The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.

Question: If the Bucs offered Todd Bowles the same amount of money as a head coaching job to remain the DC you think he stays?

Answer: It is possible money might convince Todd Bowles to turn down a head coaching deal I suppose, but with the average NFL head coach salary at $8.5 million per year, the Bucs wouldn’t try and outbid a team to keep him if they are going up against a franchise that want him as their head coach.

Besides the fact the Bucs aren’t going to pay Bowles, say even on the low end for head coaches ($3.5-$4-5 million) salary just to stay on as a high-priced defensive coordinator, Bruce Arians wouldn’t stand in the way of Bowles – or anyone on his staff – from taking a promotion. Arians, who is a guy who at one point never thought he would get a chance to be an NFL head coach before taking over for a sick Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis, is all about seeing his assistants better themselves and move on if it is for a promotion.

Bucs DC Todd Bowles
Bucs DC Todd Bowles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

With that said, while I expect Bowles to generate some interest from NFL teams that have openings, we don’t even know if Bowles is looking to jump back into the head coaching ranks right now. Bowles had an opportunity to be the head coach with the Jets years ago, and for a number of reasons it didn’t work out. Maybe he has decided that he is more comfortable as a coordinator.

Bowles has been asked about returning to the head coaching ranks, but as best as I recall he deflected the question, instead saying he is happy in his current role. And if he did return to the life of being a head coach, taking over for Arians one day in Tampa Bay might be what he desires the most.

When a team has success, it is only natural that the assistants become attractive candidates for other teams hoping some of the magic rubs off on their franchise. The Patriots have lost a number of assistants during Bill Belichick’s time in New England and have always, for the most part, been able to absorb the blows. Even the Buccaneers in their heyday saw multiple coaches who were originally hired by Tony Dungy and later Jon Gruden move on to other positions, including Mike Tomlin, Joe Barry, Rod Marinelli, Herm Edwards and Lovie Smith among others. It is the price that good teams pay for success.

Besides Bowles, we could also see Byron Leftwich get some looks at a head coaching opportunity, and a source tells that outside linebackers coach Larry Foote could get an interview with the Lions, who are looking to replace Matt Patrica. Foote would be an ideal candidate to be a defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay if Bowles leaves.

Question: I believe the offense will handle business this weekend at Washington, but I’m concerned with the defense. Just because we didn’t punt against Atlanta doesn’t mean you let your opponent do the same thing. Can the defense get back on track this weekend and stop the opponent? 

Answer: I haven’t spent a ton of time watching the Washington Football Team, but from a casual glance there isn’t a ton of offensive firepower – at least not when comparing that team to the like of the Falcons, Saints, Rams, Raiders and Chiefs. While the Bucs’ defense still gives me the most concern moving forward in the playoffs, Washington’s defense will be the difference between winning and losing.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and Rams DT Aaron Donald
Bucs QB Tom Brady and Rams DT Aaron Donald – Photo by: USA Today

Top to bottom, the Bucs are considerably more talented than Washington, but it’s not always about 53-man talent, instead it comes down to the match-ups, particularly in the trenches. The Bucs have struggled protecting quarterback Tom Brady with physical fronts (Saints, Bears, Rams, Chiefs), and I don’t always mean with just sacks. Brady loves – and thrives with – a clean pocket, and while the Rams didn’t sack Brady but one time, he was under duress for many of his drop backs and had to get rid of the ball sooner than the Bucs would have liked and that limited their explosive plays.

Washington’s Chase Young (7.5 sacks) and Montez Sweat (nine sacks) can get after the quarterback, and the entire front seven is a physical unit. Tampa Bay’s offensive line, especially offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs, will need to play one of its best games of the year if the Bucs plan on advancing.

Question: Have we jinxed ourselves with all the talk about wanting the NFC (L)east team? Everyone seems to think it’s an automatic win and I just see this as a huge opportunity for the Bucs to hurt us again.

Answer: Could the Bucs lose next Saturday night? You bet. But this isn’t the same Tampa Bay team of the last 12 years. Fans have to recondition their minds to stop assuming the worst will happen. This isn’t the same Bucs team that lost to the Giants in the playoffs in 2007 or even to the then-Redskins in 2005.

Washington QB Alex Smith
Washington QB Alex Smith – Photo by: USA Today

As far as an automatic win, there are really no such things. But there are teams that the Bucs are clearly are better than that they should beat, and this is one of them. The Washington Football Team was 7-9 for a reason. Washington also played in the worst division in the NFL and lost to the Lions and Panthers. Washington did have different guys under center in those games, and have played better with Alex Smith at the helm, but this is still a 7-9 football team for a reason.

As much as I respect Ron Rivera and all he has went through this season battling cancer, I still would rather have Bruce Arians on my sideline as the head coach with Tom Brady under center.

As I mentioned, the Buccaneers can’t chalk this up as a win and start looking ahead to the divisional round or their season will end on Saturday night. I don’t believe that happens. With this veteran coaching staff and the veteran players on this team, the players won’t be overlooking Washington. The key will be protecting Brady and giving him time. If the Bucs do that, then I don’t know that Washington has enough on offense to keep up with the Buccaneers no matter if Tampa Bay’s defense struggles.

Question: More important person to get back for Wild Card – Mike Evans or Devin White?

Bucs LB and S Jordan Whitehead
Bucs LB and S Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Answer: Devin White will not be able to play on Saturday due to the COVID-19 protocols that require a positive player to quarantine for 10 days. That just doesn’t give White enough time between his testing positive last to game day to meet the standard set forth by the NFL. Like you I am sure, I have seen different things from folks on Twitter claiming that if he has two negative tests or things along those lines he could play, and even White himself tweeted he would be ready for the playoffs. But from all we have gathered and the sources we have spoken to, unless there were to be a rule change, then White can not play.

Evans on the other hand could be ready, but that will be determined as the week goes on. I am not sure the staff wants to risk Mike Evans for this game, as they hope to advance deeper in the playoffs if they win on Saturday night. Of course the playoffs are a string of one-game seasons so teams don’t want to hold anything back and if Evans can go, it will be difficult to keep him from taking the field.

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