TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians may be the “quarterback whisperer” and the one charged with the duty of getting essentially the most out of Jameis Winston.
However curiously, he is not in Winston’s quarterback assembly rooms and will not be calling performs on Sundays. As a substitute, these duties will fall on the shoulders of Byron Leftwich, who has gone from intern to offensive coordinator in solely three years.
“I have been coaching guys for this job. I at all times stated I might by no means quit [playcalling] and look over anyone’s shoulder till I discovered one I knew may do it,” Arians stated when he was first employed by the Bucs.
“I feel he is a rising star on this enterprise.”
‘He is greater than prepared’
After enjoying 10 seasons within the NFL with 4 groups, Leftwich, 39, wished to get away from soccer. The seventh total choose within the 2003 draft wished extra time together with his household and to domesticate different passions.
However Arians’ unrelenting cellphone calls have been an excessive amount of. He’d been making an attempt to lure the previous quarterback into teaching for years after Leftwich served as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup once they have been with the Pittsburgh Steelers, growing the sort of relationship wherein Leftwich may inform what Arians was considering and the performs he’d name subsequent. Leftwich took particular observe of the way in which he dealt with quarterbacks.
“He stubborn me out someday and I wasn’t even enjoying,” Leftwich stated, chuckling. “I knew it was for Ben. It was not the time to say that to Ben; it was to say it to me in order that I may relay it to Ben in a while — two, three performs later.”
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Leftwich’s retirement trip did not final lengthy. He could not stroll by a tv with out getting sucked proper again into soccer. He grew to become an intern with the Arizona Cardinals below Arians in 2016, and quarterbacks coach in 2017 and 2018. He was promoted to offensive coordinator when Mike McCoy was fired after Week 7 final season. Arians watched from afar, working as a TV analyst.
“What he did with the interim title on the market [in Arizona in 2018] — it wasn’t even his offense, it was Mike McCoy’s offense — and he did a heck of a job with some rookies. He is greater than prepared,” Arians stated.
The numbers weren’t staggering, however the Cardinals confirmed some enchancment on Leftwich’s watch. They went from averaging 220.7 yards and 11.four offensive factors in Weeks 1-7 to 257.Eight yards and 13.89 factors in Weeks 8-17.
Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen referred to as Leftwich a “steadying pressure.” Operating again David Johnson went from averaging 71.6 scrimmage yards to 98.3.
“The best factor that ever occurred to me final yr [in Arizona] was the final two months of final yr, simply being in that state of affairs,” stated Leftwich, who noticed his roster decimated by accidents, significantly alongside the offensive line.
“Generally, we had seven or eight rookies within the huddle. I do not suppose we had 4 draft picks. These sort of issues, issues that I realized that I used to be by no means in a position to expertise in my early years of teaching, I obtained that chance to expertise these issues and I feel I grew to become a greater coach from that.”
‘I simply want honesty’
In Arizona, gamers praised Leftwich, who instilled confidence.
“His demeanor and mindset exuded confidence that was infectious. He may relate to everybody within the room and he commanded respect proper off the bat,” stated Cleveland Browns backup quarterback Drew Stanton, who was coached by Leftwich in Arizona in 2016 and 2017.
He continuously sought their enter, too. Bucs quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen says he believes it will assist him with Tampa Bay.
“I at all times begin with humility,” Christensen stated. “Individuals reply to humility and other people reply to educating. Generally you get a misunderstanding in teaching that, ‘I’ve gotta set my turf’ or ‘I am a troublesome man’ or ‘That is my present.’
“I have been impressed with him that it is not that. It is ‘us,’ it is ‘crew,’ it is ‘orchestrator.’ You’ve got obtained all of your devices on the market and you’ve got simply gotta carry ’em collectively. You do not have to play any of ’em. You’ve got simply gotta carry ’em collectively and ensure it sounds good, that the concord’s proper.”
Assistant head coach/run sport coordinator Harold Goodwin added: “He takes enter from all people. He is not making an attempt to be egocentric. It would not must be his approach. I feel that is gonna make him an amazing coach on this league in terms of calling performs.”
Leftwich’s first order of enterprise when he was employed? Creating an open, trustworthy relationship with Winston and conveying his perception in him.
“I feel it’s important to be linked on the hip,” stated Leftwich, who’s answerable for the psychological a part of the sport whereas Christensen focuses on mechanics. It is these two within the quarterback assembly rooms, together with longtime NFL assistant Tom Moore, who observes and relays every thing to Arians, who purposely stays out to keep away from Winston “listening to too many voices.”
