A close look at new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.
Former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich was chosen as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ newest offensive coordinator by Bruce Arians.
2019 will be Leftwich’s first full season of his coaching career spent as an NFL coordinator. He spent the previous two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals as their quarterbacks coach after he was a coaching intern with the team in 2016.
What Leftwich lacks in coaching experience, he makes up for with playing experience and familiarity within the coaching staff.
One can imagine that Leftwich will be able to relate to the players because it was not long ago that he was in their position. Leftwich last took an NFL snap in November 2012 while starting for an injured Ben Roethlisberger. The game has undergone some changes since then, but overall it is still similar to the one Leftwich last saw firsthand six years ago.
Leftwich did not have a successful career considering he was the seventh overall selection in the 2003 NFL Draft. Over the course of a 10-year career, he threw for 10,532 yards, 58 touchdowns, and 42 interceptions, with most of his time being spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His career was plagued by injuries, quarterback controversies, and lackluster technique — he was often criticized for his long windup when releasing the ball, contributing to a poor completion percentage that was south of 58 percent when he ended his career.
While Leftwich did not live up to his expectations as a first-round selection, it seemed as though he had respect as soon as he came into the league. For those who remember him at Marshall, they can almost certainly remember the image of him being carried by two of his offensive linemen down the field while orchestrating drives late in the game with a broken leg. To this day, that moment in Leftwich’s playing career is still eluded to when people talk about the gutsiest performances in all levels of football. In a game that is often defined in moments, that can command a lot of respect with players who think highly of their coaches for their individual playing experience.
Leftwich’s experience as both a player and coach under Arians can only help his case. Leftwich was the Steelers’ backup quarterback in 2008 and again in 2010 through 2012. Arians’ tenure as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator overlapped in all but Leftwich’s last season with the team.
Leftwich’s first two years of NFL coaching experience came under Arians in Arizona. Leftwich is familiar with the perspectives of Arians as both a player and coach. This should help Leftwich communicate Arians’ message to the offense smoothly and effectively.
Arians has already disclosed that he has complete faith in Leftwich’s ability to guide and direct an NFL offense despite his lack of coaching experience. Arians has been quoted as calling Leftwich a “rising star” among the NFL’s young coaching talent. Coach Arians has also stated that he would not give play-calling duties to just anyone, which is another reigning endorsement for the young offensive coordinator.
Leftwich will have the great responsibility of getting the most out of Jameis Winston and calling plays that put him in the best situations to succeed. Winston is entering what is arguably his most crucial season as a starting quarterback in the NFL, as he will have to prove himself to be the franchise’s future and the quarterback that will enable Arians’s tenure in Tampa Bay to be a successful one.
Leftwich has some of the NFL’s best skill position players at his disposal in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard, among others. This group of young players should make Leftwich’s job much easier than his first stint as an NFL offensive coordinator last season when he was hampered with a Cardinals offense that had a poor combination of overall youth and talent. Leftwich will also have the luxury of an entire offseason as an offensive coordinator, a role that came with the interim tag in Arizona after taking over duties in the middle of the season.
Leftwich should be the right choice for Tampa Bay’s next offensive coordinator if Arians’ assessment of his coaching abilities is correct. Leftwich has many things in his favor that, in theory, should make up for his lack of experience as an NFL coach.
The NFL is a results-driven business, and if Leftwich’s offense produces and it results in victories, then he was definitely the right choice for offensive coordinator.