Byron Leftwich was once one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the NFL. After a career that did not go quite as well as he would have desired, Leftwich is back inside the game, this time as a coach.
It’s not a strange path for a former player, but as someone whose NFL dreams were cut short, the promise Leftwich shows as an assistant is an inspiration to anyone who has followed his career.
Byron Leftwich’s career
Leftwich got his start at Marshall, where he spent five years. After playing sporadically during his first two years, he became the starter as a sophomore. Leftwich had a storied career once he took the starting rains, throwing for nearly 12,000 yards and 89 touchdowns with only 28 interceptions mixed in. This was good enough to get him pegged as the 7th pick in the NFL draft.
Leftwich fell into the Jacksonville Jaguars’ lap after a defaulted pick by the Vikings. He was hoisted into the starting position after Mark Brunell was injured, and he kept that starting spot for the next three years. Leftwich showed a lot of promise during that time, although it was never quite enough to put him into the category many had predicted for him.
An injury in his fourth season effectively ended his career as a starter, and Leftwich would spend the rest of his career traveling around the NFL as a backup quarterback. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers on two separate occasions, but after Ben Roethlisberger went down in 2012, Leftwich would suffer from a broken rib that effectively ended his career.
NFL coach Byron Leftwich
After several years away from the NFL, Leftwich returned to the NFL as a coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals. After taking on the temporary role of helping the team’s quarterbacks in training camp, Leftwich worked with the team throughout the entire offseason. The coach, Bruce Arians, had previously coached Leftwich in Pittsburgh and was impressed with his handling of the offense.
In 2018, the Cardinals fired their offensive coordinator and gave the job to Leftwich, who would run the offense for the rest of the season. The stint was short-lived, as Leftwich was let go when head coach Steve Wilks was fired. This would open up the door for another opportunity to reunite with Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers (and beyond?)
Just days after Leftwich was fired, Arians brought him on in Tampa Bay as an offensive coordinator. There, he would work closely with Jameis Winston, a quarterback who has struggled to show the star potential that many saw in him in college. This was the first time Leftwich was able to come into a job such as this with an entire offseason to prepare, and he embraced the challenge.
When the Buccaneers outscored the Los Angeles Rams 55-40 early on in the season, Arians credited Leftwich with designing the schemes that allowed such an offensive explosion against the reigning NFC champions. Although this is just his first full year as an offensive coordinator, Leftwich’s work in Tampa already has people wondering if a head coaching job could be in his future.
Although the Buccaneers have struggled since that explosion, Leftwich’s coaching ability could land him into a position he never thought he’d be in. When his career ended in 2012, he has stated that he had no desire to coach until Arians called upon him in Arizona.
Now, as another generation of brand-new coaches begins to make a name for himself, look for Leftwich to take over a team in the near future, and when he does, a second chance at NFL glory will come with it.