The Bowles Comeback

June 10th, 2019


In Todd we trust.

That’s the mantra for Buc fans in 2019 as Todd Bowles seeks to recapture his stature as one of the NFL’s premier defensive minds. That reputation took quite a hit in New York, particularly in his final three years as head coach.

The Jets went 14-34 in that span, ranking 29th, 22nd and 28th in points allowed.

What went wrong?

Any NFL head coach has an array of responsibilities that don’t weigh down an assistant. The Bucs are hoping Bowles can return to his role as an effective hand’s-on teacher focused on one side of the football.

Bowles became an attractive candidate for the Jets job after two impressive years leading Arizona’s defense for Bruce Arians. In 2014, Bowles was named the league’s Assistant Coach of the Year after the Cardinals held seven opponents to 14 points or less.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles

Now he’s back working for Arians, who calls Bowles “the brightest football player and probably the brightest coach I’ve ever been around.”

The old desert gang is back together, with Bowles once again working with Mike Caldwell, Nick Rapone and Kevin Ross. Together, they helped Arians turn around a moribund franchise in Arizona.

How did they do it?

They looked at the roster and built a plan. That sounds simple enough, but at times during an 11-year playoff drought, the Bucs seemed to go about things in reverse order.

“I’ve coached half of my career in a 4-3, the other half in a 3-4,” says Bowles. “I think you coach according to what kind of players you have and what kind of guys you can put where.”


Gone are the days of the eight-yard cushion for Buc cornerbacks.

Gone are the days for schemes so predictable that Tampa Bay fans could call out alignments and assignments well before the snap. With a Bowles defense, the element of surprise is fundamental.

“We blitzed quite a bit at that time,” Bowles says of the 2013-14 Cardinals. “Most of it was the illusions of pressure, as opposed to pressure itself. A lot of guys came free. We had some good athletes on that team and they made me look good.”

Expect elaborate blitz packages, particularly up the middle. Lavonte David has been an effective pass rusher when given the opportunity and rookie Devin White will surely get his chances to shoot the “A” gap and make a killing.

Bowles points out that blitzes can serve a variety of purposes.

“Sometimes, it’s to take away the run,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s to stop the quarterback from stepping up. Sometimes, it’s to keep a good running back in who’s a good pass receiver.”

Alvin Kamara lurks

Read that explanation slowly and you can’t help thinking about Sean Payton’s group along the bayou. Drew Brees loves to step up in the pocket and Alvin Kamara is the kind of back Bowles would love to keep chained in the backfield as a blitz protector.

Defensive lineman Frostee Rucker, who played for the Raiders last season, was coached by Arians for five years in Arizona, when he talked about Bowles’ success.

“He plays to a guy’s strengths,” Rucker says. “He doesn’t just say, ‘Well, ‘F’ it, this is my defense. This is the way we run things.’

“That’s how a lot of people get lost in their careers. They get drafted into a situation where they don’t draft you for what you’re good at. And you’re considered a bust sometimes when it’s really, ‘No, I’m just not good at what you’re asking me to do.'”

That’s the reason players like Noah Spence, Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis are excited headed into training camp next month. They sense a fresh start under Bowles, whose quiet demeanor belies an aggressive approach.

The Bucs haven’t featured a three-man front since 1990, when Ray Perkins was fired by Hugh Culverhouse with three games remaining in a dismal season.

Expect the unexpected from this defense because Bowles intends to speak softly and carry a big playbook.

24 Responses to “The Bowles Comeback”

  1. Destinjohnny Says:

    I think we have a good staff
    But then there is Jason……..

  2. Lunchbox Says:

    Wade Phillips, Gregg Williams, Norv Turner all are examples of guys that are much better as coordinators than head coaches. I think the same is true with Bowles

  3. Clw JB Says:

    It has ALWAYS been about the D in Tampa and can’t wait until it is again.

    We have the weapons on offense, get the D and ST right and we are a playoff team…

  4. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Good Read Ira!

  5. Unimpressed Says:

    I trust Bowles to find a way to get some pressure with David and White behind Suh/Vea.

  6. Figures Says:


  7. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    Great one Ira.
    I said it before… bookmark this.
    Tampa will have a top 10 defense going into the bye week.
    Go BUCS

  8. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    @Figures… 10-6 homie. 10-6
    Any given Sunday.
    Go BUCS

  9. DB55 Says:

    We had some good athletes on that team and they made me look good.”
    Helps when you have campbell, freeny and chandler rushing the QBs and Peterson locking down the #1 receiver.

