A Win-Or-Move-On Game

January 4th, 2024

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Todd Bowles has been here before. It didn’t end well.

Bowles led the 10-5 New York Jets into Ralph Wilson Stadium on the afternoon of Jan. 3, 2016 to face Rex Ryan’s 7-8 Bills, who had nothing to play for. The Jets had everything to play for, knowing a victory in the final game of the regular season would lift them to their first playoff berth since 2010.

Here we are again as Bowles heads to Charlotte for another high-stakes game. Buc Nation can only hope this one turns out differently.

Like the 2023 Bucs, the 2015 Jets had a bumpy ride. They started out 4-1, then lost four out of five before reeling off five consecutive wins heading to Buffalo, where the Jets were field-goal favorites.

Todd Bowles enters a flashback game of sorts, Ira Kaufman explains.

Ryan Fitzpatrick came in on a roll, completing 65 percent of his passes for 13 TDs and only one pick during the win streak, so Jets fans had every reason to believe Bowles’ first year as an NFL head coach would extend to the postseason.

It didn’t happen.

When the teams met for a Thursday night game in November, Buffalo won 22-17 on the strength of four Jet giveaways. That proved to be a sad precursor for Jets Nation.

In the regular-season finale, New York’s first five possessions ended with four punts and a missed FG attempt. But the Jets trailed only 19-17 early in the fourth quarter before Fitzpatrick proceeded to melt down on a 35-degree day.

On second down from the Buffalo 14, needing only a FG to go ahead, Fitzpatrick was intercepted in the end zone. After Tyrod Taylor drove the Bills for a FG and a 5-point lead with 3:49 remaining, Fitzpatrick threw a pick at midfield.

With only 17 seconds left and the Jets out of timeouts at their own 27, Buffalo intercepted Fitzpatrick for a third time to secure yet another 22-17 triumph. Pittsburgh’s subsequent victory against Cleveland eliminated the Jets as Bowles finished 10-6.

“You win the game, you go to the playoffs,” Bowles said after the stunning setback. “You don’t, you lose. We understood the consequences of it and we’ve got to live with it. We were building something. We’re a work in progress and we’re growing. We’ve got a lot more growing to do, but we made some strides. We’ve just got to make more.”

Eight years later, there are some different dynamics at work.

Very Different Times

First off, the 2015 Bills are better than the 2023 Panthers. A lot better. Carolina ranks 31st in scoring offense and 30th in scoring defense. The Panthers are 2-14 for a reason. Rookie Bryce Young has been sacked 59 times, more than 10 percent of his pass attempts. Carolina has an NFL-low 11 takeaways. Young has displayed roughly the same accuracy throwing the ball this season as owner David Tepper exhibited in tossing a drink at Jaguar fans last week.

For Bowles, the pressure he’s feeling this time around couldn’t be more different.

In 2015, the regular-season finale wasn’t going to determine his future as a head coach. It was his first year on the job and Bowles had already exceeded expectations with a 10-win season. While the loss at Buffalo was a major disappointment, Bowles knew he’d get more opportunities to prove himself.

Ira Kaufman expects Team Glazer to chart a new Bucs course if the team loses Sunday.

What about now?

If the Bucs go 9-8 and win another division crown, Bowles can show the Glazers progress in the post-Brady era. He’d likely return, which means Baker Mayfield would likely return as well.

Should the Panthers spring an upset, everything changes. The same 8-9 record, accompanied by no division title and a fifth consecutive losing season for Bowles as an NFL head coach, could well trigger an offseason shakeup at One Buc Place.

If Buc players don’t think Bowles’ job is on the line Sunday in Charlotte, they need to get real. It would be difficult to make a compelling case for Bowles to stay if his team goes 0-2 with a playoff spot at stake.

Last week’s self-destructive tendencies against the Saints had to bring back bitter memories for Bowles of that frosty afternoon at Orchard Park, N.Y., where Fitzpatrick completed 16 passes to his teammates — and three to the opposition.

At this point, Bowles isn’t quite sure who will be under center at Carolina. Mayfield’s ribs are sore and Kyle Trask’s right arm is unproven. Win and they’re in. Lose and Bowles could be toast.

No pressure.

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33 Responses to “A Win-Or-Move-On Game”

  1. Easy Says:

    If they go to Carolina and lay an egg then this team is who we thought they were.

  2. Bucnation Says:

    Ira, live a little and get yourself a Dodge Challenger with a Hemi in it

  3. Lombardi Lenny Says:

    I’m sure Philly will be happy to name Bowles their DC next season.

