Starks: New Cards OC Byron Leftwich can bring concepts from past coaches
Quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich was named the new offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals after the team fired Mike McCoy on Friday morning.
Former offensive tackle Max Starks, who was a teammate of Leftwich on the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008, 2010 and 2012, thinks the new Cardinals OC is up to the task.
He talked highly of Leftwich on the Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Friday morning.
“Byron is just a great offensive mind,” Starks said. “He understands the concepts, he understands the play of the talent that he has and he’s always maximized (the talents) within whatever his constraints were.”
After playing quarterback in the NFL for 10 years, Leftwich became an intern assisting the quarterbacks for the Cardinals under Bruce Arians in 2016. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2017 and remained in the position when Steve Wilks became head coach in 2018.
Leftwich has learned under strong coaching minds including Mike Tomlin, Bruce Arians and Todd Haley in Pittsburgh and Jack Del Rio and Hue Jackson with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
By using what he’s learned from these coaches, Leftwich can combine different aspects — including some aspects from Arians’ offense in Arizona, Starks said.
“I think he will take a lot of those different elements and apply it quickly to this team because he knows what they can do good,” he said, mentioning route-3 combinations, throwing vertically more often and occasional incorporating long throws in play-action.
Though Leftwich comes in at offensive coordinator with a quarterbacks coach, Starks thinks he can also improve the run game.
“I really think that he’s going to get creative with the motions on how you get into the run schemes,” Starks said. “It’s not going to be as predictable.”
Starks criticized the Arizona’s offense displayed during Thursday night’s 45-10 loss. He thinks the team should have ran the ball more and thrown less, and had specific complaints on how the offense was forced to call a timeout on the second play of the game because the receivers weren’t lined up correctly on a scripted play.
“It was a complete lack of preparation,” Starks said. “It falls back on the coach to not have these guys prepared to play.”
In Leftwich, he sees someone who can make play-calling clearer for the offense.
“I think he will simplify the language for those receivers because they didn’t have these same issues a year ago,” Starks said. “I think that’s what’s going to be a biggest change that you’re going to notice off the bat. We’re not going to see all the timeouts and all of the hesitation moving forward.”