 2022|Updated Nov. 26, 2022

TAMPA — Considering the Bucs had only played one good quarter of football on offense in nearly two months before beating Seattle 21-16, Byron Leftwich could have returned from Germany sitting in a very hot airplane seat.

But the offensive coordinator managed to turn it around by calling 44 run plays, and the Bucs responded with 161 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Switching offensive coordinators in the middle of the season does not guarantee success, but the time to do it would have been during the bye week. There were plenty of fans, players and coaches who were unhappy with Leftwich’s play-calling, and some tweaks to the run scheme were needed.

Leftwich undoubtedly knew the buzzards were circling his head on the sideline. But he said he didn’t pay any attention to it.

“Once I got cut as a player, I couldn’t get no lower than that,” said Leftwich, a first-round pick of the Jaguars in 2003 who was released after four seasons. “I stopped worrying about what people think. And you guys know who my mentor is, right? (Bruce Arians). So you know I don’t care about stuff like that because I’m always trying my best.

“Obviously, when you’re losing and you’re not winning, people get to say whatever they want. We’ve earned that. It is what it is. We’re just trying to win football games.”

When the Bucs were averaging more than 30 points per game the previous two seasons, Tom Brady got all the credit and Leftwich was portrayed as a passenger. Now that the Bucs have slumped to 27th in the league with 18.3 points per game, the finger solely is pointed at Leftwich.

Running back Leonard Fournette is doubtful against the Browns with a hip pointer, although the plan going in was to give rookie Rachaad White the bulk of the carries anyway. In addition, left guard Luke Goedeke (foot) will not play, which means another start by Nick Leverett.

That gives Leftwich the green light to try and repeat what the Bucs did in Germany.

“I always tell you guys, we’ll get to the end and then we can say whatever we want,” Leftwich said. “We’ll add them up at the end and see where we’re at. Right now, we can handle anything that comes our way.”

Thrice as nice

Jacoby Brissett is facing the Bucs for the third time since 2019, with yet another team.
Jacoby Brissett is facing the Bucs for the third time since 2019, with yet another team. [ RICK OSENTOSKI | AP ]

With Deshaun Watson’s return from suspension still a week away, the Browns will start Jacoby Brissett, who played at Florida and N.C. State, at quarterback.

The Bucs will be facing Brissett for the third time since Todd Bowles took over as the defensive coordinator in 2019. More incredibly, this will be the third different team Brissett has played for during that span.

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Brissett did well in that first meeting playing for the Colts in 2019, passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns. But the Bucs won 38-35.

Last year, Brissett started for the Dolphins against Tampa Bay as Tua Tagovailoa was injured. He played okay, going 27-of-39 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also lost a fumble as the Bucs rolled 45-17.

Bowles’ message hits home

The Bucs posted a video of Bowles addressing his team in the auditorium meeting room prior to their trip to Germany.

It was an impressive speech. He talked about how everyone on the team practices and plays hard. But on game day, Bowles said, they don’t start games with much energy.

There were a lot of layers to his message, but this is the part that may have resonated with players:

“We come in here, our words are accountability, but at the same time, we play hard, we practice hard, but we don’t talk. We talk in the cafeteria. We drive each other to work. We go to dinner on Thursday nights as a group. We talk all day long. We get in here, we don’t talk.

“Do you ask your coaches details of what’s going on? Do you have input? ‘I don’t like this. This might be better if I do that against this guy.’ You have to win your one-on-ones, but do you know what you’re doing? Do you know your job inside out? That’s the only thing we’re missing. Accountability doesn’t mean yelling; it means talking to each other. ...

“We don’t have the fire on game day. We play hard. Not saying we don’t. But when it’s time to work, our minds have got to click.”

In Godwin they trust again

The Bucs' Chris Godwin makes a catch against the Seahawks' Tariq Woolen (27) during the second half of the Nov. 13 game in Germany.
The Bucs' Chris Godwin makes a catch against the Seahawks' Tariq Woolen (27) during the second half of the Nov. 13 game in Germany. [ GARY MCCULLOUGH | AP ]

Chris Godwin isn’t all the way back to his old self after tearing the ACL and MCL in his knee last season, but the receiver is getting closer.

He scored his first touchdown of the season against Seattle. He has played 89 percent more of the snaps in the last five games.

“I think you ask anybody who had an (torn) ACL, the way he had, the fact that he was out there at Dallas (in the season opener) shows you how special he is,” Leftwich said. “But the fact that he’s been out there as much as he’s been tells you what Chris is.

“I always say, he’s like our heartbeat. He’s the heartbeat of our football team. He’s a special guy that we ask to do a lot. We didn’t ask him to do a lot early, but we’re getting to the point now where he’s beginning to move around like the old Chris.”

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