Getting to Know Bears Head Coach Candidates: Byron Leftwich

A complete house cleaning is underway at Halas Hall. Three football seasons have passed since Matt Nagy, and Ryan Pace won top honors for their efforts in leading the 2018 Chicago Bears to a 12-4 record and NFC North title, and the time has come for the franchise to find their replacements.

Despite this team’s issues, the head coach and general manager vacancies are highly sought-after. And with Super Bowl-winning Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian lending a helping hand, the Bears are in a position to make some impact hirings. Over the following days, weeks, or however long it takes, we’ll be diving into the top available candidates, including their history, what they offer schematically, how they fit culturally, where they can take this team, and more. Let’s do it. 

Previous Head Coach Candidates: Doug Pederson, Nathaniel Hackett, Brian Daboll, Brian Flores, Matt Eberflus, Dan Quinn

Previous General Manager Candidates: Glenn Cook, Jeff Ireland, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Ran Carthon, Joe Schoen (Hired by NYG on 1/21), Eliot Wolf, Omar Khan, Morocco Brown

Name, Current Team, and Position

Byron Leftwich, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator (2019-present)

Relevant Experience

•   Arizona Cardinals Interim Offensive Coordinator (2018), Quarterbacks Coach (2017-18)

•   NFL QB with the Jaguars (2003-06), Falcons (2007), Steelers (2008, 2010-12), Buccaneers (2009)

Leftwich’s coaching history is limited. And for many, that will take him off the list. But for me, it makes him all the more intriguing when it comes to this collection of head-coach candidates. Leftwich has two stints as a play-caller under his belt. The first came while he was with the Cardinals, while the most recent run has come with the Bucs. And between his time with Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, and Tom Brady, Leftwich has coached quarterbacks on both ends of the spectrum. The Brady and Palmer years represent a nice reward when you’ve also been tasked with coaching Josh Rosen, Sam Bradford, and Mike Glennon.

Existing Rumors and Bears Ties

Leftwich was on a reported short-list of Nagy replacements that was floated in late November. One day after firing Nagy, Leftwich was one of the coordinators the Bears put in an official request to interview. And on Jan. 20, Chicago’s football team announced Leftwich had completed his interview.

Potential Fit

Hey, It Might Work…

Few coaching candidates in this cycle have Leftwich’s credentials. The 42-year-old offensive coordinator checks some worthwhile boxes. He was a top-10 pick in 2003, played quarterback, and coached the position while in Arizona. In other words, Leftwich knows the importance of the position from the perspective of a young, talented prospect, starter in the league, backup, and coach. Not many candidates in this hiring cycle have all that on their résumé.

And he calls plays:

If Arians is as hands-off as he says, and Leftwich is truly orchestrating an offense that finished second in points and yards, then hot diggity dog!

OK, Maybe He’s Not The One…

Calling your own shots is one thing. And we shouldn’t overlook its importance. But we also need to consider the support around Leftwich calling his own plays. There is a ton of it. And at so many different levels. After all, it is Tom Brady behind PFF’s second-highest ranked offensive line, throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski, and handing it off to Leonard Fournette. All while being led by a tremendous head coach in Bruce Arians.

It should go without saying, but I’ll still say it: Those guys don’t get to come with Leftwich if he gets the head-coaching gig in Chicago. Just throwing that out there.

In The End …

If Chicago is searching for an energetic, offensive-leaning head coach who possesses upside and room for growth, then Leftwich might be the best candidate of the group. Two years coaching Brady’s bunch helps bolster Leftwich’s cause, but I can’t help but think about when Jameis Winston showed out in 2019 with a 5,109-yard, 33-touchdown season. It came with 30 interceptions, which is admittedly unsavory. However, the Arians grip-it-and-rip-it vertical scheme is something that should appeal to those who want to unleash Justin Fields.

Hiring Leftwich to be a first-time head coach in these conditions might not seem ideal. But as Arians himself says: “No risk it, no biscuit.”

written by

Luis C. Medina, who you can find on Twitter at lcm1986, has been covering the Chicago Bears at Bleacher Nation since 2017. Since then, he has written about 3 head coaches, 5 play-callers, and 11 starting quarterbacks. Previously, Luis wrote about the Cubs and MLB at BN (2015-16) and worked in the Chicago Tribune sports department (2011-16). He also co-hosted a Cubs postgame show, Outside the Ivy, in 2019.

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