After a loss in the first round of the 2021 NFL playoffs, the Las Vegas Raiders have not officially given the job to interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. If they don’t go with Bisaccia, there is a rising star emerging out of Tampa Bay and Mark Davis needs to give him an interview.
While Raider Nation is still processing the last-minute loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, many fans are anxiously awaiting the announcement of who will be leading the Raiders in the 2022 NFL season. The fan base seems split where many want Bisaccia to keep the job, others want to pursue Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, but there is another name hardly being mentioned that should be. Byron Leftwich is the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and would be an intriguing coaching prospect for the Raiders.
I’ve already heard the arguments against Leftwich, and I’ve got a response for all of them. Pay attention, and you might consider this candidate by the end of the article.
1.) Bruce Arians is the mastermind behind the Buccaneers offense, not Leftwich.Â
Yes and no. While the Buccaneers’ offense is a scheme constructed by Bruce Arians himself, one of the conditions Arians requested when taking the job in 2019 was that Leftwich take over play-calling duties. So, while Arians may have designed the creative red zone plays and deep vertical passes you enjoy watching when the Bucs play, they are called by Leftwich.
Leftwich meets with Arians weekly to adjust these plays and tweak them in a manner that makes Leftwich comfortable with calling them. After the 2020 regular season, Arians turned the offense completely over to Leftwich.
2.) The Raiders have Derek Carr, Not Tom Brady. It won’t work.Â
Wrong. The Bruce Arians offense is built around a deep vertical passing game, and when they’re faced with a 3rd and 10, Arians always has a play in his back pocket that will either get them a first down or result in a touchdown. Taking big downfield risks like this is not how Tom Brady operated in New England. He was more used to the West Coast dink and dunk offense that we see Carr as more comfortable with. If anyone saw the home opener in 2020 against the Saints, Brady opened up with two big-time touchdowns and two big-time interceptions.
The offense at its core remained the same, but Leftwich and Brady made adjustments that gave Brady, and could give Carr, the opportunity to find the open man short and inside if the deep play isn’t there. But Carr has the necessary arm strength and accuracy that Brady has to accomplish this task. Additionally, Brady fit so well with Leftwich because he was an experienced veteran leader. Carr has been in the league for eight years, and while his experience doesn’t come close to Brady’s, this is another intelligent, capable quarterback that can adapt to a new offense and master it.
3.) The Raiders aren’t the Bucs.Â
This is correct for many reasons, but it doesn’t mean that Leftwich isn’t a good option for the Raiders. The Raiders have not had a winning culture in their building, or in their organization for that matter, since the early 2000’s. One season or two where the team makes it to the playoffs and falls out in the first round doesn’t count. Leftwich is coming off back-to-back seasons of playoff appearances, one of which ended in a Super Bowl victory. Leftwich has seen what it takes to make it there; what sacrifices have to be made and what preparation has to be done.
As far as weapons, it’s clear that seven-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady playing with Mike Evans, Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, etc. is superior to what the Raiders are currently working with. The Raiders need to make a splash in the draft and free agency, but they aren’t far off from achieving great things with the right roster. The Raiders did make it to the playoffs with Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones, did they not?
4.) Leftwich doesn’t have experience.Â
He does not have head coach experience. That is correct. Leftwich was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Arizona before settling back in Tampa Bay with Arians and retaining his role as offensive coordinator. But Arians, who models his career after his experiences with Alabama legend Bear Bryant, has been pounding the table for Leftwich to get a head coaching job. If that isn’t a seal of approval, I don’t know what is.
5.) Leftwich was the OC when Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions.Â
Correct. But while Winston was throwing those interceptions, he also threw 33 touchdowns and broke all of the Tampa Bay passing records the franchise had. When Brady came into the picture, he then broke all those passing records and threw far fewer interceptions. Winston threw those partially in part to the aggressive offensive scheme, but a bigger part of those interceptions came from Winston’s aggressive nature mixing with his poor decision-making. Leftwich isn’t to blame. Carr has thrown for over 30 touchdowns one time in 2015. Under Leftwich, Winston threw for 33 touchdowns in 2019 and Brady threw for 40 touchdowns (2020) and 43 touchdowns (2021).
6.) Carr won’t be able to operate in Leftwich’s system.Â
I believe Carr has the mental and physical capabilities to operate and thrive within Leftwich’s system. One of the chief “Carr complaints” is that he doesn’t push the ball downfield enough, and one of the bigger complaints is that the Raiders’ offense is stale and uninspired. If you’ve watched the Buccaneers offense in the last three years, then you should understand that hiring Leftwich will solve both of those issues. At the same time, the Raiders will have Arians’ playbook as well as Leftwich’s influence. The Raiders, specifically in the redzone, have been horrendous. The Buccaneers are currently ranked second in redzone scoring percentage. The Raiders are twenty-nine.
There are a million arguments for or against Leftwich, but the responses above should at least lean you in the direction of going for it. If Bisaccia is handed the keys, by all means, let’s see how it goes, but fans and analysts alike should be able to agree that the Raiders’ offense needs to change, both in personnel and play calling. Leftwich is that hungry, offensive-minded head coach the Raiders have been looking for, and he checks all the boxes this team needs on their return to greatness. Mark Davis needs to make this move now or continue the slow rebuild we all fear will never come to fruition.
*Top Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images