When Todd Bowles became the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach to replace Bruce Arians in March, the narrative of few Black head coaches in the NFL resurfaced.
Bowles doesn’t want to dwell on it as the Bucs get ready for a Week 6 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, coached by Mike Tomlin, who has been one of the few Black coaches in the league for years. Bowles acknowledged his friendship with Tomlin but emphasized that it doesn’t have to do with race.
“I have a very good relationship with Tomlin. We don’t look at what color we are when we coach against each other. We just know each other,” Bowles told the media. “We just have a lot of very good white friends that coach in this league as well.”
“And I don’t think it’s a big deal as far as us being coaching against each other,” Bowles added. “I think it’s normal. We coach ball. We don’t look at color.”
Then, Bowles got more blunt amid a reporter’s follow-up question regarding “representation” for minorities during the press conference.
“When you say, ‘see you guys and look like them and grew up like them’, [it] means that we’re odd balls to begin with,” Bowles said. “And I think the minute you guys start [to] stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well.”
Bowles also didn’t dwell on recently-hired Carolina Panthers head coach Steve Wilks being Black. Wilks took over for Matt Rhule after a dismal 1-4 start.
“Wilks got an opportunity to do a good job, and hopefully he does it,” Bowles said.
Bowles Expects a Challenge in Steelers Rookie QB
While the Bucs defense bounced back in Week 5 overall after allowing 41 points the week before, Bowles anticipates a challenge from the Steelers offense. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for 327 yards and completed 65.4% of his passes amid only one interception in his first career start in Week 4.
“He’s a very heady football player. He knows where his check downs are,” Bowles said. “He has a very good arm.”
Bowles added the Pickett does well at “reading defenses” and “going to the outside or the inside”. Pickett can also “get out of the pocket and run pretty good if he has to”, Bowles noted.
“Looks like he’s got a good command of the offense,” Bowles concluded. “So, we expect him to play well [against us].”
Pickett also has the benefit of solid receivers in veteran Chase Claypool and rookie George Pickens, who has emerged as a go-to play in five games. Pickens has 12 catches and 185 yards in the past two games.
“He’s a physical receiver. You know, they have two of them —Chase Claypool as well. So, he’s going to jump, try to make great catches with, which he has shown week in and week out,” Bowles said of Pickens. “He’s going to be a handful to deal with.”
Ryan Jensen Timetable Still Unknown, Bowles Says
Bucs Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, who injured his knee at training camp, could still return this season, but Bowles said it won’t be soon.
“I’m sure the swelling went down some but no more update than the last time,” Bowles said.
Jensen went on injured reserve and could return in time for the playoffs. Second-year lineman Robert Hainsey has held down the fort at center through five games though rumors persist that the Bucs could look elsewhere such as free agent center J.C. Tretter.