  4. SufferingSince76 Says:

    Don’t worry. We always have the running game.

  5. Bucfan Says:

    Please make this the MOVE ON game for the future. Being realistic, the Bucs will be one & done anyway. If Bowels is back next year, SOS!

  6. Thisisouryear!! Says:

    I’d name Bowles my DC here too, just not head coach. I’d like to win but I’d still like a different HC next season. That being said Carolina isn’t going to be a walk in the park. We barely won the first time. They’ve got the first pick next year win or lose.

  7. Bucsfan951 Says:

    I am just surprised Todd didn’t lose to buffalo with 3 timeouts sitting in his pocket still.

  8. Panhandle Buc Says:

    I swear…if we continuously run up the middle on 1st, hit a 3 yard gain on 2nd and get 3rd and 7 drive after drive. Think we can get our first opening TD drive of the season??? Our playoff lives depend on a solid and adjustment filled gameplan!!!

  9. John Sinclear Says:

    Bad feeling about this game. Panthers have nothing to lose, they’re P. O.ed anyhow and we got an ailing QB. They lose, the owner throws drinks at us. They win, he probably throws drinks at everybody!

  10. BucU Says:

    If they took the Saints game more seriously they wouldn’t be in this predicament.
    Todd would NEVER take the easy path. That would make too much sense.

  11. Bosch Says:

    I think the players will overcome Bowles ineptness to win this game. But he needs to be flushed regardless of the outcome.

  12. miken Says:

    A loss would mean blow it up , find a new coach and new qb…. that would probably be for the best. This is probably as good as it gets for a Bowles and Baker led team and the division isn’t always going to be a joke like it is now. Without a playoff win, I’d start fresh!

  13. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Bucs are the better team.
    Minimize penalties and turnovers and Bucs win.
    “Blow it up” advocates are delusional phony fans

  14. Jack Burton Mercer Says:

    Ira just revealed the comparison that really matters. I pointed this out in week 4, that Mayfield is Fitzpatrick 2.0: a short run around QB who can make some very nice throws, and some very inexplicable ones. It has been said about a number of quarterbacks through the years and it applies here. These guys are just good enough to get you beat.

  15. Pewter power Says:

    So annoying and he’s destined this teams future. Lose and get fired, win and get destroyed in the wild card round again and also makes sure we don’t get a quarterback for next year. Good job Glazers, 8-9 with Tom Brady should have been the red flag

  16. SlyPirate Says:


    I dislike Bowles but I DEEPLY HATE New Orleans. 3xNFCS Champs is something we get to hang on Saints fans all off season and all next year. I can’t stand the idea of them winning the conference on a Bucs loss to Carolina.

  17. 1sparkybuc Says:

    Being realistic, I have always felt that the Bucs could lose to any team, but at the same time, I’ve always believed that they were capable of beating any team. With Bowles and Mayfield, I’m convinced that there are some teams they will never beat. Bowles doesn’t even impress me as a DC, forget about as a HC. Mayfield doesn’t see wide open receivers, and I question his accuracy on anything beyond six or seven yards. I understand that it’s never all on the QB, but really good QBs don’t allow their team to lose six out of seven games, and some of those six to really bad teams. I hate seeing the Bucs lose a single game, but I hate seeing them waste season after season handicapped by people with limitations. I trust Licht to find better options than what we currently have.

  18. stpetebucfan Says:

    AWESOME isn’t it? How often do you get to root for a team on the cusp, with a coach’s job on the line, along with a bunch of supporting cast beginning with Mayfield!

    Again…for me this has been a very entertaining season! It’s always the most fun watching teams exceed expectations. If the Bucs win today they clearly have done that!!! Lose and we’ll all be talking about some kind of magic ploy to get Jim Harbaugh signed the minute the National Championship game concludes!

    And we can hope he brings Blake Corum along with him!!!

    Better still…let’s hope the Bucs take care of business and a very CLASS act is not forced to walk the plank.

    I’m rooting for Bowles to succeed! I totally disagree with his coaching philosophy so common with DC’s..play not to lose instead of no risk it no biscuit…but even disagreeing with that philosophy I totally respect Bowles as a human being of high character. He is simply a GOOD PERSON! Should be easy to root our arses off Sunday for a VARIETY of reasons.

    What more could a Bucs fan ask for? HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

  19. Nicholas Carlson Says:

    If I were the Glazers, I think my bar for keeping him would be that the Bucs get into the playoffs and either win or have a very competitive round one game. If it’s another laugher like last year, is that really progress? Remember, the Bucs didn’t need that Atlanta game last year, so their record was 8-8 going into the last game of the season, the same as this year.

