During his three-year run as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bruce Arians was known for his “no risk-it, no biscuit” style of play.
As the Bucs’ first season post-Arians winds down, it’s safe to say that coaching philosophy has been thrown out the window by his replacement.
After some questionable-at-best clock management that led directly to the Bucs’ 23-17 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday (which we broke down in detail here), current head coach Todd Bowles doubled down on his decision to keep timeouts in his pocket and let precious time bleed off the clock at the end of regulation.
“Or it could have been an interception as well,” Bowles said Monday when asked whether or not being more aggressive on the final drive of the game could have helped the Bucs leave Cleveland with a win. “We said if we didn’t get yards on the first down, on the first play, we wouldn’t call a timeout. We’d probably let the clock run and if he saw something he could throw it. But we didn’t get any yards on the first play, we got one or two yards with Rachaad [White] and we were backed up. If we’d have thrown a pick and the ball would have went the other way and they had to kick the winning field goal…we felt better going into overtime so I didn’t do it.”
Not only is that an extremely conservative strategy in general (something that was also evident earlier in the game, when Bowles made other questionable coaching decisions), it’s borderline comical when you think about who his quarterback is.
No quarterback in the NFL has been better this season at avoiding interceptions than Brady, who has thrown just two picks all year long.
Bowles’ reasoning for not trying harder to win the game in regulation was that he was worried the GOAT might throw an interception with the game on the line? The same legendary quarterback who marched his offense down the field in less than 44 seconds three weeks ago to beat the Los Angeles Rams?
Members of the media were quick to point out to Bowles that Brady delivered a 26-yard strike to Julio Jones on the second play of that final drive, proving he would have had plenty of time to move the offense down the field, had he been given the chance with more time on the clock.
“He threw it on second down,” Bowles acknowledged. “He saw something, he got it in there, then we called a timeout. It could have easily went the other way.”
“Yeah, it could have been (intercepted),” Bowles continued. “It was a risky throw but he got it in there. Tom’s been making those throws but we felt good going into overtime the way the defense was playing and we felt we had it right there. So it was just the call we made.”
When asked later about the offense’ season-long trend of being more conservative in an effort to avoid mistakes, Bowles disagreed.
“I don’t think we’ve played conservative on offense at all,” Bowles said. “You can say that in hindsight about this game, but you don’t think about those things as coaches, you make the best decision possible based on everything that’s been going on and you kind of go from there. We had not been moving the football, we had nine three-and-outs, so it wouldn’t have been wise to try to call that one. I made it, I can live with that and I’m okay with it.”
Bowles might be okay with his decisions on Sunday, but it’s safe to say Bucs fans weren’t.
Arians definitely had his own head-scratching moments while captaining the ship in Tampa Bay, but it’s hard not to wonder if the absence of his aggressive offensive philosophy is a huge part of why the Bucs lost on Sunday, and maybe why the offense has sputtered all year while the team limped to a 5-6 record up to this point.