Bruce Arians Says Byron Leftwich Controls The Bucs’ Offense | Tom Brady Is Crushing, So Why Isn’t Leftwich A Leading Candidate For Next NFL Head Coaching Vacancy?

Photo: Twitter/TB Times

In case you didn’t know, the genius behind Tom Brady’s incredible season and the potency of the Tampa Bay Bucs’ offense the past few seasons is offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, one of two Black offensive coordinators in the NFL, along with Kansas City offensive guru Eric Bieniemy.

The average football fan doesn’t understand the complexity of the relationship between the head coach and offensive coordinator. The coordinator is often a more influential force, executing the day-to-day details that make Sundays a walk in the park for some head coaches. The OC designs the game plan, creates the plays, suggests when they should be used and works most closely with the quarterback.

Over the past two decades, the quickest way for a coach to ascend up the NFL pipeline and secure a head coaching job was to be a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator either at the college or pro level. Most of these jobs were reserved for white men.

READ MORE:  In The NFL, Offensive Playcalling Is a White Man’s Job 

This hasn’t always applied to Black OCs. For some reason, the talents of these coordinators aren’t as respected and the narrative is always being massaged to make sure these brothers don’t get the respect they deserve.

Take Leftwich for instance.

Leftwich Calls Bucs Offense, Ranked 6th Among Playcallers

Bruce Arians recently mentioned that he doesn’t attend meetings and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich runs the Bucs’ second-ranked NFL offense from top to bottom.

Leftwich also makes all the play calls on game day unless Arians steps in, which is very rare based on Arians’ comments. When asked about the offense, Arians said he gets too much credit for it.

“I get way too much credit for the offense, I mean offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich runs this offense from top to bottom and doesn’t get enough credit for it.”

The Buccaneers offense has thrived the past two seasons. With Jameis Winston (2019) and Leftwich dialing up the plays, the Bucs finished third in offense in 2019, despite Winston tossing an NFL-record 30 interceptions.

He did lead the league in passing yards, throwing for more than 5,000. When Tom Brady arrived, Leftwich adjusted his wide-open philosophy and added the running backs and tight ends into his offense. This move paid huge dividends in helping the Bucs win the Super Bowl.

Following those two impressive seasons, Arians thought he should’ve received some interviews to be a head coach.

“I was very very pissed Byron didn’t at least get a single head coaching interview this year. Arians mentioned on Super Bowl week opening night. For the job that he’s done — I get too much credit and so does Tom Brady.”

Brady currently leads the NFL in TD passes (25) and passing yardage (2,650) through 8 games in his age 44 season. He’s seemed to have gotten better under Leftwich.


Leftwich Is Ready To Lead His Own Franchise

Justin Fields Needs Byron Leftwich

Currently sitting at (6-2) and in first place in the NFC South, the offense has carried the Bucs.

When you look around the league at possible destinations for Leftwich, the Chicago Bears jump off the map.

Leftwich should be the perfect choice for a young talented quarterback (Justin Fields) needing some tutelage and a creative coach. 

Adding Leftwich would bring instant credibility. We’re talking about a guy who took Tom Brady from a 20-year system and created a brand new offense to accomodate what Brady does well at his advanced age. 

The reason why Leftwich has earned the opportunity to display his deft playcalling for the defending world champions begins with Bruce Arians.

Bruce Arians & His “Benetton Bunch” Coaching Staff

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has always promoted diversity within his coaching staff. 

Arians has one of the most diverse staffs you’ll see in any sport. He’s hired women and minorities, with a focus on making players better. 

RELATED: Tampa Bay Becomes First NFL Team With Two Women On Its Coaching Staff 

Arians even addressed the diversity of his staff prior to the Super Bowl last February, when most of the world was just realizing that Arians is the only head coach in history with three Black coordinators. 

Leftwich, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong had their units executing at a Super Bowl level. The Bucs’ impressive Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs was also the first time a coaching staff consisting of three Black coordinators won a Super Bowl. 

In the NFL, where the leadership hiring process is still systemic in nature, Arians works directly in opposition to the accepted prejudices in the hiring process and he’s become a champion because of his openmindedness.  

When asked about his unique staff, Arians responded in a press conference:  

“A player is going to ask a coach: how are you gonna make me better? I really don’t care if the answer comes from a male, a female, Black, white, brown, who? Just help me be better.
“The best school teachers I ever had were all different races, all different ethnic groups, male and female. So if you can teach, you can coach. As far as the women, it was time. It was time for that door to be knocked down, and allow them in, because they’ve been putting in the time, they’re very qualified. The ones that we have are overly qualified. As far as race, that was not by design, those are the best coaches I know.
“But to hear voices in a staff meeting that are not the same, don’t look alike, but they all have input, you get better output. For the players the same thing. 
“Not hearing the same thing over and over, to hear from different people, from different ages, from ages 27 to 82 and every kind of ethic group possible there is, and male and female. I know our players learn from that, I know I do, and so done our staff.”

NFL Still Slow On Black Leadership 

In a league where 70 percent of the players are Black, it’s rare to see Black men leading them. The numbers say the league’s predominantly old and white ownership hasn’t progressed to that level of open-mindeness yet.

The NFL had a high of eight Black head coaches in 2018. As tensions in the country worsened and the names Colin Kaepernick and George Floyd became triggers for a racial reckoning that agitated an already adversarial relationship between the owners and the players, Black head coaches dropped like flies. 

When the smoke cleared, Black football fans were left with just three to start the 2021 season in the 32-team NFL (Brian Flores, David Culley, Mike Tomlin). 

Ranking Black NFL Head Coaches To Start 2021 Season

To say, most of these Black coaches were working under tremendous pressure and with a short leash is an understatement. 

Black NFL Head Coaches Still Victims Of A Short Leash

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It’s time for Leftwich and Bieniemy to man an NFL sideline in the top position, something both have proved they’re more than ready to do. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.