Perhaps no entity in all of football media has as much information from which to draw conclusions as Pro Football Focus. This comes in handy for more ambiguous rankings such as tiering offensive and defensive coordinators, where an anecdotal conclusion can be reached if the process isn’t robust. PFF recently published their annual top six offensive and defensive play callers lists, drawing from a plethora of info to rank Bucs OC Byron Leftwich and DC Todd Bowles.
Bucs OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Leftwich ranked sixth amongst all offensive play callers, while Bowles came in fifth on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a far cry from where many saw Leftwich heading into the 2020 season, when PFF understandably did not rank him. Head coach Bruce Arians has been outspoken about how much the Bucs offense became Leftwich’s this season, saying that he and Tom Brady get too much credit and Leftwich doesn’t get enough.
Just 41 years old, Leftwich is still one of the youngest play callers in the NFL. The Bucs offense transformed after the bye week, throwing more on early downs and leaning more heavily on play-action for success in the passing game. Leftwich also showed off a creative side that Arians hasn’t, working in some wide receiver runs, more creative perimeter screens and even a few trick plays.
As for Bowles, he actually topped PFF’s list in 2019, despite the Bucs defense not being among the top statistical units that season. But over the second half of the 2019 campaign, Bowles impact was felt across the group. Tampa Bay’s young secondary began to play impressive football, linebacker Devin White started to flash and edge defender Shaq Barrett led the league in sacks.
It was clear that the unit was heading in the right direction entering the 2020 season, but the Bucs defense still struggled. During the regular season Bowles’ scheme grew stagnant, and was shredded in a few key games. In the playoffs, however, Bowles transformed as a coach, playing more press-man and two-high safeties than anyone could have foreseen given his career-long tendencies. The result was three dominant wins in the final three rounds of the playoffs, culminating in a 31-9 beatdown of the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
Arians did not make PFF’s cut of the top seven head coaches in the NFL.