“As a collective group, we did not meet the high standards that had been set for this past year and my focus now is on doing what is needed to ensure a successful 2023 season,” Bowles added. "These were very difficult decisions, but something that I felt was necessary for our football team going forward.”
The Bucs went 8-9 during the regular season, but nevertheless held off the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons to repeat as NFC South champions. They became only the fourth team in league history to make the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike season.
Brady's contract expires this winter, and the 45-year-old quarterback hasn't given any indication if he plans to retire, return to the Bucs for a fourth season, or possibly move on to another team.
It's not known how the decision to fire Leftwich might impact Brady's plans.
Bowles was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach when Bruce Arians announced his surprise retirement last March. He inherited the former coach’s entire staff, including Leftwich, who — like Bowles — joined Tampa Bay as assistants in 2019.
Jameis Winston threw for more than 5,000 yards in Leftwich’s first year as Bucs offensive coordinator, however the 2015 No. 1 overall pick also led the league in interceptions and was allowed to leave in free agency.
Enter Brady, who signed with Tampa Bay in 2020 after a historic 20-year run with the New England Patriots and has led the Bucs to three straight playoff berths, including back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history.
Arians entrusted Leftwich to work with the five-time Super Bowl MVP to meld components of Arians' “no risk it, no biscuit” offense with elements of the system Brady ran with the Patriots.
The results were impressive until this season, when the Bucs had the league's second-ranked passing attack at 269.8 yards, but finished 32nd in rushing (76.9) and 25th in scoring (18.4 points per game) after averaging more than 30 points the previous two years.
Brady led the league in passing yards (5,316) and touchdown passes (43) in 2021, when Tampa Bay set a team record for regular-season victories (13). He was third in passing yards this season with 4,694 but only had 25 TD passes as the offense struggled to sustain drives and get the ball into the end zone.
Meanwhile, Leftwich has gone from being interviewed for several head coaching vacancies a year ago to out of a job.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.
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