New head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bruce Arians, recently named Byron Leftwich as the offensive play-caller heading into the 2019 season. At only 38 years old, it doesn't feel that far removed from Leftwich's playing days as he last saw action under center in 2012 with the Steelers.
Byron Leftwich: The Player
After a stellar college career at Marshall that saw him post nearly 12,000 yards through the air to go with 89 touchdowns, Leftwich was taken 7th overall in 2003 by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Leftwich led the middling Jaguars to winning seasons in 2004 and 2005 and posted the most efficient year of his career during the 2005 campaign. After leaving the Jaguars following the 2006 season, Leftwich bounced from team to team (even finding himself quarterbacking the Bucs at one point) before retiring after the 2012 season.
Never known as a quarterback with outstanding physical tools, Leftwich was forced to rely on his football IQ and superior knowledge to outplay opponents. His lack of arm strength and mobility eventually led to his downfall as an NFL quarterback, but have seemingly propelled him up the coaching ranks at a meteoric rate.
Byron Leftwich: The Coach
Arians has long had an affinity for Leftwich, going as far to say he feels Leftwich is "future head coach" material. Since Arians gave Leftwich his start with the Cardinals in 2016, each season saw him take on considerably more responsibility.
Starting out as a coaching intern, Leftwich made the jump to quarterbacks coach in 2017 before taking on the role of offensive coordinator with the Cardinals mid-way through the 2018 season.
Although the Cardinals did not boast an efficient offense last season, that can hardly be attributed to Leftwich's play-calling. At the time of his promotion, the Cardinals were 1-6 and running out a rookie quarterback (who clearly needed a bit more time to develop) behind a porous offensive line. Leftwich was set up by the Cardinals for failure.
Moreover, as talented a coach as Leftwich may be, he only started coaching in 2016 and had less than three full seasons under his belt when he took on the offensive coordinator role. Leftwich has shown the capacity to learn extremely quickly and has clearly carried over his high football IQ from his playing days.
Although Leftwich struggled in his first go-round as offensive coordinator, Steve Wilkes was not a good head coach and the team had long quit on the season by the time Leftwich took over. With the move to the Bucs, Leftwich inherits one of the deadliest receiving corps in the NFL along with a massive upgrade in terms of his head coach.
Time is the only thing that will tell if Leftwich is the right man for the job, but the fact remains that there is genuine excitement in Tampa over his hiring. With such a star-studded coaching staff, expectations in Tampa are sky-high for a team that limped to a 5-11 finish last season.Published 11 Jan 2019, 10:18 IST