At this time last offseason, Byron Leftwich was just settling into his post-playing career as a coaching intern with the Arizona Cardinals.
Head coach Bruce Arians was initially unsure if he would have the services of Leftwich beyond last summer.
“After that, we’ll see,” Arians explained last May. “Hopefully I can keep him all year. I think he’s got a great, bright future in coaching.”
As it turns out, Arians created an opening at quarterbacks coach in January, transitioning Freddie Kitchens to running backs coach as Stump Mitchell’s replacement.
Just how bright is Leftwich’s future in the coaching ranks?
Five months into his new job, Leftwich is already being touted as head-coach material.
“He’ll be a head coach early and fast,” Arians assessed recently, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website.
A slow-footed signal-caller with an especially deliberate throwing motion, Leftwich believes he was forced to see the game from a coach’s point of view in his decade as an NFL quarterback.
“I played the game as if I was a coach,” Leftwich said. “I never really had the physical ability to run around. I could throw the ball, but I had to think my way through the whole time. I think (Arians) understood that and appreciated my knowledge, how much work I put into the game.”
Leftwich spent three years learning Arians’ offense when the two were together in Pittsburgh. Now the former Jaguars and Steelers quarterback is charged with instructing Carson Palmer, a player drafted No. 1 overall in the same year that Leftwich was selected with the seventh pick.
“I’ve been around long enough to know I need it, I need coaching, tips and help and pointers,” Palmer said, per Urban. “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.”
It will be interesting to watch Arians’ coaching tree grow over the next few years.
Former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles finally got his chance to run his own team as Jets coach in 2015. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin interviewed for the openings of the Jaguars, Rams and Bills last January.
Now it appears that Leftwich is on the fast track toward joining that duo as a legitimate head-coaching candidate.