Byron Leftwich has yet to go through a season as a full-time NFL assistant coach, but the former quarterback has a big believer in the man who hired him.
Bruce Arians is confident his current quarterbacks coach will ascend to a much higher position on the sideline and do so on a quicker-than-expected path.
“He’ll be a head coach early and fast,” Arians told Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com of the 37-year-old Leftwich, who previously worked for the Arizona Cardinals as an intern last season after resisting previous Arians offers.
Leftwich and Arians crossed paths toward the end of the new assistant’s career. A former Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick in 2003, Leftwich was a Pittsburgh Steelers backup during the years Arians spent as offensive coordinator for that franchise. Leftwich retired after the 2012 season with Pittsburgh and took some time off.
Leftwich is now coaching Carson Palmer, who went just six spots ahead of him in the 2003 draft. Both are 37, with Palmer being just a few weeks older than his new coach.
“I’ve been around long enough to know I need it. I need coaching, tips and help and pointers,” Palmer said. “I know when someone knows it and they don’t and he knows it. I don’t care if he’s five years younger or 15 years older, he knows what he is talking about. And he played in the same exact system and he played for B.A., so there are a lot of positives with him.”
Palmer also identified backup quarterback Drew Stanton as a potential coach, but Stanton isn’t certain about that path yet. Leftwich wasn’t either for years. Now, he’ll attempt to elevate Palmer back to the perch he occupied when he led the Cards to the 2015 NFC Championship game.