Todd Bowles: Bucs lost ‘aura’ but can still be great

TAMPA — Tom Brady is retired again, for good this time, he says. The Bucs have lost a lot of free agents, released starters and fired several coaches.

But the chance to be great didn’t walk out of the building with Brady, coach Todd Bowles says.

Speaking to the NFL Network’s Judy Battista at the NFL’s annual meeting Sunday, Bowles hit on several important topics, from trying to win without Brady to his longstanding relationship with new quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Among the highlights:

On losing Brady, who passed for 14,643 yards and 108 touchdowns in three seasons while leading the Bucs to a Super Bowl 55 title, three playoff appearances and two division titles in three seasons:

“When you replace a player of that magnitude, first of all, you don’t replace him. You lose aura. You lose the expectation of being great. That doesn’t mean you can’t be great. You just have to do it more as a team. We did it as a team when he was there, but he was such a great player and a great person that you focus all on that. And now that that is gone, the perception is that everything else is gone, when really it isn’t.

“We have a lot of good players on our team on both sides of the ball. We have some pieces to fill, but we have a lot of good football players on our team. And we just have to understand that and not go with the so-called outside narrative and do what we have to do to win ball games.”

On his history with Baker Mayfield, which dates to his days as the Jets head coach:

“I liked Baker when he was coming out. We kind of hit it off when I was with the Jets. I went down to Oklahoma (where he played in college) and we had this vibe between us. And not to say he had the strongest arm and everything else, but he’s a leader. He has great understanding of the football game. He knows where to go with the football. And he has moxie. He’s a guy’s guy. The players love to be around him, and they will fight for him because he’s a winner.

“He’s won on a lot of different levels, so you like that about him coming in. I thought the way we were trying to run our offense this year, the style of offense we were trying to run, I thought he was a perfect fit for it. So, between him and (Kyle) Trask, I have no doubt that one of them will come out and be successful.”

On the firing of offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and several other assistants at the end of the season:

“We didn’t score enough points and we didn’t run it well, and at times we didn’t throw it well. You want continuity from that standpoint. From a team standpoint. And what we were doing last year really caught up with us a little bit. It’s not all coaches, it’s players as well. It starts with me. And when you see something wrong, you have to try and fix it. I’ve been with those guys a long time, so it was a tough decision. But I felt the change had to be made, and I made the changes that way. And we’re working on the player aspect of it to make it better.”

On expectations for the 2023 season:

“The goal hasn’t changed. Success is obviously winning the division first and doing damage in the playoffs and trying to win a Super Bowl.”

Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLSTROUD.

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