Jaguars coaching rumors: Byron Leftwich expected to replace Urban Meyer in Jacksonville

The Jaguars are reportedly aiming to hire former Jacksonville quarterback and current Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, according to multiple reports.

According to Pro Football Network, Leftwich has been considered among the favorites to land the job since the start of the Jaguars’ interview process. Jacksonville will look for a turnaround from its disastrous experiment with Urban Meyer, who had never coached in the league and who committed multiple critical errors nearly as soon as he took the job. He was fired before he could complete one full regular season.

Leftwich started his coaching career with Bruce Arians’ Cardinals staff in 2017. He remained in Arizona in 2018 as an interim offensive coordinator after Arians retired from the Cardinals following the 2017 campaign.

He rejoined Arians in 2019 as his offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay. He couldn’t curtail Jameis Winston’s boom-or-bust play style that season (he threw for 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions) but contributed to the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl in 2020. Tampa Bay’s offense hummed with Leftwich in charge in 2021, ranking second in the NFL with 29.9 points per game.

Leftwich’s system also helped quarterback Tom Brady put up career-highs in completions (485), attempts (719) and yards (5,316) in 2021 at the age of 44. He also registered 43 touchdowns and a 68.9 completion percentage, both of which rank second in his career in terms of single-season production.

Leftwich, whom Jacksonville drafted No. 7 overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, played four seasons with the Jaguars from 2003-06. He did not finish his playing career with the team that drafted him, playing with three more franchises over five seasons: Atlanta (2007), Pittsburgh (2008, 2019-12) and Tampa Bay (2009).

The Jaguars conducted several interviews to replace Meyer, including former Texans head coach and current Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien and Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. But Leftwich’s status as a former player who has paid his dues as an assistant is reportedly among the reasons he was so highly regarded by Jaguars owner Shad Khan and general manager Trent Baalke.

Per PFN, Leftwich engaged in his second round of interviews on Tuesday with the Jacksonville front office. He is expected to be named coach barring an unexpected breakdown.

One of Leftwich’s biggest tasks is ensuring the development of Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick out of the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence struggled considerably in his rookie campaign under Meyer’s leadership, completing 359 of 602 passes (59.6 percent) for 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He added 73 rushes for 344 yards and two touchdowns, but was also sacked 32 times for 238 sack yards.

Both Brady and Arians praised Leftwich for his play-calling in 2020 and ’21.

Said Arians:

“Yeah, that really pissed me off, I’ll be honest with you,” Arians told Tampa radio station WDAE in January 2021. “The job he’s done, he coaches quarterbacks. He calls plays. He’s everything everybody says they are looking for. I was really hoping he’d get his first few interviews and maybe get a job out of it. I can’t speak for what the owners think and who they listen to sometimes, but it’s just a matter of time before he gets his.”

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