Whenever a company employee receives a promotion over someone else, there's usually reason for tension. In many cases, the person being passed over believes they were shortchanged. And then the situation often creates additional controversy, which can lead to further dysfunction. For Tampa Bay
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, not being promoted after Bruce Arians' retirement is an organizational decision that could haunt them.
There's a reason why Super Bowl 56 featured a pair of offensive-minded head coaches that were cut from the same cloth. Zac Taylor is an apple off of Sean McVay's coaching tree -- and in today's scoring-driven league, the prototype teams commonly seek out when picking their next leader. Leftwich was a hot commodity in coaching musical chairs this offseason, but he was left without a seat when the music stopped playing, for several reasons. The 42-year-old came quite close to being hired by his former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, before reports indicated his unwillingness to work with GM Trent Baalke.
If NFL teams have learned anything from previous occasions where a power struggle transpired between a franchise quarterback, coach, and front office, it's that the player can, and should, get his way. In 2020, Ben Roethlisberger effectively forced Randy Fichtner out as the Pittsburgh Steelers' coordinator, in favor of quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, which is representative of other times similar moves have happened.
The myriad of dysfunction taking place within NFL organizations has come to light over the past few months. First, it was the Miami Dolphins' firing of Brian Flores, which was followed by serious allegations of racism. Then it was the Washington Commanders' scandal bubbling to the surface yet again. The NFL has looked slimier and sleazier by the month, and appears in massive need of corporate overhaul.
The bottom line is, pro sports teams and leagues aren't that different from the corporations, in which white-collar employees button up their shirts and push pencils around in the week. Management has favorites, unfairness transpires regularly, and the employees often go through the same range of emotions as people working anywhere else.
As one of the league's biggest up-and-comers, Leftwich has to feel snubbed. Maybe Donald Duck could be trained to be Tom Brady's offensive coordinator, but Leftwich has done an excellent job managing and getting along with the legendary quarterback at this stage in his career. He's taken some of the load off with a healthy mix of runs and short passes, and done an exceptional job calling plays and designing gameplans.
Bowles deserves a second chance as a head coach, after reinventing himself with the Buccaneers. But it should've been somewhere else -- offensive guys have proven to be perfect at running teams. In that sense, Leftwich must feel like the employee who consistently came in early and stayed late at the office, only to be passed over for a promotion in favor of someone who bowed out early for cocktail hour and showed up an hour late everyday.
Aside from having zero head coaching experience, there were no other major drawbacks of giving him the nod. Of course, history involving the promotion of innovative, offensive-oriented guys is mixed. In Cleveland, ownership rode the hot hand of Freddie Kitchens through the back end of 2018 and promoted him to head coach for 2019. Kitchens was a one-and-done, took a demotion two steps down -- becoming the New York Giants tight ends coach in 2020 -- and Baker Mayfield has never returned to the same level of prominence we saw during that stretch.
But he was clearly in over his head, and hiring another first-time head coach in Kevin Stefanski yielded more favorable results. The NFL is trending toward rolling the dice on first-time, offensive-minded head coaches. And in that line of thought, Leftwich was the flashier option. For the 2022 campaign, he'll be back calling Tampa Bay's plays. Giving Bowles a massive five-year extension increases the likelihood that Leftwich eventually departs for a job elsewhere, and there's no telling if the next guy meshes as well with the team.
As far as the dilemma of which guy they'd rather lose, retaining the offensive coordinator who pleased the quarterback and had the offense clicking on all cylinders was more beneficial than prioritizing prior experience. Yes, Bowles is a great defensive mind. But in New York, as the Jets' leader, he struggled to control the locker room and keep guys dialed-in on a weekly basis.
By picking Bowles instead of Leftwich, the Buccaneers are risking disrupting the team chemistry and flow that had them poised to be a powerhouse over the next couple of seasons. If this decision ends up backfiring, Brady could be compelled to take his final victory lap further south in Miami, rather than remaining in Tampa.
Jack Stern is a columnist and an associate producer for CBS Sports Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @J_Stern97.