New quarterbacks? New system? New job? Nothing new to Bucs’ Thad Lewis

As the Buccaneers seek to fill the void left by Tom Brady’s retirement, the former journeyman signal-caller steps in as the new quarterbacks coach.
Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales, left, talks with quarterbacks coach Thad Lewis, right, on the field during rookie minicamp last month at AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa.
Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales, left, talks with quarterbacks coach Thad Lewis, right, on the field during rookie minicamp last month at AdventHealth Training Center in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 31|Updated June 1

TAMPA — Thad Lewis has to learn how to coach in the offense being installed by new offensive coordinator Dave Canales. He has to learn new quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and John Wolford. All while learning his job as the Bucs’ new quarterbacks coach.

It’s a good thing that learning things quickly is one of the things Lewis, a former NFL journeyman quarterback, prides himself on.

“I don’t think it’s a big transition for me, for a guy that played the position in the NFL for seven years,” Lewis, 35, said last month “(You’re) doing the same thing you did as a player: studying film, relaying messages as a backup to the starter, so you were similar to being a player-coach. Now, you have a little bit more experience (and) more time with the younger guys.

“You’re just sharing the knowledge and game that you’ve learned over those years being that guy. Obviously, you’re an extension of Dave (Canales) and all the things we’re learning to make sure the guys get it and grasp it the right way.”

After Tom Brady’s retirement, the Bucs are preparing for the 2023 season unsettled at quarterback. Mayfield was signed as a free agent, and the team maintains that he will enter training camp in competition with Kyle Trask, who has nine career regular-season pass attempts as he enters his third NFL season. Wolford, who is coming off four years as a backup in the Rams’ system, joins them after signing as a free agent last month.

Instead of bringing in a veteran coach to sort out the competition and help implement the new offense, the Bucs promoted Lewis. He is considered by head coach Todd Bowles and former coach Bruce Arians to be one of the brightest offensive minds in football.

Arians thinks it’s the perfect role for Lewis, whom he said is extremely bright and a great communicator. Lewis, who as an undrafted free agent bounced around the NFL, also has the perfect background for the job, Arians said.

“I think it’s fantastic, because you get to see a lot of different philosophies, a lot of different offenses,” Arians said. “And that’s the best way to formulate your own. You find what you liked, and you put it all together. And he has the ability to take bits and pieces from everywhere he’s been and put it together and make it make sense.”

Lewis was in the Bucs’ organization as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program when Arians named him assistant wide receivers coach in 2021.

The Opa-Locka native played four years at Duke and went undrafted. Still, he was in the NFL from 2010-17 with eight teams, including Cleveland twice, in some capacity.

Lewis agrees that his experience learning different systems in different places has made the transition to his new job and to Canales’ system smooth.

“Just as I am learning this offense, I had to learn how to learn many offenses,” Lewis said. “And a lot of it comes together; a lot of it coincides with each other. This is similar to the West Coast system that I ran my first year in the league. The names are the same; the footwork is the same. It’s just how people coach it, and their terminology is different.

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“But I think there’s taking pieces and bits and pieces of everything I went through over the years, and it just kind of comes full circle. Especially when you’re talking about offensive certain things, it’s been easy for me.”

Lewis is encouraging everyone in the quarterback room to learn from one another.

Trask said working with Lewis has been going “really good.”

“Everyone in that quarterback room has some really good experience,” Trask said. “Everybody has something to offer that they’ve seen before that they can teach everybody in the room. It’s just really cool to always be around experienced guys. You’re just always learning something new every day.”

Canales’ system is considered quarterback-friendly, and it emphasizes distributing the ball quickly to playmakers. It has been a learning process.

“They’re doing a great job for the simple fact that this is new for Baker. This is similar for John, and this is new for Kyle,” Lewis said. “But at this time of year, we’re just putting it in. You’re not putting anything that you did the year before. So, once you get a base like that, you can start over and can teach anybody most of the concepts.”

Contact Kristie Ackert at

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