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Saints come marching into Byron Leftwich sweepstakes

The Bucs offensive coordinator has had two interviews with the Jaguars, and one report says Jacksonville will change GMs to accommodate him.
The New Orleans Saints have asked permission to interview Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich for their head0coaching job.
The New Orleans Saints have asked permission to interview Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich for their head0coaching job. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 27|Updated Jan. 28

TAMPA ― The Bucs may not have seen the last of Byron Leftwich if he lands a head coaching job elsewhere. He could play them twice a year.

The Saints have asked for permission to interview Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator for their coaching vacancy, the Tampa Bay Times confirmed Thursday.

Sean Payton resigned Wednesday after 16 years as coach of New Orleans, providing a possible opportunity for Leftwich to take over a Bucs rival in the NFC South.

It should provide some leverage for Leftwich, who is a finalist for the Jacksonville job.

Despite interviewing with the Jaguars for a second time this week, however, Leftwich has been unable to reach an agreement with the team.

The Jags were interested in resuming talks with Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on Thursday.

But Hackett reportedly will be hired as the Broncos’ new head coach, and Eberflus is expected to take the Bears job.

Seemingly, that would clear a path for Leftwich to become the Jaguars’ next coach. The 42-year-old would replace Urban Meyer, who was fired after a 2-11 start this season.

There might have been some snags in talks with Leftwich. One of which could include control over the roster.

But according to Mike Jurecki, who covers the Cardinals for the franchise’s website azcardinals.com, the Jaguars are close to hiring Adrian Wilson as their general manager and Leftwich as coach. That would mean the end for current Jags general manager Trent Baalke.

Wilson is the Cardinals’ director of pro scouting and worked with Leftwich (2016-18) when he was on Bruce Arians’ staff in Arizona.

The big winner if the Saints hire Leftwich?

It might be quarterback Jameis Winston, who is recovering from a torn ACL that he sustained in a game against the Bucs this season.

Leftwich is a big fan of the 28-year-old Winston and has said he wished he had more than one season with the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner out of Florida State and No. 1 overall pick by the Bucs in 2015.

In his only season under Leftwich in 2019, Winston led the league in passing yardage with 5,109, along with 33 touchdowns. But he also set an NFL record with 30 interceptions.

At minimum, the interview process could help the Saints, who no doubt will take the opportunity to learn as much about the Bucs’ offensive operation as they can.

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