Why Is Byron Leftwhich Still Unemployed?

Bob Cunningham@BCunningham215Senior Analyst IMarch 13, 2009

With the lack of quality quarterbacks in the NFL, it's hard to imagine that there would be a good quarterback, with starting experience, still jobless in mid-March.

Well, it's true.

This quarterback:

  • Is a former first-round pick.
  • Only 29 years old.
  • Has a 24-20 record or a .545 winning percentage.
  • Has a career completion percentage of 58.6.
  • Has thrown for just under 10,000 yards (9,624).
  • Has thrown 54 touchdowns to only 38 interceptions and
  • Has a career quarterback rating of 80.3.

Also, he did accomplished these statistics with subpar receivers, while playing on average teams.

Even with all these accomplishments, Byron Leftwich is still sitting at home, just waiting for his phone to ring giving him the opportunity to play again in the NFL.

While his stats may not be spectacular, they are solid.

So, why no suitors?

There are a couple knocks against Leftwich such as:

  • He is not a fantastic decision maker.
  • He is not overly mobile.
  • He is injury-prone

While there may be some truth to this, let's examine.

Any quarterback who has his TD-to-INT ratio cannot be a bad decision maker.

In his career, he has only thrown more interceptions than touchdowns once, and that was his rookie season (14 TD to 16 INT) in 2003.

To put that into perspective, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath only threw for more touchdowns than interceptions twice in his entire career.

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That's right, only twice did he throw more touchdowns that interceptions.

What about his career? He had 173 touchdowns compared to 220 interceptions.

Let's not forget we're talking about a Hall of Fame player here.

Sure, I say this with an anti-Joe Namath sentiment, but the point remains valid. Leftwich has 16 more touchdowns than interceptions, whereas Namath finished with 47 more interceptions than touchdowns.

No secret here, Byron Leftwich is not extremely mobile.

But so what?

How often did Dan Marino take off and run for a first down? Or how about Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? My point is that mobility is a plus not a necessity.

Plus, Leftwich has shown his commitment to playing by losing weight in the hopes of becoming more mobile.

For his career, Leftwich has 378 yards rushing to go along with nine touchdowns.

That's not bad for a quarterback.

Compare that to Tom Brady, who has 522 yards rushing with five touchdowns. Brady has also played in three more seasons than Leftwich.

Or how about Peyton Manning?

For his career, Manning has 717 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has also played in five more seasons than Leftwich.

My point is that scrambling has become an overvalued asset in a quarterback.

The only defense for his multiple injuries is that he played behind average offensive lines. Still, Leftwich has to do a better job staying healthy.

That said, he has proven to be, at the least, a high-end backup and, at best, a low-end starter.

Leftwich is between 23rd and 26th among active quarterbacks in:

  • Pass Attempts (1,428-23rd)
  • Pass Completions (842-25th)
  • Passing Yards (9,624-26th)
  • Passing Touchdowns (54-25th)
  • Quarterback Rating (80.3-24th)

This is ahead of notable quarterbacks:

  • Jay Cutler, Starter, Denver Broncos
  • David Garrard, Starter, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Derek Anderson, Starter (competing), Cleveland Browns
  • Jason Campbell, Starter, Washington Redskins
  • Kyle Orton, Starter, Chicago Bears
  • Sage Rosenfels, Starter, Minnesota Vikings
  • Matt Schaub, Starter, Houston Texans

So I'm left to wonder how a younger, starting-caliber player is still on the streets looking for an NFL home when there are so many teams who could use an experienced quarterback.

Why are teams such as New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, or even a place like Carolina where Jake Delhomme may have worn out his welcome not calling Leftwich?

Leftwich has proven that he belongs in the NFL and deserves a chance to get back into the game, probably even as a starter but at the very least a No. 2 guy.

A note to any GM's looking for a quarterback: Sign Byron Leftwich.


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