- Why Byron Leftwich doesn't like to talk about specific plays, and what that might say about his future as a coach.
Cardinals first-year head coach Steve Wilks made an unsurprising decision Friday, firing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and promoting quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich to that post.
Two things I've heard whispered around the NFL:
1. McCoy's system is strung together by miscellaneous tactics and concepts that worked when he coached great field general quarterbacks like Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning, but were not user-friendly to your typical QB.
2. Leftwich, the former seventh overall pick out of Marshall who started 50 games in nine NFL seasons, is one of the league's great young quarterback minds.
I heard this enough times that this past offseason I made a special trip to Phoenix to meet Leftwich and talk football. He was a joy to visit with, but to be perfectly honest, our conversation revealed very little. Leftwich is guarded with his—to borrow a Marc Trestman term—"football intellectual property." (To Leftwich's credit, he's unabashed about this. "I don't like to talk publicly about specific plays," he told me, "because I've heard too many coaches accidentally reveal things with what they thought were innocent, general comments.")
What was apparent from our conversation is Leftwich believes that everything an offense does must tie not to a certain philosophy, but rather to your quarterback's perspective. You must understand how your QB sees things and build your plays and verbiage accordingly. That may seem obvious, but it's not something every offensive architect acts on.
Leftwich won't be able to rewrite McCoy's offense midstream, but you can expect he'll make Josh Rosen's job easier. That means creating more defined underneath throws for Larry Fitzgerald and leveraging the unique passing game versatility of David Johnson, who you'd never know from watching Arizona's offensive designs this season is one of the best receiving backs in football.
Leftwich will be hamstrung by an iffy offensive line and mediocre receiving corps just like McCoy was, but there are designs that can work around your weaknesses. The Cardinals hope to start seeing those soon.
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