  20. toad bowels Says:

    Ira, go for the Electric Ford Mustang! It’s a lot faster and more your style!

    Plus you won’t have to spring for Gas!.

  21. Tbbucs3 Says:

    “ A loss would mean blow it up , find a new coach and new qb…. that would probably be for the best”

    Absolutely not. Blowing pro teams up in the NFL puts you in Panthers dumpster fire territory. Making the playoffs is never a bad thing.

  22. Earl S Says:

    I don’t know how many people read these comments , but there all good, BUCS, play your hearts out, let the chips fall as they may. GO BUCS! I be watching in NC!
    Get After it, and I hope I don’t get showered with Teppers drink.

  23. Bosch Says:

    Stpete : What evidence do you have that Bowles is a good person? All I see is arrogance, won’t give a straight answer, and denial of accountability. What did he do that made him a good person? Did he donate 10 bucks to some charity?

  24. PewterStiffArm Says:

    The playoff game against Dallas, a loss, was a mirror image of last weeks New Orleans game. Flat, disinterested absolutely no MOJO, that’s on the head coach and the pretend coach’s behind him. If the players are unprepared, that’s on the head coach. If they are booked at resorts in the Caribbean already, that’s on the head coach. I see a pattern that won’t go away. I told myself that I wouldn’t bother watching another game after their four game loosing streak, well that didn’t happen. I support this team and have been supporting them for 45 years. From The Big Sombrero to the Glazer Hut, go down to Charlotte and take care of business or Ira himself will be driving the orange and white U-Haul truck come Monday morning.

  25. Citrus County Says:

    stpetebucfan Says: I’m rooting for Bowles to succeed! I totally disagree with his coaching philosophy so common with DC’s..play not to lose instead of no risk it no biscuit…but even disagreeing with that philosophy I totally respect Bowles as a human being of high character. He is simply a GOOD PERSON! Should be easy to root our arses off Sunday for a VARIETY of reasons.

    So politically correct.

  26. Cobraboy Says:

    If this team loses Sunday, it will be among the most significant cratering jobs this team has ever performed.

    Not even 5-dash-2 or Youngry would be that bad.

  27. Erik The Viking Says:

    The NFL is a QB driven league. Bryce Young is a guy the NFL would love to create a narrative around for next season.

    I look for the refs to keep it close enough for the Panthers to hang an L on our necks.

    If we want to win by 1 point, we better be up by 14 late in the 4th quarter.

    Otherwise the refs ear pieces will be in heavy use.


  28. Boge Says:

    What does it say about this team/coaches that we haven’t scored on an opening drive all season? Would love to know if we’re the only ones who haven’t. You had the whole week to script and prepare…

  29. It's Corn Says:

    Count me in the group rooting for Carolina. Big picture.

  30. WyomingJoe Says:

    @IRA: Honestly, how do you tolerate such wussies that call themselves Bucs fans?

    TBbucs3: Well said!

  31. Sacker58 Says:

    It’s gonna be muddy up there,wear long cleats 22.

  32. garro Says:

    I feel my anxiety levels increasing Ira!

    Past years as a Bucs fan combined with Bowles sometimes mind boggling coaching decisions has me wondering around my house checking to see if I turned appliances off.

    Go Bucs!

  33. Glass Half Full Guy Says:

    Being a Bucs fan ain’t easy. Prior to Brady coming in 2020, our Bucs had missed the playoffs for 15 straight seasons and were the “losing-est” team in all of the major professional sports. Not sure if the past 3 seasons elevated our ranking that much considering last year was another losing season but it marked our third straight playoff berth with a fourth haning in the balance tomorrow.

    Yes we’ve won 2 SBs (in nearly 50 years of existence) and many teams have never won, but historically we’ve been a garbage franchise and a laughingstock. It hurts to say it but the truth can hurt.

    Win or lose against the Panthers it still gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, we’re turning it around. If we win and make the playoffs again I don’t expect us to make it to a SB victory, but anything can happen in the post season.

    We have a lot of good pieces to build on, including a bunch of young guys. What Licht and company do this off-season will determine if we continue to get better or return to the “bad old days”.

    I watch the moves the Bucs make like a teenage girl watches a scary movie…hands covering my eyes, peeking between my fingers waiting for the “jump scare” to come because I hear the foreboding music ramping up. The music will start in the off-season. Hopefully Licht won’t run into the other “Jason” when he starts making moves.