On Wednesday Tom Pelissero of NFL Network released his fifth annual young coaches to watch list, which is notable in that not a single Pittsburgh Steelers assistant is on the list, even though it includes a total of 70 names, if you include the 57 candidates “to watch in coming years.”
But a former Steelers quarterback is one of 13 coaches seen as being a good bet to land an NFL head coaching job in early 2022, that being Byron Leftwich, 41, who currently serves as offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Byron Leftwich Was Not Interviewed in (Early) 2021
Never mind the fact that Leftwich didn’t get a single interview for a head coaching job during the last hiring cycle, despite calling the plays for a Tom Brady-led offense that won the Super Bowl.
“That figures to change this time around,” writes Pelissero. “The 10-year NFL quarterback was once a backup (to Ben Roethlisberger) under then-offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who hired Leftwich as QB coach in Arizona in 2017 and brought him along to Tampa two years later,” where he is now in his third season as offensive coordinator.
“An uninspiring stint as the interim OC for a doomed Cardinals team three years ago under Arians’ successor, Steve Wilks, is further in the rearview now,” adds Pelissero. “And Leftwich continues to show he can manage a room with veterans such as Brady, who’s more than two years older than his OC and has made his love for Leftwich clear.”
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It’s perhaps worth noting that Pelissero has a pretty good track record in terms of identifying young coaches who are going to draw significant interest in the next hiring cycle.
“… In the previous four cycles, over half of all head-coaching hires (14 of 27) came from that year’s edition of this list, which focuses on a specific demographic: under age 45 and seeking their first NFL head-coaching opportunity. (In 2021), Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers), Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons), Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions), Robert Saleh (New York Jets) and Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles) all landed their first jobs while being under 45.”
Byron Leftwich Was Drafted No. 7 Overall in 2003
Of course, Leftwich can identify with his quarterbacks—starter and backups alike. He was seen as Jacksonville’s franchise savior when the Jaguars selected him No. 7 overall in 2003 out of Marshall. An immediate starter in Jacksonville, he fell out of favor relatively quickly and played for the Jags for only four seasons. He went on to spend the remainder of his career in a backup role, including two separate stints with the Steelers.
All together he appeared in 60 NFL games (50 starts), per Pro Football Reference, and produced a record of 24-26, completing 930 of 1,605 passes (57.9%), with 58 touchdowns and 42 interceptions.
Bruce Arians’ Bucs Staff Includes Several Other Ex-Steelers
It’s also worth noting that Leftwich isn’t the only former Steeler on Bruce Arians’ coaching staff. Former Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote is Tampa Bay’s outside linebackers coach, and recently-retired offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley is a first-year offensive assistant, joining Arians’ staff in the wake of a career-ending neck injury. Also, Tom Moore, 83, serves as an assistant coach. Moore has more than four decades worth of coaching experience in the NFL, which includes six seasons as Pittsburgh’s wide receivers coach (1977-1982), when he tutored future Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. He went on to serve as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator from 1983-89 before moving on to the Minnesota Vikings.
Last year, Arians’ staff also included former Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, who is currently serving as wide receivers coach for the Detroit Lions.
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