Byron Leftwich is one of the toughest players I've ever seen.
I saw him take a savage beating from Dwight Freeney and still pull his team along in a last-ditch drive to score.
He wasn't a terrible quarterback, but his career never lived up to his draft position. What if the Jacksonville Jaguars had passed on him in the 2003 draft?
First, to take Leftwich, the Jaguars passed on Kevin Williams, Terrell Suggs, Troy Polamalu, Dallas Clark, Larry Johnson and Nnamdi Asomugha, to name a few. In all, the Jaguars passed up 28 Pro Bowls by nine different players in the first round alone to take Leftwich.
The real pain begins when you look at what they sacrificed the following year. With the ninth overall pick, they took Reggie Williams—he of 189 career receptions—and passed over Ben Roethlisberger—he of two Super Bowl rings.
The irony is that for as much as Jack Del Rio tried to make the Jaguars into the Steelers South, he had every opportunity to do it by drafting Polamalu and Roethlisberger.
Instead, Jacksonville wound up with Leftwich and Williams.
Had the Jaguars drafted Roethlisberger, it's reasonable to assume they make the playoffs in 2004. They certainly would have been a more interesting match for the Patriots in the 2005 and 2007 playoffs. They also wouldn't have entered the four-year skid in which they now find themselves.
It's not difficult at all to imagine an alternate universe where the Jaguars are wearing multiple Super Bowl rings and writers are doing pieces about how Byron Leftwich has signed with the Jags to be a backup. It's ironic, they'd say, because way back in 2003, the Jaguars almost drafted him, but instead thought Troy Polamalu was too special to pass up.
It's not enough that a quarterback has a good arm or that he's tough and is a great guy. If it were, Byron Leftwich would have been a star. It's hard to say what it is that Roethlisberger has that Leftwich doesn't. Both are 6'5", tough and have live arms.
Still, one is a star and the other was destined to be his backup.
The Jaguars will always wonder what if they hadn't taken the wrong one.