Saints Rumors: Bucs' Byron Leftwich Eyed to Replace Sean Payton as HC amid Jags Buzz

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 27, 2022

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 23: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich passes the ball to players during warmups before the game against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints have requested an interview with Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich for their vacant head coaching position, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

New Orleans is in search of a new head coach after longtime coach Sean Payton announced his resignation this week and said he intends to take time away from coaching in 2022.

Leftwich has been a hot head coaching candidate in recent weeks, specifically with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who he played for from 2003-06 as a quarterback.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that Leftwich and the Jags were trying to finalize an agreement for him to become the team's head coach, but Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com followed up with a report that negotiations between Leftwich and the Jaguars hit a snag.

Leftwich began his coaching career as the Arizona Cardinals' quarterbacks coach in 2017, and he spent part of 2018 as interim offensive coordinator before Bucs head coach Bruce Arians hired him to be the OC in Tampa in 2019.

Even before the arrival of quarterback Tom Brady, Leftwich worked wonders with Tampa Bay's offense in 2019.

With Jameis Winston at quarterback, the Bucs ranked third in the NFL in both total offense and scoring offense. Winston remarkably threw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, although he also threw 30 interceptions.

Arians was fed up with the mistakes, which led to the Bucs signing Brady in free agency.

The combination of Leftwich and Brady worked well, with the Buccaneers ranking seventh in total offense and third in scoring in 2020, and second in both categories in 2021.

Leftwich also played a role in the Bucs winning their second-ever Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign.

In addition to his coaching experience, Leftwich spent 10 years in the NFL as a quarterback with the Jags, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and Bucs.

New Orleans could represent an enticing opportunity for Leftwich given the success the Saints enjoyed under Payton.

In Payton's 15 seasons as head coach, the Saints went 152-89, made the playoffs nine times, won seven NFC South titles and won one Super Bowl.

They reached the playoffs in four straight seasons from 2017-20 and narrowly missed out this season with a 9-8 record.

New Orleans has major question marks at quarterback after Winston, Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian all started games in 2021, but if the Saints re-sign Winston, it could potentially interest Leftwich given that they worked together in Tampa in 2019.

Winston struggled with turnovers that season, but Leftwich got the most out of him otherwise, so it could be a winning combination in New Orleans.