Since Bruce Arians took over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, most of the discussion surrounding Winston's future suggests that if Arians can't unlock the QB, no one can. It turns out Arians isn't the man doing the heavy lifting with Winston. That distinction goes to offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich, whom Arians called "a rising star in this business," is taking the lead at tutoring the former No. 1 overall pick.
In a fantastic, wide-ranging feature on Leftwich, Jenna Laine of ESPN reports that Arians isn't in the QB room, leaving that to the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and longtime NFL assistant Tom Moore, who works as Arians' ears in the meeting room. Arians said he steers clear to avoid Winston "hearing too many voices."
The main voice in the Winston reclamation project will be Leftwich, who Arians said has been fantastic thus far in his first full-time stint as OC.
"I think the whole time he's been outstanding. Really, really done a great job in the meeting rooms," Arians said. "I think he first of all is an excellent teacher. He knows what he's talking about. He's a heck of a teacher. So, he's got the guys right where they need to be."
After being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round (No. 7 overall) in 2003, Leftwich started 44 games over four seasons. He then became a backup for five seasons, two of which he spent with Arians in Pittsburgh, before eventually retiring after the 2012 season. The coach then coaxed the former QB to take a coaching internship with the Cardinals in 2016. Arizona eventually hired him as QBs coach in 2017 and he stayed on at that job when Arians left in 2018. Leftwich was elevated to the interim OC job midway through last year's disastrous season in the desert.
Last year's struggles getting tossed into the fire are one reason Arians believes Leftwich can be a successful play-caller.
"What he did with the interim title out there [in Arizona in 2018] -- it wasn't even his offense, it was Mike McCoy's offense -- and he did a heck of a job with some rookies. He's more than ready," Arians said of Leftwich.
The OC, who saw his roster decimated by injuries in Arizona, took the lessons to heart.
"The greatest thing that ever happened to me last year [in Arizona] was the last two months of last year, just being in that situation," Leftwich said. "Sometimes, we had seven or eight rookies in the huddle. I don't think we had four draft picks. Those type of things, things that I learned that I was never able to experience in my early years of coaching, I got that opportunity to experience those things and I think I became a better coach from that."
The players respect Leftwich's knowledge and experience having been a starter for four years.
"One thing he has over me and a lot of other coaches in the room is he's been in that room as a player -- he can relate to them on that level," receiver Chris Godwin said. "He's been out there on the grass -- he can relate to them on that level. So I think that earns him a lot of respect."
Leftwich can also relate to Winston both from his experience on the field and the pressure of trying to hang on to a starting job.
"[Him] seeing things how I see it, [his] understanding from being in that pocket and not all from a strategic standpoint -- it's [been] excellent," Winston said.
In a pivotal year for Winston, the QB whisperer put his trust in Leftwich to remake the signal-caller and run a successful offense in Tampa. We'll have a better idea of how it's all unfolding when training camp gets underway in late July.