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Can Byron Leftwich keep growing into his job as the Bucs’ play-caller?

Why the Bucs’ last eight games matter: They are a referendum on Bruce Arians’ faith in Leftwich.
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, left, oversees a unit that ranks fourth in the NFL in points per game. [MONICA HERNDON   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, left, oversees a unit that ranks fourth in the NFL in points per game. [MONICA HERNDON | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 9, 2019
Updated Nov. 9, 2019

TAMPA — During the Bucs-Seahawks game last Sunday, coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich got into an animated discussion with 1:08 remaining.

“That was me and him being me and him,” Leftwich said smiling.

Arians apparently didn’t like a critical third-down call, but the Bucs converted when Jameis Winston changed the play and running back Ronald Jones ran for a first down. The Bucs would go on to score the tying touchdown before losing 40-34 in overtime.

There’s no disagreement right now about whether Leftwich should continue calling plays. But the second half of the season will in some ways be a referendum on whether Leftwich is the right guy for the job.

At 39, Leftwich is as young as some quarterbacks still playing in the NFL. The former Jaguars first-round pick has a relationship with Arians dating to their Steelers days. Arians insisted that Leftwich sees the game the way he does and jumped at the chance to hire him as the quarterbacks coach with the Cardinals a few years ago.

But this is the first year that Leftwich has called plays for Arians. He did it for eight games last season after the Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Arians admits he had to do a sales job on the Glazer family when he told them he would not be calling plays. This is the biggest year for Winston. But Leftwich knew the faith Arians had in him.

“Me and B.A. have been doing this together for a long time now,” Leftwich said. “You guys just get an opportunity to see me do it. It’s always been a lot of behind the scenes stuff that nobody knew of.”

There have been missteps. Leftwich hasn’t gotten the tight ends involved. O.J. Howard has 18 targets in six games and Cameron Brate has disappeared. He keeps force-feeding the football to the Bucs third receiver, Breshad Perriman. It took eight weeks to promote Jones to starting running back.

However, the Bucs are averaging 28.8 points, which ranks fourth in the NFL.

Leftwich says you can expect more sideline spats with Arians.

“That’s all I know (and) that’s all I’ll ever be,’’ Leftwich said. “I have no reason to not have that with anybody that’s a part of this organization or anybody that’s outside of this organization. That’s how I tend to carry myself on and off the field, so that’s actually the easy part, especially for me and him. That’s extremely easy for us two.”

Contact Rick Stroud at


  1. Ohio State defensive lineman Chase Young listens during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. [AJ MAST  |  AP]
  2. Former Oklahoma and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts could be someone the Bucs consider if they select a quarterback on day 2 of the NFL draft April 24 in Las Vegas. [ROD AYDELOTTE  |  AP]
  3. Tom Brady and the Patriots have appeared in eight straight AFC championship games and have won three of the past five Super Bowls. [JEFF ROBERSON  |  Associated Press]
  4. Bruce Arians said the Bucs' new uniforms will look more like this. The hope is they will play more like this. [DAMASKE, JIM  |  St. Petersburg Times]
  5. It sounds like Bucs coaches and the front office have had a change of heart on tight end O.J. Howard. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
  6. Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. [MICHAEL CONROY  |  AP]
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett in action during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Detroit. [PAUL SANCYA  |  AP]
  8. In this file photo, Bucs coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Jameis Winston walk off the field after a season-opening home loss to San Francisco. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
  9. Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter of last season's home opener against Boise State. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  10. He may look happy here, but Bradley Pinion seems pretty overjoyed (at least on social media) at the prospect of the team dumping this uni design. [Times]
  11. Kacey Reynolds announces that LSU linebacker Devin White has been selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. The Bucs announced Sunday that Reynolds had died at age 20 after a three-year battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. [MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP]
  12. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett's bet on himself is about to pay off, in Tampa Bay or elsewhere. [PAUL SANCYA  |  AP]