Meet Byron Leftwich, the man who helped make Tom Brady’s crime work


NFL

This season, Leftwich’s adaptability has been even more essential.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich talks to quarterback Tom Brady before a game. Mark Lomoglio / AP Photo


When Tom Brady fires a game-winning touchdown pass, it can appear to be a result in football as a result.

But even Brady can’t organize an entire offense in his own right against a generation of NFL security that dissected his instincts. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are second in scoring in the league, in large part because Byron Leftwich, their offensive coordinator, admits to the offense for playmates revolving around their star quarterback Brady.

This season, with COVID-19, injuries and other unusual circumstances threatening Tampa Bay’s season, Leftwich have changed their play call to make the most of Frankenstein’s roster.


When the Bucks needed a last-minute drive to beat the New York Jets in early January, in a game that left receiver Antonio Brown unexpectedly and dramatically in the third quarter, Leftwich dialed the route for a replacement. Carried, Cyril Grayson, from a quick recent promotion practice squad. Grayson caught three short passes on the final drive, and when the Jets’ defense sat on a quick throw in the closing moments, Leftwich called in a sideline shot that went 33 yards to score – Grayson’s 10th catch of the season. .

In a league where teams prefer plug-and-play diagrams, Leftwich prefers bespoke plans designed to err on the side of defense and options that utilize the breadth of Brady’s experience. Even if it means Brady shakes him from time to time, as happened in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, when on the game-winning drive Brady called Chris Godwin a 24-yard shot to receiver.

“He has been in every position,” Leftwich said in a phone interview last month. “If there’s an occasion where he sees something I can’t because he’s on the field, oh man, let’s get to it.”


The approach was a boon to last season’s Buccaneers, whose lineup consisted of Pro Bowl receivers Godwin and Mike Evans with free agents Brady had lobbied for, including tight end Rob Gronkowski and later Jari Brown, a championship contender. were involved along the way.

This season, Leftwich’s adaptability has become even more essential, as the team returns to a top-three scoring offense despite Godwin’s season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear in Week 14 and the Browns’ surprise midgame exit. Evans and running back Leonard Fournette have also missed games, although both are expected to play in the post season.

“It’s not just, ‘Okay, you’re going to run my stuff and we’ll do it our way,'” Leftwich said. “We’re going to do what we need to do for our team, as a group, to play well.”

Leftwich, a nine-year-old NFL quarterback, is 41 years old, 44 years younger than Brady. He’s scheduled to interview for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coaching job, a role that went to a disused and since-fired college coach last summer. For now, her tailoring of offense—and her sense of its centerpiece—gives the Buccaneers a chance to repeat as champions despite the attrition.

Leftwich says a play is only as good as the quarterback it takes to play it, and he often calls on Brady late in the evening to design and adjust.

“When you work together for a long time, you start to see the game very similar,” Brady said before the Super Bowl win. “When he’s watching the movie, he thinks, ‘Oh, that’s what Tom wants,’ and vice versa.”

Leftwich said: “You can’t say drama to a boy until you know a boy. You can’t.”
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Leftwich is perhaps best remembered for one of the subtle displays of college football. In the first quarter of a November 2002 game, during Leftwich’s last season at Marshall University, an Akron linebacker charged his planted left foot, breaking his tibia. He went to a hospital to set up the leg and returned to lead a pair of scoring drives, during which his offensive lineman flung him between plays and carried him to the huddle.

Playing the next game—against Ben Roethlisberger and Ohio’s Miami—was out of the question, so he spent the week focusing on the film and creating a game plan with his backup, Stan Hill. Marshall won the shootout 36-34.

Leftwich prepared for the NFL draft, with scouts applauding his arm strength and toughness. But he said his real talent was understanding the patterns of his opponents and finding the plays that stunned him.

The Jaguars drafted him with the seventh overall pick in 2003, after an accumulation of injuries over time transformed him from a potential franchise quarterback to a respected backup. As he bounced from roster to roster — Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay — Leftwich mentored the young quarterback, talked coverage with his coaches and gathered every scrap of football intelligence, between tables in the team cafeteria. was moving so that he could one day sit with the receiver. And the defensive lineman next.

“If I had something he disagreed with, we’d have to go back and find it on film,” said Ken Anderson, positions coach for Leftwich in Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. Because he wanted to know everything. He recalled that Leftwich also prepared his own notes for their midweek meetings.

Knowledge is owned in the NFL. It might help to remove a backup to a starter, but Leftwich didn’t care to hide what he knew. When he was given a few games in the 2009 season with the Buccaneers on the side of the young prospect, he made it into his routine to teach his replacement the nuances of presnap reeds.

“He will take them through all the checks on the line,” said Tim Holt, an offensive assistant on that Buccaneers team. “He’ll have equipment that will line the trash cans after practice, and he’ll say: ‘Okay, we’re going to check it. Which trash do you want to hit?’ He was great with the visual part of the game, and those guys needed it.”

In 2016, four years after Leftwich retired as a player, Bruce Arians, then head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, hired him as part of a fellowship to the team’s youth quarterback, Coach. started coaching non-former players. Leftwich rose rapidly, first as quarterback coach, then as interim offensive coordinator.

When the Buccaneers appointed Arrian as head coach in 2019, he snubbed his pupil and gave him the offense, knowing it was in good hands.

“He hasn’t been to one of my meetings in three years,” Leftwich said.