“The very first thing I informed Jameis is, ‘I simply want honesty. I do not care what the reply is, simply give me honesty,’ as a result of as soon as I understand how he is winding and the way he thinks, I can start to name performs for him,” Leftwich stated.
“It is laborious to essentially talk and speak to folks you do not know. So, we have been constructing from the day I have been in right here. Jameis and I are constructing a friendship additionally, like I am doing with the remainder of these gamers, we’re constructing friendships with these guys as a result of that is what you in the end need. Household — all people preaches household across the league, however that is what it means.”
Mentioned Stanton: “That is the one solution to develop. There’s gotta be belief constructed up.”
‘There’s lots of methods you will get the job achieved’
A giant benefit for Leftwich may very well be Winston’s enjoying fashion, which has similarities to Roethlisberger. Each thrive on making essentially the most out of broken-down performs made outdoors the pocket and lots of improvisation.
“I used to be an ‘X’s and O’s’ man. I used to be a man that was by no means leaving the pocket,” stated Leftwich, who was 24-26 as an NFL starter, with all of these wins coming with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003 to 2006. “However going there and slowing down and being a backup, it allowed me to see the way in which that I performed the sport and the way in which he performed the sport, and see that there is a entire lot of various methods you will get the job achieved.
“That in itself made me a totally higher coach, a totally higher participant, simply being round a man with that distinctive talent set and seeing the performs that he would make every day, to know you are able to do this factor in lots of alternative ways when you perceive of what your quarterback can and can’t do.”
They’re nonetheless within the studying levels, each of their communication and in Winston greedy the offense. As an example, throughout one of many last OTA practices, Winston was scrambling outdoors the pocket and the clock expired.
“We could not kill it. There’s these little issues that you simply’re studying day-after-day and constructing belief on,” Arians stated. “That is one thing that grows in time.”
Leftwich can be working with Winston about effectivity and making the very best use of his time. Winston has been within the Bucs’ headquarters from 5 a.m. to five p.m. throughout the offseason.
“I feel it is essential, constructing that relationship with Byron,” Winston stated. “He is a really detail-oriented coach. He stays on us, day-in and day-out, and it is simply good to have.”
Leftwich says he desires Winston to keep up stability in his life, one thing Arians has at all times harped on.
“The important thing proper now’s that when he will get out of the constructing — I imagine in that,” Leftwich stated. “I imagine in go take pleasure in your loved ones, spend time and do this, as a result of as soon as we get began, it is nonstop day-after-day. Proper now this child’s over right here a lot generally. Generally I’ve obtained to inform them, ‘You’ve obtained to get out of right here.'”
‘He can relate to everybody within the room’
Leftwich’s biggest energy as a coach and playcaller, other than Arians’ mentorship, is definitely the truth that he can relate to the gamers.
“One factor he has over me and lots of different coaches within the room is he is been in that room as a participant — he can relate to them on that stage. He is been on the market on the grass — he can relate to them on that stage,” Goodwin stated. “So I feel that earns him lots of respect.”
Leftwich understands the psychological components of enjoying quarterback, particularly on this system, which relies on taking dangers and would not afford quarterbacks many alternatives for max safety.
“He is performed in it … he is seen it inside and outside. … Lots of people can speculate and say, ‘Oh he coulda, shoulda achieved this,'” Christensen stated. “He is been in there and is aware of what it appears to be like like.”
For the primary time in his profession final season, Winston was benched primarily based on efficiency. It has been crucial that he is surrounded by coaches who’re dedicated to serving to him.
“[Him] seeing issues how I see it, [his] understanding from being in that pocket and never all from a strategic standpoint — it is [been] glorious,” Winston stated.
Leftwich can relate, as he was launched by Jacksonville at the same level in his profession.
“I have been via the highs of highs and the lows of lows,” Leftwich stated. “I at all times inform guys that I have been via the blender. I have been the franchise quarterback after which I used to be the man that no one stated can ever play and that is simply a part of enjoying quarterback on this enterprise.”
But it surely’s not simply on the quarterback stage — his view of the offense is complete.
“He is aware of the sport,” tight finish O.J. Howard stated. “He is at all times serving to us, critiquing our routes and sure issues. He is part of us and he helps us out rather a lot.”
Thus far, via OTAs and two minicamps, Arians likes what he has seen from his protege.
“I feel the entire time he is been excellent. Actually, actually achieved an amazing job within the assembly rooms,” Arians stated. “I feel he to start with is a wonderful trainer. He is aware of what he is speaking about. He is a heck of a trainer. So, he is obtained the blokes proper the place they have to be.”