In an NFL where African-Americans struggle to advance up the head coaching pipeline for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with their ability, former NFL QB Byron Leftwich is being fast-tracked to a plush head coaching gig thanks to the support of Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.
Arians is a man of integrity, who continues to build on his reputation for allowing his coaches to develop and his coaching staff to diversify.
AZCardinals QB coach Byron Leftwich to play the role of offensive coordinator against the #Raiders. https://t.co/Cp0jCIBBWm
African-American play callers and quarterback coaches are not common in the NFL. There are only six Black head coaches out of the 32 teams in the NFL and even less minority offensive coordinators. Opportunity seems to be the biggest impediment for most qualified coaches of color.
While most head coaches and general managers choose their staffs and allot opportunity based on comfortability, the Arizona Cardinals head coach seeks out raw, untapped talent and allows them opportunities to flourish.
Arians said Wednesday that quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich will call plays in Saturday’s game versus the Oakland Raiders.
Leftwich joined the Cardinals full-time in January after working as an intern last offseason. Arians was sweating Leftwichs technique all summer.
“He’ll be a head coach early and fast,” Arians said earlier this summer.
Saturday’s chance to call plays is the latest step in Leftwich’s quick rise up the head coaching candidate ranks.
Arians: QB coach Byron Leftwich will call plays against Raiders. Another step in prepping Leftwich for coaching future.
Leftwich isnt the only aspiring African-American head coach on Arians staff to get his feet wet with the coveted and critical task of play calling. Arians passed off play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin for last week’s Hall of Fame Game. Goodwin is considered by most to be the top-rated African-American head coaching candidate. He came close to nabbing a job this offseason as two African-Americans received first-time head coaching jobs (Anthony Lynn in San Diego and Vance Joseph in Denver).
Goodwin is primed to get one of the 32 coveted gigs in 2018. According to Arians, Leftwich wont be too far behind.
Leftwich played in Arians’ offense for two years while the two were in Pittsburgh, so Arians has a solid history with Leftwich, which is important for any African-American coach looking to ascend up the ranks. He needs a cosign by a respected and influential superior.
Starting quarterback Carson Palmer also believes in Leftwichs intuitiveness, intelligence and comprehension of the games technical aspects.
“I’ve been around long enough to know I need it, I need coaching, tips and help and pointers,” Palmer said, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website. “I know when someone knows it and they don’t, and he knows it. I don’t care if he’s five years younger or 15 years older, he knows what he is talking about. And he played in the same exact system and he played for B.A., so there are a lot of positives with him.”
Saturday will be just another exhibition game for most NFL fans. But if you dig deeper, Leftwich’s shot at play calling will be very important as far as his prospects go for assuming a head coaching job in the future.
And he’s another one of the increasing number of Black head coaching candidates that are getting an opportunity to show and grow their talents as team builders and leaders.