After an 8-9 regular season and a quick playoff exit, Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles is making a change to his staff.
Bowles fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich on Thursday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The team later announced the move, along with a slew of personnel changes.
In addition to Leftwich, five assistants were dismissed, including running backs coach Todd McNair and assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust, and three others retired, including quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen.
"We appreciate the hard work and contributions that all of these coaches made to our successes over the past four seasons," Bowles said in a statement. "As a collective group, we did not meet the high standards that had been set for this past year and my focus now is on doing what is needed to ensure a successful 2023 season. These were very difficult decisions but something that I felt was necessary for our football team going forward."
Leftwich's tenure began in 2019 when he followed Bruce Arians to Tampa, where he joined the Buccaneers as offensive coordinator and directed the league's No. 1 passing offense and third-ranked unit in total yards per game. That season was Jameis Winston's final campaign with the Buccaneers, in which he threw for 5,109 yards, but finished as the first member of the NFL's unenviable 30-30 club for touchdown passes and interceptions.
With plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, it became clear the Buccaneers could become a serious contender if only they were able to solve their conundrum at quarterback. Tom Brady's surprise decision to move south provided the exact answer Tampa Bay was seeking, and in their first year together, the Buccaneers found instant success, finishing seventh in yards per game (and second in passing) on their way to a triumph in Super Bowl LV.
The good times rolled over into 2021, when the Buccaneers returned to the top two in total yards per game, but fell short of the Super Bowl after losing to the Rams at home in the Divisional Round. In that game, cracks started to appear within Tampa Bay's offense, and when injuries struck the offensive line in 2022, the Buccaneers' decline was unavoidable.
Tampa Bay's struggles in 2022 reflected poorly on Leftwich. Despite possessing enough talent to continue performing at a high level, the Buccaneers routinely failed to establish an offensive rhythm throughout the 2022 campaign, finding most of their success when forced to run the two-minute drill. Essentially, Brady proved to be a better play-caller than Leftwich, and the Buccaneers' blowout loss to Dallas to conclude Super Wild Card Weekend -- a game in which Tampa Bay only produced points when in the hurry-up -- sealed Leftwich's fate.
Leftwich's firing caps a tumultuous year that included the high of potentially becoming the Jaguars' head coach, and the low of his dismissal from the Buccaneers' staff. Brady's plans for 2023 remain uncertain, meaning Tampa Bay's next steps could prove to be pivotal to the team's immediate future.
University of Georgia offensive coordinator and former NFL play-caller Todd Monken is one to watch in the Buccaneers' hiring process, per Rapoport and NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo. Monken served as Buccaneers OC under former coach Dirk Koetter from 2016-2018 before Koetter's firing also cost Monken his job, sending him to Cleveland for one season spent under coach Freddie Kitchens. Monken has spent the last three seasons with the Bulldogs, helping Georgia win back-to-back national titles in the last two seasons.
Bowles can be expected to sift through a number of candidates before hiring Leftwich's replacement. Whomever Bowles chooses will have an important job ahead of him: Resurrect the Buccaneers' offense, with or without Brady.