The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich after four seasons with the franchise, the team announced Thursday. Five other coaches are also being fired, and three others decided to retire.
Leftwich joined the team alongside then-head coach Bruce Arians in 2019 after a few years coaching with the Arizona Cardinals. Tampa Bay enjoyed a top-10 offense during the first three years of Leftwich's tenure, though Leftwich reportedly didn't take over play-calling duties until 2021.
A lackluster 2022 campaign with an aging Tom Brady, an injured offensive line and poor play-calling led to an overall decline that eventually ended with the Bucs averaging 18.4 points per game and going 8-9 in the regular season. Tampa Bay reportedly looked into firing Leftwich during the Buccaneers' Week 11 bye but decided to keep him. Things didn't improve after the bye as the team went 3-4 in its final seven games and scored more than 20 points twice before barely winning the NFC South.
It's quite the fall for Leftwich, who was a hot head coaching candidate as recently as this past offseason. He reportedly withdrew from consideration for the Jacksonville Jaguars job a year ago, which eventually went to Doug Pederson, and he had also been cleared to interview for the New Orleans Saints' head role, which went to Dennis Allen.
Prior to taking the Buccaneers' offensive coordinator position, Leftwich had been a coaching intern and quarterbacks coach for the Cardinals under Arians from 2016-18 after a nine-year career as quarterback for the Jaguars, Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers. He was named interim offensive coordinator midway through the 2018 season under first-year head coach Steve Wilks after the Cardinals fired Mike McCoy after Week 8. Leftwich was let go with the rest of the staff that offseason.
Buccaneers in a tailspin
Leftwich's firing leaves the Buccaneers in a precarious situation because it could signal the unraveling of the team's Super Bowl-winning core. Tampa Bay lost Arians a year ago to retirement and promoted defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to head coach. The Bucs went on to win the NFC South with four fewer wins than the year before.
Brady's future with the Buccaneers is a major question as well as he heads into free agency. Brady hasn't looked like his Hall of Fame self all season, and he'll be 46 by the time the 2023 season rolls around. While Brady sounds as if he'll play next season, it may not be with the Buccaneers — either because he wants a better team or because Tampa Bay wants to move on. Though with Leftwich out, Brady may have more desire to stay put.
If Brady and Bowles remain with the Buccaneers, who will run the offense?
Most of the offensive staff is gone, so Tampa Bay will most likely look elsewhere in an attempt to persuade Brady to stay. Another bold idea: Former Saints head coach Sean Payton. He and Brady were linked during the Miami Dolphins' tampering investigation and could revitalize the downtrodden Buccaneers. Tampa Bay would need to fire Bowles to make a run at Payton, though, as well as send compensation to the Saints and compete with a plethora of other teams clamoring to hire the Super Bowl-winning coach.
It'll be an interesting offseason for the Buccaneers.