4 Tips From a Super Bowl Champion Coach

Chad Kanoff shares 4 things that Byron Leftwich emphasizes to his quarterbacks everyday in his QB room.

I talked to the now Super Bowl champion offensive coordinator of the Buccaneers, Byron Leftwich today. Every once in a while you are lucky enough to get a coach that believes in you. In my NFL career, that coach has been Byron. He came to Princeton and worked me out my senior year, got me signed after the draft, then all training camp gave me opportunities to compete for a job, and then when I was released by the Cardinals, he brought me in for a workout with the Bucs where I was eventually signed. If it was up to him, I’d still be there.

But this isn’t about me, this is about a great coach, who despite winning the Super Bowl this year as the only African-American offensive coordinator in the NFL that calls the plays on gameday (The Bucs offense was also ranked in the top 5 by almost every statistical metric), wasn’t interviewed for a single one of the 7 head coaching vacancies in the NFL. And who even after winning the Super Bowl, was mistaken for the Buccaneers’ African-American defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (who also somehow won’t be a head coach next year) in his post game press conference. Despicable. Particularly in a year that has a heightened focus on social justice and in a league that supposedly cares about changing it. But one of Byron’s great qualities is taking everything in stride with a playful laugh, and as he says, he’s in no rush to leave Tom Brady.

Since I think so highly of him as a coach and a mentor, I thought I’d share the 4 things that he emphasizes to his quarterbacks everyday in his QB room.

1.     PLAY WITH CONFIDENCE. The night before every game he gave us a sheet with a list of 20 things to review mostly about the opposing defense, but the last item always said play with confidence. While that might seem simple and obvious, it’s also something that can be easily forgotten. As he would say, since QBs are the guys everyone on the team looks to, it’s part of the job description to never be down. Importantly, he would always add that when things are at their absolute worst, when you can’t complete a ball, when you’ve thrown back to back interceptions, or when you’re down by 40, that’s coincidentally when you have to feel and project the most confidence. 

2.     If someone runs the wrong route, COMPLETE THE BALL, then cuss them out. This one also seems obvious, but many QBs start the cussing out or panicking during the play. A QB’s job is to complete the ball, even if the receiver is 5 yards short. He used to always tell us that the game winning touchdown in Super Bowl 43 was caught by the Pittsburgh Steeler Santonio Holmes on a route he wasn’t supposed to run.

3.     FOOTWORK IS EVERYTHING. Work your feet everyday. His version of the ‘wave’ drill is twice as long as most coaches, and he never stops yapping about drilling your feet in practice, taking the proper number of steps depending on the play being run, and bouncing up in the pocket.

4.     MAKE THE ROUTINE PLAY. Making the routine play means throwing it to the checkdown in stride when everyone else is covered, or when you have an open 5 yard out route, taking it, and putting it right on the receivers chin. In an era of social media highlights and recruiting rankings based off of highlight tapes, this coaching point is hugely underemphasized and undervalued. It’s also probably why QB’s are so difficult to scout. It’s hard to judge whether someone will continually make the right decision and throw it to the open guy accurately game after game after game; it’s a lot easier to just say wow that guy can throw it far, or wow that QB is fast and athletic. The golf corollary of this flawed logic would be deciding who is the best based on who drives it the furthest, rather than who scores the lowest day after day. If you watched the Super Bowl, you saw a clinic in making that routine play countless times by Tom Brady. 21/29 for 201 doesn’t sound like much, but it also is winning football when you watch how many first downs were picked up because of Tom’s patience, poise, and accuracy. Making the routine play is good QB play, and it’s a huge reason that Tom Brady has won 7 Super Bowls despite Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, and most other starting NFL QBs having more impressive and fun to watch highlight tapes.