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One week is all it took for Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles to silence critics

Tampa Bay’s HC has turned over a new leaf.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Every pundit and fan with a voice loud enough to be heard, spent all offseason mocking different quarterbacks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in next year’s draft. At least for one week, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and the rest of a young quarterback class will need to take a backseat to Baker Mayfield. Tampa Bay, led by Mayfield, is one week in with one win under their belt— and what a difference a week can make.

Last week.

Not only are the Buccaneers a fledgling franchise, their ship is being captained by a feeble head coach.

“Todd Bowles— Great defensive coordinator, bad head coach.”

Todd Bowles is easily in the running, if not lapping the competition, for the most conservative head coach in the NFL. Bowles pulled Tom Brady off the field multiple times last season, rather than letting the league’s greatest legend attempt to convert a fourth down. Todd Bowles is also the man who decided the team would be better off not playing aggressive at the end of regulation, against the Cleveland Browns (an OT loss), because he felt like his offense might turn the ball over. That is Todd Bowles.

This week.

Perhaps that was Todd Bowles. Who is this new man who has suited up as the coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs. The conservative Todd Bowles stepped aside and made way for a new gunslinging, risk-taking Todd Bowles against the Minnesota Vikings. Bowles showed spark, mettle, oomph, nerve, a backbone. He was courageous and brash (kind of like a certain young quarterback he now coaches).

Bowles’ two greatest moments of audacity came in the fourth quarter—

Moment #1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Buccaneers offense was facing a fourth down and one (a long one) on their own 32-yardline. This is Todd Bowles, surely Jake Camarda is putting on his helmet right now. At this point, the game was tied and Minnesota’s offense had shown some flashes but had mostly been handled by Tampa’s defense, a punt would not have been illogical. Bowles must of thought Halloween had come early, dressed up like a different coach with fire in his belly, said “In honor of no risk it no biscuit!” and pulled the trigger. Baker Mayfield and the Bucs’ offense stayed on the field and picked up the first down. Mayfield converted it with a quarterback sneak, something Bucs fans had become accustomed to seeing his predecessor do so many times prior.

Moment #2

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Last week the special teams narrative would have been nestled in around the belief that the Buccaneers have had one good kicker since the Obama administration. One good kicker, who was a flawless 9-9 on field goals during the Buccaneers’ 2020 Super Bowl run. One good kicker, finally, and the team let him go. The Bucs showed Ryan Succop the door after stabilizing the least steady position (next to quarterback) in Tampa’s recent history. Better yet, they opted to replace him with a journeyman kicker who has a lower career kick percentage than the man he’d be replacing.

The new narrative? Have the Bucs found their new kicker? Chase McLaughlin was unblemished on all his kicks yesterday against the Minnesota Vikings, in a game where the Buccaneers needed each one. None more important or refreshing than his 57 yard, beautifully centered, boot to give the Bucs a fourth quarter lead— one they would not relinquish.

The kick, while impressive in its own right, goes down as even more impressive because it represents improvement, on two fronts. It was a kick that Ryan Succop simply could not make. Succop was a very good kicker for the Tampa Bay Bucs, but leg strength was not his… Strength. In an identical situation, with Ryan Succop as the team’s kicker, the Bucs would have had to trot out budding star Jake Camarda for another booming punt, or think about a second fourth down attempt. Instead, the Buccaneers have Chase McLaughlin.

It’s also, again, shows coaching improvement. Todd Bowles, still dressed in his Halloween costume from earlier, took another risk. At the peril of giving the Vikings great field position, he put the game in the hands of his kicker. The annexation of Ryan Succop was not the most popular decision and it was one that, from the outside, seemed to be spearheaded by Bowles (based on quotes from Todd Bowles last season and Jason Licht during the offseason). Showing confidence in his own decisions, Bowles put the game in his kicker’s hands, by letting him decide it with his leg.

A lot changed in a week for the Buccaneers. Truly, a lot changed in three hours yesterday. The Buccaneers went from doormat to don’t sleep on us, led by all the players who weren’t good enough and their hot seat riddled head coach. The Buccaneers are 1-0, so sit back and enjoy your victory Monday.

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