Bruce Arians is back in football after a yearlong sabbatical that took him to broadcast booths across the country.
From that vantage point, he had a pretty good view of what Byron Leftwich was doing back in Arizona.
"I've been training guys for this job and I always said I would never give it up and look over anybody's shoulder until I found one I knew could do it," Arians said. ... "Byron I think is a rising star in this business. What he did with the interim title -- it wasn't even his offense, it was Mike McCoy's offense -- and he did a heck of a job as a rookie. So he's more than ready."
Leftwich took over as interim offensive coordinator in the middle of the Cardinals' first and only season under Steve Wilks, a journey into the abyss that saw Arizona put up a fight occasionally, but get steamrolled more often than not. Their miserable start to the season put McCoy on the hot seat, and it didn't take long for him (seven weeks, to be exact) to get the pink slip.
Arizona scored an ugly win in Leftwich's debut as offensive coordinator and held its own against Kansas City and Oakland. Following a blowout loss to the superior Chargers in Carson, Arizona scored an upset win over Green Bay that expedited the firing of Mike McCarthy after 13 seasons with the Packers.
Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen struggled in his first season, but a lot of that had to do with Arizona's porous offensive line. The Cardinals ranked dead last in pass protection grades, per Pro Football Focus. Rosen was pressured on 37.2 percent of dropbacks, the second highest rate of any quarterback in the NFL, trailing only Miami's Ryan Tannehill.
Even with that nearly constant harassment, Rosen still completed 55.2 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards. His 11-14 TD-INT ratio and 66.7 passer rating don't bode well, but he was significantly better under Leftwich than he was McCoy.
That gives Arians plenty of reason for optimism.
Leftwich moves from the southwest to the southeast to team up with Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who was at a crossroads of sorts in his career when he was benched in the middle of the season. He's since been touted by Arians as the centerpiece of Tampa Bay's offense, which makes sense, considering the hefty cap number he'll carry on the fifth and final year of his rookie deal.
There's a little bit of Leftwich in Winston when it comes to their style of play. The key for Winston, though, will be limiting his game-changing mistakes. Having a former quarterback who will likely be able to relate with Winston should help him plenty.