Is Todd Bowles the right coach to lead Buccaneers into the future?

Despite two playoff berths, there are still big questions surrounding Todd Bowles.
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Now that the Washington Commanders announced Dan Quinn as their new head coach, all seven coaching vacancies across the NFL have been filled.

What better time to look inward at how things look with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers other than now?

At a glance, one could say that Todd Bowles is one of the better head coaches in the league. In 2 years at the helm he has secured two division titles. For context, Mike Vrabel, one of the hottest coaching names on the market, also won two division titles during his Titans tenure.

Yet, Bowles has a 17-17 regular season record with a 1-2 record in the playoffs. Things got off to a bumpy start, with the Bucs limping to a division title in 2022 before the Cowboys came into Tampa Bay and obliterated the Bucs with ease. It was an unceremonious ending to his first season in charge.

Things improved in 2023, but questions still remain moving forward.

The biggest issue during his two year tenure isn't all about the numbers with Bowles. Throughout the majority of this past season, it's been unclear whether or not the Bucs are winning because of Bowles or despite him.

That idea in itself could be a damning perspective. He runs the defense, which has been his calling card throughout his coaching career and has been one of the strongest elements of the teams Bowles has built.

The Buccaneers allowed the 4th most passing yards in the NFL this past season. However, they had the 7th best scoring defense and a Top 5 rush defense. Is Bowles actually a better defensive coordinator than he is head coach?

Is Todd Bowles the right coach to lead Buccaneers into the future?

He has been questioned on more than one occasion about his game and clock management. The biggest example of this came during the playoff loss to the Lions this year when he took a timeout into the off-season.

I believe that Dave Canales should get a large share of the credit for nurturing Baker Mayfield's career season. Canales and the talent around Baker allowed him to thrive like he never had before. It feels like Bowles had almost nothing to do with that. Now, obviously, he has a relationship with the starting quarterback but there are clear signs of who truly helped him flourish.

Take a look around the league and ask yourself how Bowles stacks up as a 1-to-1 comparison to some of the other head coaches:

  • Andy Reid
  • Kyle Shanahan
  • Mike Tomin
  • Dan Campbell
  • Mike Vrabel
  • Bill Belichick
  • Mike McDaniel
  • Matt LaFleur
  • John Harbaugh
  • Jim Harbaugh
  • Sean McVay
  • Doug Pederson.
  • Sean Payton
  • Brian Daboll
  • DeMeco Ryans.

That's 14 head coaches -- almost half the league -- from this past season alone that one might choose over Bowles. That's also not including ascending coordinators such as Ben Johnson and Bobby Slowik among others.

If you are an organization, and you are taking stock of your hierarchy, and you can rattle off 15, 16 or 17 names relatively easily that could be better options to be your head coach, what are you doing?

Let me be clear, I don't think the Bucs are going to fire Todd Bowles. Two division titles are a big deal and the way the locker room bought into his teachings to pull the Bucs out of a 1-6 slump needs to be accounted for here.

However, if Tampa Bay wants to become a permanent fixture in the upper echelon of the league, they have to make bold moves. The game is constantly changing and young, energetic coaches are turning teams around on the fly. Ryans, as a first year head coach, turned the Houston Texans from contending for the No. 1 pick to one of the hottest young teams in the league.

Again, as a pure defensive mind, I still think Bowles is in an elite category. However, if after two full seasons running the ship, I still don't know what the exact impact he makes outside of calling the defense, that's an issue.

He was hand-picked by the departing Bruce Arians to be his successor and I do think there is a bit of sentimentality -- and value -- to this situation.

Jason Licht and his staff cannot continue to bank on the NFC South to be winnable every single year with 8 or 9 wins. I am a proponent of being proactive over reactive. I want the Bucs to be a year early on this decision, not a year late.

Todd Bowles has been a solid bridge head coach but I'm not sure how much higher he can lead this team, and the time for a change needs to come sooner rather than later.

I hope he proves me wrong.

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