Change has come for Tampa Bay.
Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles is ready to face it, and in some cases he believes transitions made this offseason will lead to greater success.
From a move at the offensive coordinator position to the upcoming quarterback battle between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask in the wake of Tom Brady's retirement, Bowles made clear his continued expectations of greatness to NFL Network's Judy Battista at the Annual League Meeting.
"When you replace a player of that magnitude, first of all, you don't replace him," Bowles said Sunday about Brady's departure. "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."
Even as the Buccaneers underperformed in Brady's final year, squeaking into the playoffs at 8-9 and getting bounced by Dallas on Super Wild Card Weekend, the quarterback's three-year tenure was unquestionably one of the franchise's finest runs.
The Bucs captured their second-ever Super Bowl in 2020 and strung together three straight postseason trips for the first since 1999-2002. That means little considering Brady, who threw for 14,643 yards and 108 touchdowns with the club, is now gone, but by no means is the cupboard bare.
Having signed Mayfield during the first wave of free agency and with Trask, unproven but trusted, as an in-house candidate, Bowles is comfortable with the way forward.
"I liked Baker when he was coming out," Bowles said about the decision to pursue the former No. 1 overall pick. "We kind of hit it off when I was with the Jets. I went down to Oklahoma 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 Trask, I have no doubt that one of them will come out and be successful."
But while the QB change may seem most foreboding on the surface, the entire offense is set to be retooled. Tampa Bay's 2022 unit plummeted to 25th in scoring after three consecutive seasons of top-three production. And the running game was abysmal -- the Buccaneers lagged behind all other teams with 1,308 yards on the season (76.9 per game).
This led to Byron Leftwich's dismissal and the hiring of former Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales as the new OC, among other changes such as releasing playoff hero Leonard Fournette.
"We didn't score enough points and we didn't run it well, and at times we didn't throw it well," Bowles told Battista. "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."
As those production-driven changes take shape for Tampa Bay and the rest of the NFC South engage in their own game of musical chairs at QB, Bowles still plans to measure success the same way Buccaneers faithful did when TB12 was steering the ship.
"The goal hasn't changed," he said. "Success is obviously winning the division first and doing damage in the playoffs and trying to win a Super Bowl."