ARIZONA CARDINALS

What to know about new Cardinals offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich

Oct 19, 2018, 1:00 PM
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The intersection between Byron Leftwich and the Arizona Cardinals dates back to 2005.

Leftwich, in the midst of his best season of his NFL career, suffered a broken ankle against the Cardinals as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting quarterback and saw his career growth stunted as a result.

Thirteen years later, Leftwich’s new career sees him as one of the Cardinals’ quickest risers as their new offensive coordinator following Mike McCoy’s firing on Friday.

Leftwich isn’t long on coaching experience — his first professional coaching job came in 2016 as an intern for the Cardinals — but some, including former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, believe he could be a rising star in the industry.

Before the 2017 season, Arians told the team’s website that Leftwich would “be a head coach early and fast.”

Arians hired Leftwich as a coaching intern in May 2016. It was his first professional coaching job following a 10-year career that ended in 2012.

Leftwich, 38, was promoted to the Cardinals’ quarterback coach in 2017 and was in his second season in the position before McCoy’s firing.

Former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer also praised Leftwich in 2017, citing his perspective of the game as a major reason for his quick rise.

“(Leftwich’s) opinion of reads and knowing how difficult certain things are and how to make certain things easier has been really good for us,” Palmer said.

Leftwich’s NFL career started as quickly as his coaching career, taking over as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting quarterback in the fourth game of his rookie season.

Leftwich, the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft, threw for 2,819 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie and a career-best 2,941 yards and 15 touchdowns in his second season.

It was the game against the Cardinals in 2005 that was the beginning of the end for Leftwich’s starting career.

Leftwich missed the team’s final five games of the regular season following the ankle injury.

Leftwich never really earned back his starting spot and was cut by the Jaguars in September 2007.

He started just six games in his final five NFL seasons.

Leftwich is also known for playing a quarter with a broken leg while in college at Marshall.

If Leftwich lives up to the praise of Arians and Palmer and his play early in his NFL career, it would be a welcome improvement for an offense that scored 20 points just once in seven games under McCoy.

Leftwich will get his first chance to prove himself as an offensive coordinator when the Cardinals return to action next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, the only team the Cardinals have beat this season.

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