TAMPA — To triumph at the news conference, he first had to admit defeat. In that sense, Todd Bowles nailed it, with candor and conciseness.
“I blew it,” the new Bucs head coach said Thursday.
Know this about 58-year-old Todd Robert Bowles: While different in myriad ways from predecessor Bruce Arians, both share the blunt gene. It’s a trait generally appreciated by a fan base, a refreshing alternative to rehearsed rhetoric.
Which is why the married dad of three boys likely won points his first day on the job by readily acknowledging the failure of the Bucs’ final defensive play of the 2021 season, in the NFC division playoff.
Instead of dancing around or dodging the question of why he called for a Cover-Zero, all-out blitz of Matthew Stafford — resulting in the Rams quarterback finding NFL Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp isolated downfield for a 44-yard completion — this former NFL safety safety tackled it helmet first.
“We were trying to win,” said Bowles, whose strategy resulted in Matt Gay kicking a 30-yard field goal as time expired to lift Los Angeles to a 30-27 triumph.
“I will never apologize for trying to win. If I didn’t call zone and (Stafford) got the play off, you’ll say I should’ve blitzed. ‘We blitz all the time, how come we didn’t blitz?’ That’s part of football, that’s coaching. You have to learn to make peace and live with it.”
In a way, Bowles’ introduction as the franchise’s 13th head coach — and its fourth Black head coach — simply perpetuated the most surreal offseason in team history. Less than 24 hours before, he remained the convenient scapegoat for one of the most excruciating losses this town had experienced.
On Thursday, he was still processing the fact that he had been afforded a rare second act as an NFL head coach, with a five-year contract to boot.
“A lot of people had to be in agreement for this to happen. It’s not a one-man show,” Bowles said of the succession plan allowing Arians to pass the torch to the New Jersey native he has known since 1983, when Arians first coached him at Temple.
“I feel very humble, I feel very honored, I feel very excited. I’m ready to go and we’ll try to get this thing rolling.”
If nothing else, Bowles will roll his own way.
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Unlike Arians, who made ‘Win or lose, we booze’ a half-serious mantra on his watch, Bowles doesn’t drink or do cigars. And while Arians’ practice reprimands were laced with profanities, Bowles is more likely to point out player deficiencies with dry sarcasm.
“I think if I tried to put on a kangol hat and came in here and grew my goatee (both Arians trademarks), you guys would look at me like I’m crazy,” Bowles said. “’Look at this clown, he’s mini-Bruce.’ I can’t do that, and I’m not going to. I’m not going to try.”
Similarly, Arians didn’t orchestrate this succession plan — which Bowles didn’t learn about until Monday — to replace himself with a clone. To the contrary, he knew Bowles’ own unique style, combined with his football intuition and the lessons he learned in his first head coaching gig with the Jets from 2015-2018 (when he went 24-40), gave him every chance to succeed.
The Bucs’ offseason developments, namely Tom Brady’s un-retirement and the subsequent re-signing of several key free agents, optimized those chances.
“He’s probably been the brightest guy I’ve ever coached,” Arians said. “And I think he, as a player-coach, (offensive coordinator) Byron (Leftwich) as a player-coach, they just had it You knew they had it.”
By all accounts, that ‘it’ factor is endearing.
“He’s a phenomenal person, great family man, talks about his family all the time,” general manager Jason Licht said.
“He’s a mentor to a lot of people in this building. Not just the players, but other coaches, staff members. You often find people in his office, just him offering advice on how to just be a better person.”
Because he now must answer for the Bucs offense and monitor it in practice, Bowles said defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers and outside linebackers coach Larry Foote will serve the co-coordinators, though Bowles still will call things on Sundays.
And while he won’t disrupt the dynamic fostered by Leftwich and Tom Brady, he’ll interject where he sees fit, thank you very much.
“I’m the head coach,” Bowles said. “I get to do whatever I want.”
The blunt gene at work.
“My way is not rocket science. It’s like every other coach: You coach hard, you understand players, you try to put them in the best position to play football,” he added.
“So I’m not trying to change the program, but you try to say you’ve got to be yourself. You try to imitate somebody else, it doesn’t go well.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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