Bucs head coach Todd Bowles didn’t mince words after a 35-7 loss in San Francisco last Sunday. With four games left in the 2022 regular season, he puts the outcome on his players.
“We have to decide which team we want to be” Bowles said after the loss. “We can’t be one set of Bucs and another set of Bucs. It must mean something. We have a one game lead with four games to go. Either we want it or we don’t want it. You don’t care more than the rest. As a coach you don’t go on the field.
“But we were coached away, so we are not free from this at all. We were also played out. So as a team, as a group, we have to brace ourselves and decide what our fate is in the coming weeks.
Bowles did not excuse himself or his coaches from any responsibility or blame for Sunday’s San Fran debacle or in the team’s disappointing 6-7 season. But he emphasized turning the players – many of whom, including the team’s stars – have underperformed this season.
Is that the right approach? Is that enough showing leadership – telling the players what needs to be done?
Or is this an old-fashioned approach that doesn’t reach a younger, perhaps more entitled, generation that needs more coddling than a more autonomous, hands-off approach?
Does this Bucs team, which is a mix of a lot of very young players and a few older players, need more leadership from Bowles and the coaches?
Bucs QB Brady, DC Foote agree with Bowles approach
Quarterback Tom Brady, the oldest player in the league at 45, appreciates Bowles’ approach.
“He really let the leaders, the players, have the say… the coaches [say]”Guys, you guys need to get out there and do it,” Brady said. “We’re going to coach you, but you players have to get it done. So that’s what we’re trying to do [to do.]”
Co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach Larry Foote, who played with Brady at Michigan and is 42, agrees with Bowles’ approach. Foote played linebacker in the NFL for 13 seasons.
“I always see the game as, ‘This is a player’s league,’ even on this side of coaching,” Foote said. “But this is a player competition – coaches have a role in it, but players have to play. They have to come with a certain attitude and they have to stick together. But they have to perform.
“There are plays that need to be made, and we expect those guys to make it. Coaches have to try harder to put guys in the right position, keep those guys motivated, but I will always look at the game from a player’s perspective.”
So the 6-7 Buccaneers aren’t responding to Bowles’ coaching methods? Or are they just letting each other – and the coaches – down by just not playing enough this year?
The coaches of Bowles and the Bucs need to coach better – certainly better than last week when the team completely collapsed in San Francisco. But the players will have to block and tackle, and catch the touchdown passes and make the onfield interceptions.
Bowles and his coaches can’t do that for them from the sidelines.
“Decide who we want to be,” Bowles said after the loss to the 49ers. “We can’t be an up and down team. We still have four weeks to figure out who we want to be this season and reach our goal.”
Even at 6-7 still the Bucs leading the NFC South division and control of their own playoff destiny.
“Every day you are challenged in this sport,” said Brady. “You get up every day and your body feels a certain way, and your mind and your confidence. Now you have to match that with everyone else’s body and confidence and attitude. You try to put together special teams, attack, defense – there is a lot to do. And it really pays off when it pays off. And if it doesn’t pay off, it sucks. It’s like all our work: if it doesn’t go the way you want it to, that sucks.
“We need to stand here and answer questions about why things aren’t going well. Trust me, you wish it went great every week, but that’s not our reality and we have to work our way out of it. No one feels sorry for us, no one outside the dressing room can do much about it. We have to get together and we have to do it ourselves. I think I really appreciate what Todd does. He puts it on us to fix it, and that’s our responsibility.”
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