While the bulk of the attention tonight will be on Tom Brady continuing his unprecedented career in winning his seventh Super Bowl, and becoming the second quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl as a starter with multiple teams, Pittsburgh Steelers fans will probably focus on other things, connections in the game.
Bruce Arians, the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was of course a long-time coaching staff member for the Steelers. But the more interesting name to me is Byron Leftwich, whom Arians insisted on being his offensive coordinator when he took the job.
Leftwich was a former seventh-overall pick at the quarterback position for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003, going on to have a nine-year career in the NFL, primarily as a backup, which included three seasons serving as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup in 2008, and then in 2010 and 2011.
While he was serviceable in that role, he was always praised for his intelligence, and Arians was his offensive coordinator while he was there. He brought him in as an assistant coach while still the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and now brought him to Tampa.
The Buccaneers averaged 30.8 points per game this season with Tom Brady at quarterback, a franchise record for the team and the third-highest average in the NFL in 2020. The Buccaneers averaged 30.5 points per game over the course of their four-game postseason run, becoming one of just three teams to win the Super Bowl from a Wildcard slot.
In the leadup to the Super Bowl, Arians went out of his way to praise the job that Leftwich has done this season leading the Buccaneers’ offense, and said that he was pissed off that his offensive coordinator didn’t get any interviews for the seven vacant head coaching positions.
Although he has only been a coordinator for two years, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if his name becomes a hot commodity on the coaching circuit starting with the wave of 2021 new coaching hires. Although Eric Bieniemy continues to wait for his opportunity, Leftwich will be another buzzy name when head coaching jobs become available.
To think about it, it is pretty remarkable that the two teams in the NFL with African-American offensive coordinators reached the Super Bowl this year, and both will be top candidates for head coaching positions, probably until they get one.