New Bucs coach Todd Bowles wins day by admitting he ‘blew it’

New Bucs coach Todd Bowles wins day by admitting he ‘blew it’
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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 coach said Thursday.

Know this about 58-year-old Todd Robert Bowles: While different in myriad ways from immediate predecessor Bruce Arians, they share the blunt gene. It’s a trait generally appreciated by fans.

That 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 game against the Rams.

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 — the former NFL 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.”

Less than 24 hours before Bowles’ introduction as the franchise’s 13th head coach — and its fourth Black head coach — Bowles had remained the convenient scapegoat for one of the most excruciating losses the bay area had experienced.

On Thursday, the day after the Bucs announced that Arians was vacating the head-coaching job for a front-office spot, Bowles still was processing that he had been afforded a second act as an NFL head coach after leading the Jets from 2015-18, 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.

Unlike Arians, who made ‘Win or lose, we booze’ a half-serious mantra on his watch, Bowles doesn’t drink or do cigars. And whereas 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 (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.”

Arians didn’t orchestrate this succession plan — which Bowles didn’t learn about until Monday — to replace himself with a clone. He knew that Bowles’ style, combined with his football intuition and the lessons he learned with the Jets, with whom he went 24-40 before being fired, gave him every chance to succeed.

The Bucs’ offseason developments, namely Tom Brady’s unretirement and the subsequent re-signing of several key free agents, have optimized those chances.

“(Bowles has) been probably 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 that defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers and outside linebackers coach Larry Foote will serve as co-defensive coordinators, though Bowles still will call things on game days.

And while he won’t disrupt the dynamic fostered by Leftwich and Brady, he’ll interject where he sees fit.

“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,” he said. “It’s like every other coach: You coach hard, you understand players, you try to put them in the best position to play football.

“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 jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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