According to multiple reports across the web, the Jacksonville Jaguars are set to make Byron Leftwich their next head coach. Leftwich, of course, started his playing career with Jacksonville and spent the past few years as the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now that he’s back in Jacksonville, how will he perform now that he’s on the sideline?
Was Byron Leftwich A Good Hire For Jacksonville Jaguars?
Based on what Leftwich did with Tampa Bay, Trevor Lawrence is going to throw the ball a lot. In 2021, the Buccaneers had a 10% pass rate over expected, second in the league only to the Kansas City Chiefs (11%). Now, a portion of this comes from having Tom Brady as your quarterback, but the fact Leftwich will willing to air it out this much means good things for the future of Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) January 18, 2022
Passing is much more efficient than running, and in today’s day and age, you need to throw the ball well if you want to make a serious run at a Super Bowl. All four of the teams that made it to the Championship Game ranked in the top 10 in passing EPA/play, and this is not a one-year trend. If you can’t throw, you can’t compete, and Leftwich will likely do everything he can to move the ball effectively through the air.
Additionally, throwing on early downs actually makes life easier on a quarterback. Now, nobody is saying to never run the ball, but most NFL teams should be more aggressive on first and second down. On early downs, defenses need to think about defending both the run and the pass, whereas they can hone in on the pass on 3rd and long situations. Assuming Leftwich brings his aggressive philosophy to Jacksonville, Trevor Lawrence should be in for an improved second season.
Willingness to Adapt
While Leftwich is best known for his work with Tom Brady, he actually began his time in Tampa with Jameis Winston under center. Winston is an aggressive quarterback that loves to push the ball downfield, while Brady is more content to make the smart read and methodically work his way down the field. This isn’t to say that Brady won’t stretch the field (he led the NFL in average depth of target in 2020), but it does paint a broad picture of how the two quarterbacks like to play.
The best coaches are the ones that adjust their scheme to the strengths of their players, and Leftwich excelled at that in Tampa. Taking a look at the heat map from @PFF_Moo shows that Tampa Bay’s receivers ran completely different routes during Brady’s 2021 compared to Winston’s 2019.
I assume Brady played a vocal role in making that change, but that's night and day pic.twitter.com/85B7J7ZJGf
— Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo) January 22, 2022
To quote the great Bill Belichick: players win games, and coaches lose them. The best coaches realize that they’re only as good as the players on the field, and adjust their scheme to put the guys on the field in the best position to succeed. Leftwich appears to have this quality, which is obviously a huge improvement over the last head coach.
There is no way to know with 100% if Byron Leftwich will succeed or fail in Jacksonville. However, on the surface, all signs point towards a successful tenure. He threw the ball early and often in Tampa and has proven that he’s willing to change his scheme to best fit the talent on the roster.
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