To say it’s been a roller coaster season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is to drastically undersell how wild roller coaster rides are. Not even the Tower of Terror can induce the type of anxiety that fans have gone through this season, as the steep climbs and sharp dives have made it impossible to figure out what sort of team the Bucs want to be.
From a 3-1 start to a 1-6 midseason tumble, to back-to-back wins that propelled the team into first place; car crashes have caused less whiplash.
Despite how rough things have been at times this season the Bucs control their destiny and path to the playoffs. If Tampa Bay wins out then it will claim a second straight NFC South division title, and wins over teams like the Vikings, Falcons, and Saints has opened up more than one path for the Bucs to punch a postseason ticket.
It’s a uniquely Buccaneers place to be in at the moment, as the team feels equal distance away from firing its head coach and having a Top 10 draft pick as winning the division and hosting a home playoff game.
That first point is one that a lot of fans are invested in seeing how it plays out. Todd Bowles has been on the hot seat since before the season but the peaks and valleys of the season have turned up some actual heat.
In typical Bucs fashion, though, we seem to be firmly on the fence in regards to what will happen with Bowles and his future in Tampa Bay.
Todd Bowles has a clear path to keep his job with Buccaneers
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell ranked the top potential head coaching vacancies for this upcoming offseason, but mentioned a little more than who might be replacing Todd Bowles in January.
A narrative that is starting to pick up steam as the Bucs chug toward the finish line of the season is Bowles remaining in Tampa Bay for another season. It’s not something fans probably want to hear, but there’s a clearly defined path to the coach saving his job — and potentially the jobs of those on his staff.
For those rolling their eyes at the idea of Tampa Bay running things back, it’ll take more than just the Bucs winning the NFC South again. Historically the Glazers like to see progress which means Bowles will need to coach the team to a playoff win and reach at least the divisional round to display such a thing.
That’s something beat writers and fans have kicked around, but now it sounds like ESPN and Barnwell are reading the same tea leaves.
“Wins over the Saints and Panthers to end the season would likely be enough to get them into the postseason. We saw the Titans parted ways with Mike Mularkey in 2017 even after winning a playoff game, but advancing into the playoffs for the second consecutive year should be enough for Todd Bowles to keep his job,” Barnwell wrote.
Barnwell isn’t uncover any new ground, but the fact that we’re now actively talking out how Bowles can avoid being fired is something to keep an eye on over the last four games.
What does seem to be clear is that these last four games are critical to what happens next. Footage from the Bucs locker room after Sunday’s win featured players appearing to be completely bought in and invested in Bowles, and if they show up for him on the field then it will send a clear message to ownership about whether he deserves another season. If the Bucs collapse again — which we’ve seen them do more than a few times — then that pretty much seals the deal that a new voice is needed.
Either way, the Bucs making the playoffs might not be the most interesting scenario to keep an eye on over the final few weeks of the season.