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NFL - US Sports: Can Todd Bowles succeed with the Bucs?

Todd Bowles was always going to get another head coaching job, but landing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' role after Tom Brady unretired gives him a shot at succeeding right away.

Bowles - 25/1 to win Coach of the Year - became a highly sought-after coach after fine-tuning the Bucs' defense during three successful years under Bruce Arians in Tampa.

The former defensive co-ordinator put together some incredible schemes and gameplans that confused even the very best quarterbacks and he was an unsung hero of the Bucs' Super Bowl LV win two seasons ago.

Now he gets a chance to oversee the whole show and prove that he has learned from mistakes made during his previous head coaching stint that ended in him being sacked four years ago, with the Bucs 7/1 to win Super Bowl LVII and 2/7 to top the NFC South Division.

Proving the naysayers wrong

The former NFL safety was named head coach of the New York Jets in 2015 and enjoyed success of sorts in his first season as Gang Green finished 10-6 - but didn't make the play-offs.

That said, it is still the last time that the Jets finished with a winning record and some in the Big Apple still feel Bowles was hard done by when he was shown the door after three subsequent bottom-placed finishes in the AFC East.

Arians knew he could coach from their time together in Arizona and was soon on the phone to offer him the defensive co-ordinator position in Tampa.

Bowles inherited a unit ranked 27th in the NFL and, after improving them to 15th in his first year, the Buccaneers began to dominate on the defensive side of the ball - finishing as the sixth best overall in 2020 and paving the way for Super Bowl glory.

Bowles needs to bridge roster gaps

A lot of water has flowed under Sunshine Skyway Bridge since the Bucs' brutal 31-9 dismantling of the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs that February evening in 2021.

Apart from the Brady sideshow and Arians' shock retirement, the Bucs have lost a number of important players from the trenches and in the defensive backfield.

After losing offensive guard Alex Cappa in free agency to Cincinnati and Ali Marpet to retirement, the team traded for Shaq Mason, but that still leaves one spot on the line open to competition from as-yet-unproven back-ups.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh remains a free agent, but is unlikely to re-sign, while the team apparently didn't even table an offer to departing safety Jordan Whitehead.

Brady's comfort blanket, tight end Rob Gronkowski, still hasn't decided if he wants to run it back for another year, leaving the Bucs a little in limbo when it comes to red zone options.

With time ticking by, Bowles must take the lead and either ensure Gronk signs another one-year deal or make a move for another veteran tight end on the market.

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Still got Brady, but team is getting older

Brady should still be Brady by the look of him last season when he finished with the most regular season passing attempts, yards and touchdowns of his career while setting an NFL regular-season record for completions.

Yes, he's a year older and some of the other veterans on offense are getting closer to the end of their careers, but the seven-time Super Bowl champion wouldn't reverse his retirement decision if he didn't think there was a chance of adding an eighth ring would he?

The 44-year-old's u-turn could even be seen as an endorsement of Bowles because, if you follow the breadcrumbs, Brady can wield the sort of power that may well have brought about Arians' move upstairs ahead of schedule.

Whether he did or not, Bowles now has an unexpected chance to work with Brady and tap into some of the poise under pressure that has seen him lead more fourth-quarter comebacks than any other QB in the game's history.

Leftwich has offense moving in right direction

Another man Bowles can rely upon to make his return to head coaching a successful one is Bucs' offensive co-ordinator Byron Leftwich.

The former Jacksonville Jaguars QB seems to have hit it off immediately with Brady, who he taught the offense, and has flourished as an offensive play caller.

Leftwich led The Bucs to the league's second-most points and the league's highest yards per play mark on offense in 2021 and there could be more to come from him if Bowles gives him some space this coming season.

However, more could be needed if Tampa are to fit one more playoff run into the final year of their 'Brady's here - win now' window.

The Bucs face a brutal opening to their schedule with road trips against the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints, plus home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers all within the first four weeks.

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