The Byron Leftwich offensive coaching era at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization is officially over. The offensive coordinator was part of a more extensive overhaul that included eight other coaches let go from the staff on Thursday. The decision was a hard reality in a business that only values winning, especially a winning season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not have that this year with an 8-9 season. The team still became the Divisional leader in the NFC South, but for an offensive coordinator, the value is in more wins than losses because he’s responsible for outscoring the other team. However, after four seasons as the team’s offensive play strategist, technically, it is his first losing full season. Leftwich joined the team at the behest of his mentor and then-Buccaneers head coach, Bruce Arians, whom he affectionately calls “B.A.,” in January 2019.
Leftwich is shouldering the blame for the team’s struggles, leading an offense that finished 25th in points per game. But doesn’t firing Leftwich seem hasty considering the unit he led ranked in the top three in scoring in each of the previous three years, both with Tom Brady and Jameis Winston at quarterback? That’s why he was supposedly one of the hottest head coaching candidates.
NFL reports said the 43-year-old was close to finalizing a deal to become the Jaguars head coach last offseason, but the position went to Doug Pederson.
Leftwich would have had the opportunity to work with a No. 1 overall draft pick in Trevor Lawrence, who is two decades younger than the immobile and limited Tom Brady. Instead, he was saddled with an aging Brady, whose age handcuffed the innovative and offensively aggressive play-caller.
Unc Shannon sharpe went off on Tom Brady & said he’s responsible for OC Byron Leftwich being fired pic.twitter.com/Cce974s97K
— Shannonnn sharpes Burner (PARODY Account) (@shannonsharpeee) January 19, 2023
Bruce Arians Put Byron Leftwich On
Arians and Leftwich were a package deal upon arrival in Tampa. As Arians said in the past, having Leftwich join was a significant reason why he decided to unretire and go to the Buccaneers. The two won Super Bowl XLIII while Arians was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Leftwich was a backup quarterback in 2008. He brought Leftwich to the Arizona Cardinals and then again to the Bucs.
Even though the two won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay in 2021 with Tom Brady as the gunslinger, the following year was an overhaul. Arians retired from coaching again, and Todd Bowles was elevated to the head coaching slot in late March, with Leftwich retaining his offensive coordinator spot in the post-AB era.
That might be one of the actual issues, as Bowles is now able to handpick his staffers. Leftwich is an Arians guy, and the two have so much history that it might have affected the way Bowles can relate to his offensive coordinator.
Plus, Arians already let us know that he thinks Brady gets too much of the credit and not enough of the blame.
Who Is Byron Leftwich?
Leftwich is a Cinderella story. From his start at the QB position with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who picked him in the 2003 draft, to the Falcons and eventually being a backup quarterback in the early Ben Roethlisberger era, he is an unsung hero. From Washington, D.C., he made it to the NFL as a player and offensive coordinator.
Many, including Arians, were perplexed why he hadn’t been offered a head coaching position yet. He helped turn Tom Brady’s transition from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a fairytale, winning a Super Bowl in his first year with the team. After that win Brady’s personal life took a turn, and football followed. Since Brady is a blue chip for any team, there is no way that he would be labeled the problem, even at 45 years old amid a season where he got divorced and lost massively in crypto from the FTX collapse.
The thing about Byron Leftwich is, if he was a white coach, he would already snagged a top job when he was hot a year ago and allowed grace. The sport is unforgiving for Black coaches
— 𝐄𝐱𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐨𝐩𝐞 (@exavierpope) January 17, 2023
Leftwich, the most high-profile coaching hire released on Thursday, looks like the fall guy. Although he will most likely get picked up by another team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Leftwich’s term in Tampa Bay was nothing short of extraordinary, from the tools like Brady that he acquired to the trophy he helped bring to the Florida franchise.