    We have a hulk and a broken winter soldier but no shut down corner or hof DE.

    So I’m still skeptical the Leslie Frazier 2.0 is really going to do anything impressive

  10. Stonedbuc Says:

    Corners need to ball out, Also pretty confident we will sign a veteran safety. We will also most likely make a trade for a lineman.

  11. Alvin Scissors Harper Says:

    Can’t be worse than Mike Smith, that’s for sure.

  12. gilhealy Says:

    I don’t think we know what we have on the back end, DB55. These cats look to be a pretty aggressive bunch. I trust BA and TB saw what they needed to see in the guys drafted. I think the D will be bad ass this season. It’s gonna be a fun season. New mind set. Night and Day. We will be the talk of the league.

  13. DB55 Says:


    Waiting to see if anyone catches the broken winter soldier reference.

    I’m cool with our safeties. I would just love to have another 16 sack guy in our dline and someone who could slow down Jones and Thomas.

    However I’m of the mindset that this roster is not yet complete so we’ll probably just be rehashing the same comments for the next 7 weeks.

  14. Succaneers Says:


  15. Tc Says:

    Anything different from the same ole thing of the past is exciting at this point.

  16. rhenry Says:

    Kellen Winslow going to the big house the sick f@#$%K.

  17. gilhealy Says:

    DB, yea, you’re right. Just different ways to say the same thing. I’m just happy for Jameis. BA see’s thru all the b.s. surrounding the guy. He wants to give him a fair shake. I like that. He wouldn’t be here if not for Winston. He knows what time it is.

  18. Defense Rules Says:

    Another great piece Ira, thanks. That quote by Frostee Rucker about Bowles is priceless … “He plays to a guy’s strengths”. And he’s 100% right; far too often we’ve drafted guys then not used them in such a way that they could play to their strengths. Player development is critical, but so is using them in such a way that they can maximize their skills. Bucs defense especially hasn’t done very well at all in that regard since Monte Kiffin left.

    It’s gonna be a long month and a half until the Bucs report back for training camp. If you get a chance, would love to see a similar article about HOW Bowles’ defenses in Arizona turned around their rushing defense so quickly (I’m hoping the same thing happens here). Hard to believe, but teams actually rushed MORE against the 2012 Cards than they passed (506 rushes vs 497 passes for a #31 ranking in rushing attempts & #28 ranking in rushing yardage allowed).

    Todd Bowles 2013 defense turned that completely around (370 rushes vs 625 passes for a #2 ranking in rushing attempts & #1 ranking in rushing yardage allowed … a measly 1351 rushing yards & only 5 rushing TDs). THAT’s impressive, and I really hope he can do that here, because our rushing defense stunk it up last year … we allowed barely short of 2,000 rushing yards & 19 rushing TDs. That’s unacceptable.

  19. Jordan L Says:

    1-15!? Lol! Suc, it must be so fun to be so negative.

  20. BucAllNight Says:

    From 5-11 to 11-5 as Bowles gets to focus on his bread and butter again…


    Go Bucs!!

  21. BrianBucs Says:

    If you keep running defenses that fit your players that you already have but you continue to keep the most of the same players and those players aren’t that good, then your defenses will always stink.
    “You build your defense around the talent on your roster” said Mike Smith the last 2 years.
    Find the defense that you want to play then get the key pieces to make it run.

  22. Bucsfanman Says:

    It doesn’t matter that we don’t recognize the names on the back of the jerseys. This defense will be light-years better than anything Smith fielded. Well, how could it be worse?!!!

  23. K2 Says:

    I can’t wait to see the “Bowles” impact on this defense! Additionally, I believe that a lot of the draft and free agency failures (most on defense) came from giving the coaches what they wanted. How else do we explain the successes on the offensive side of the ball. I know many hate Licht, but I want to see the results of his defensive draft with this coaching staff. Also, we get to see the “bust” guys coached up.

  24. Blind Melon Says:

    Not going to bitch about it. I really want to be optimistic on the team, but for my sanity I’m going to have to play ‘wait and see’ this time around…

    I love the way the defense is coming together and that it will be aggressive. Big change for a lot of fans out there… still going to require some patience (and probably a few more key pieces to make it work correctly.)

    All that said, I’m cautiously (and quietly) excited.