Can Bowles dig his way out of trouble?

by Gary Shelton on November 30, 2023

in general

Bowles is trying to improve Bucs./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

You are Todd Bowles, and the walls are closing in. These days, it is like you are coaching in a phone booth. Lose Sunday, and it will feel like a shoebox.

You are Todd Bowles, and from the look of it, you may not be big enough for the job you have. Your quarterback was a blue-light special. The running game is invisible. The pass rush doesn’t work unless you blitz, and if you blitz, the cornerbacks turn into Pee-Wee Herman and Urkel. The tackling is spotty, the team can’t avoid penalties and as bad as it is, the NFC South is too much for you.

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You are Todd Bowles,  a good man heading in the wrong direction. The Bucs are 4-7, and heading nowhere. It is hunting season in the NFL, and the vultures are circling. Sure, you know a lot more football than the car salesmen who are calling for your head, but Josh McDaniel knew football, too, and he was fired. Frank Reich knew football, and he was fired. Coaching isn’t just about designing a blitz, it’s about guiding players to reach their potential. It’s about touching something deep inside. Those are the qualities that the best coaches have. Do you? No one has seen it.

You are Todd Bowles, and you know better than to rip into your players. But what is the deal with Joe Tryon-Shoyinka? Why isn’t Devin White playing better? How can star receivers disappear? Sometimes, it would play better if you ripped. But good coaches don’t do that, do they? So you absorb the hits, and you keep going.

You are Todd Bowles, and you have a 38-57 record. In seven seasons, you ended up on the right side of .500  just once. For this to be another one, you would have to win five of your six remaining games.

You are Todd Bowles, and these are the times that remind you what a kind of profession you are in. The pressure is high and the air can get thin. In a lot of ways, the Bucs are paying for past successes. But no one feels sorry for high standards. You knew that coming in.

You are Todd Bowles, and most of your attack is provided by Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has a fire to him that is admirable, but a lot of teams have found him less than satisfactory. Already, fans are calling for backup Kyle Trask, who impressed them mightily as he hit three of 10 career passes.

You are Todd Bowles, and the most secure factor in your career is that the Glazers have never fired a coach midway through a season. It’s a silly solution, after all. You pay a guy not to coach while giving the job to a guy whose players haven’t been stars, either. Nothing is to say they can’t shop around while the head coach still (mal)functions.

You are Todd Bowles, and you play the pitiful Carolina Panthers Sunday. The Panthers are a bigger mess than the Bucs. They’re 1-10 and they’ve just fired another coach. Ah, but last season, the Panthers were 1-5 and had just fired a coach when the Bucs came to town. They beat you 21-3.

You are Todd Bowles, and the bullets are coming faster. You can’t blame the players (although you should). You can’t blame the general manager (although you could). In this league, unlike politics, you can’t whine that the final score shouldn’t count. You could point out that you have a better record than Bill Belichick, but somehow, it is doubtful that will win sympathy.

You are Todd Bowles, and your approval ranking is worse than your record. You don’t know how to develop a running game, and you don’t know anyone who does. Your team is not good, and worse, it is not improving.

You are Todd Bowles, and the arguments that you should stay grow thin. Your team doesn’t just need a win, it needs a winning streak. Maybe it needs a miracle.

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