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‘Ghostly legend’ Bruce Arians confident in Cards OC Byron Leftwich

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The biggest glimmer of hope in Cardinals coach Steve Wilks’ replacing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy with Byron Leftwich was the fact that the incumbent would bring ideas from Wilks’ successor with him.

Leftwich came up quickly as an NFL assistant coach under former Arizona coach Bruce Arians. Wilks even mentioned the former quarterback coach’s work under Arians as a reason to promote him to lead the NFL’s worst offense.

And in a way, Arians’ philosophies live on in Arizona, even if the former coach is enjoying his time as CBS Sports analyst.

“Byron’s a sort of a B.A. descendant, and (Arians is) sort of a ghostly legend in this building here,” rookie quarterback Josh Rosen said Wednesday. “He’s putting in some new stuff but also pulling on some past knowledge.”

Arians will take that as a compliment.

“Do I believe in ghosts? Hell yeah,” he said while joining Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Leftwich isn’t the only Arians-era holdover on Wilks’ first staff as an NFL head coach. The Cardinals also retained Kevin Garver, who is now wide receivers coach, and Steve Heiden, an assistant offensive line coach.

Arians believes in all of them, but he expects a lot from Leftwich, who is challenged with clarifying the gameplan for Rosen and getting running back David Johnson more involved, things that McCoy failed to do before being fired seven games and six Arizona losses into the season.

“(Leftwich) did such a good job when I let him call plays in practice and in those couple preseason games …” Arians said. “He was outstanding. He was always a play ahead. You could tell he was a quarterback and a really, really smart one. He had such a great rapport in that room. I know (former Cardinals quarterback) Carson Palmer leaned on him heavily.”

The new offensive coordinator has “texted a bunch” with his former tutor since it was announced he would take over play-calling duties last Friday, Arians said.

And yes, Arians believes Leftwich can make the game easier for Rosen while finding ways to leech out more production from Johnson, who has been held to 3.2 yards per carry and quiet in the passing game with just 20 catches through seven games.

“One thing I’ll bet: it’s a very teachable gameplan and the guys will know exactly what’s expected of them,” Arians said.

And of Johnson?

“I don’t know the word to use … he can do damn near anything he wants to do,” the former coach said. “You can dream up more ways and there will be 10 more ways to use him.”

QUOTABLE

Arians on whether coaches should change their schemes to fit the players or find the players to fit their scheme: “Well, you can’t do things your players can’t do. So that to me is poor coaching. You do what’s best for the room. You don’t put square pegs in round holes. So adapt and eventually get where you want to go, but adapt to win now ’cause it’s a win-now business now.”

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