Bucs to Hire Turnover-Free Coach: Report

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles could boost the running game with the Buccaneers' latest hire.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could get a big boost to the running game in 2023 with the hiring of Skip Peete.

NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported that Peete told her of the hire. Peete recently served as the Dallas Cowboys running backs coach, and his position group shined on the field in 2022 with big yards, scoring, and no fumbles. Peete also gets credited for Tony Pollard‘s development, Slater noted.

Pollard had a breakout season with 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns on 193 carries. He also garnered 39 receptions for 371 yards and three touchdowns.

Dallas had a tough trio with Pollard, Ezekiel Elliott, and Malik Davis. Elliott ran for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Davis stepped up when called upon with 4.2 yards per carry for 161 yards and a touchdown on 38 rushes.

Overall, the Cowboys finished second in the league with 24 rushing touchdowns. Dallas also finished eighth in rushing yards overall and ninth for runs of 20 yards or more. The only two Cowboys rushing fumbles all season came from quarterback Dak Prescott.

Peete could turn around a dormant Bucs running game next. The Bucs finished last in three major rushing categories in 2022: total yards, average yards per attempt, and touchdowns. Leonard Fournette lost his starting job amid a subpar season, and Rachaad White had bright moments as a rookie, but it didn’t shift the momentum of the Bucs’ inept rushing attack.

Fielding a strong running attack in Dallas wasn’t a one-year wonder for Peete. He started coaching NFL running backs in 1998, and it included stints with the then-Oakland Raiders followed by Cowboys (the first time), Chicago Bears, and Los Angeles Rams along the way. He has coached the likes of Todd Gurley, Matt Forte, Napoleon Kaufman, LaMont Jordan, and the late Marion Barber III.

Peete’s arrival comes amid the latest of offensive coaching hires by the Bucs. Tampa Bay fired offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and multiple offensive staff members, including running backs coach Todd McNair, after the season. The Bucs notably hired Dave Canales as the new offensive coordinator and Brad Idzik as the new wide receivers coach thus far.

Peete is the brother of former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete.

Fournette a Likely Cap Casualty

Tampa Bay will likely move on from Fournette this offseason and look elsewhere for a top running back.

Fournette rushed for just 668 yards and three touchdowns on 189 carries in 16 games. He also will cost the Bucs $8.47 million in 2023 amid a dire salary cap situation of $55.5 million over the cap.

Both ESPN’s Jenna Laine and the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud have identified Fournette as a likely cut. The Bucs will save $5.47 million with Fournette’s release, per Spotrac.

Fournette’s time with the Bucs took off late in the 2020 season when he dominated in the playoffs. He then took hold of the top running back job in 2021 with 812 yards and eight touchdowns plus a solid playoff campaign. His 2022 season never amounted to either after a promising 127-yard performance in Week 1.

Bucs Have Other Unknowns at RB

Besides Fournette, the Bucs must decide on running backs Giovani Bernard and Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

Bernard will become a free agent, and he contributed minimally in 2022 with eight carries for 28 yards plus two receptions for -1 yards. Vaughn showed promise in 2021, but he took a step back in 2022 with just 53 yards on 17 carries plus three catches for 19 yards. While Vaughn will only cost $1,46 million in 2023, his most recent season begs the question if the cap-strapped Bucs should keep him.