Byron Leftwich

Latest On Steelers’ OC Situation

After Matt Canada spent Monday preparing for the Steelers’ Week 12 game against the Bengals, Mike Tomlin informed him Tuesday morning he would not finish out his third season as offensive coordinator. This marked historically rare territory for the Steelers, who had not fired a head coach or coordinator in-season in 82 years.

Steelers players had voiced frustrations about the offense for weeks behind the scenes, according to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini, and Najee Harris‘ public comments came days before Canada’s ouster (subscription required). While the team was united on keeping Canada during September and October, the run of poor performances on offense eventually led to the course change.

Regarding whose call this truly was, conflicting reports have come out. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac indicated Art Rooney II made this decision, while Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he was behind the call. The 17th-year coach taking responsibility is certainly on-brand, though The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly expresses doubt Tomlin truly decided to break with tradition and fire Canada. That said, Russini offers that it was indeed the veteran HC’s decision — after multiple discussions with Rooney — that produced the shakeup.

Calls for Canada’s firing came down last year and intensified this season. Tomlin gave Canada a third year, doing so after Kenny Pickett showed some promise late last season. The 2022 first-round pick has struggled this year and will enter Week 12 with just seven touchdown passes. The Steelers have been outgained in all 10 of their games, and they have not produced a 400-yard offensive game since Week 2 of the 2020 season.

Pickett’s close relationship with QBs coach and new play-caller Mike Sullivan did not affect this decision, Tomlin said. Sullivan worked as mostly a non-play-calling OC during his two-season Giants tenure. Though, he finished the 2017 campaign calling the shots for the Eli Manning-piloted offense, with Ben McAdoo being fired late in that season. Sullivan called plays for the Buccaneers from 2012-13. As the wheels began to come off for Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay ranked 13th and 30th offensively during Sullivan’s two seasons; the second came as the team transitioned to rookie Mike Glennon at QB.

The Steelers promoted their QBs coach to OC in 2021 (Canada) and 2018 (Randy Fichtner). Todd Haley was the team’s last outside hire for the position. Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner is the interim OC, though his lack of play-calling responsibilities do not point to long-term consideration here. Sullivan would seem the likelier candidate for the gig, based on his role and the team’s history. If the Steelers opt to go outside the organization, Kaboly adds Byron Leftwich has expressed interest in the job. The former Bucs OC made his interest known before Canada’s firing.

Leftwich would technically be an outside hire, but he has a past with the Steelers. He served as a Ben Roethlisberger reserve in 2008 and from 2010-12, joining longtime backup Charlie Batch in a deep QB room. Leftwich made one start for the Steelers, in 2012. The former QB spent four seasons as Tampa Bay’s OC. Despite Bruce Arians being an offense-oriented HC, he gave Leftwich the play-calling reins. This setup helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl in Tom Brady‘s first season and the ageless legend led the NFL in TD passes (43) and yards (5,316) in 2021. Brady and Todd Bowles expressed dissatisfaction with Leftwich last season, however, and the Bucs canned him in January.

Leftwich, 43, interviewed for the Ravens’ OC job this offseason but is not currently coaching. Although Rooney may or may not have insisted Tomlin fire Canada, Dulac adds the longtime HC will be the one who selects the next OC. Though, ownership will obviously need to approve Tomlin’s pick.

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spun for several weeks, many teams made coordinator changes as well. Teams seeking new head coaches are conducting OC and DC searches, and a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

This is a big year for offensive coordinator hires, with nearly half the league making changes. Here are the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 3-1-23 (3:31pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals 

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Ben McAdoo)

  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach, (Rams): Hired
  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Kellen Moore)

  • Brian Angelichio, tight ends coach (Vikings): Interviewed 2/2
  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach (Rams): Interviewed
  • Jeff Nixon, running backs coach (Panthers): Interviewed
  • Brian Schottenheimer, offensive consultant (Cowboys): Hired

Denver Broncos (Out: Justin Outten)

Houston Texans (Out: Pep Hamilton)

Indianapolis Colts (Out: Parks Frazier)

  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
  • Tee Martin, wide receivers coach (Ravens): Interview requested

Kansas City Chiefs (Out: Eric Bieniemy)

  • Matt Nagy, quarterbacks coach (Chiefs): Hired

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Shane Steichen)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals (Out: Vance Joseph)

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Buffalo Bills (Out: Leslie Frazier)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Al Holcomb)

  • Ejiro Evero, former defensive coordinator (Broncos): Hired
  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): Interviewed
  • Marquand Manuel, safeties coach (Jets): Interviewed
  • Kris Richard, co-defensive coordinator (Saints): Interviewed

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans 

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Renaldo Hill)

  • Derrick Ansley, defensive backs coach (Chargers): Promoted
  • Doug Belk, defensive coordinator (Houston): Interviewed
  • DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach (Patriots): Interviewed

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

New Orleans Saints (Out: Ryan Nielsen, Kris Richard)

  • Joe Woods, former defensive coordinator (Browns): Hired

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Jonathan Gannon)

San Francisco 49ers (Out: DeMeco Ryans)

  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): On radar
  • Chris Harris, defensive backs coach (Commanders): Interviewed 1/31
  • Kris Kocurek, defensive line coach (49ers): On radar
  • Steve Wilks, former interim head coach (Panthers): Hired

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Kocurek, Leftwich, Titans

Yesterday, Joseph Person of The Athletic provided a breakdown of the Panthers‘ recent search for a new head coach that ended in the hiring of Frank Reich. There were a few notes of interest that we took away from the behind the scenes look.

The first note of interest is the revelation that, when interim head coach Steve Wilks interviewed for the official role, he laid out his full offensive plan for the search committee. Part of Wilks’ offensive plan relied on the pursuit of Eagles quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson as his offensive coordinator. Johnson’s year coaching a phenomenal season by quarterback Jalen Hurts made him a name to watch for many of the open offensive coordinator jobs around the league. He did end up interviewing with the Rams and Jets for jobs that went to Mike LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett, respectively.

A second note of interest is likely a clue as to why Wilks didn’t end up as the official head coach of the Panthers. Of the nine candidates Carolina looked at for the position, seven had offensive backgrounds. Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has a belief that “offensive coordinators-turned-head coaches might have an edge in game management.” That explains why Wilks was so detailed in his offensive plan and, perhaps, how much of an uphill battle he faced.

Lastly, it was reported that Reich was becoming the clear choice for the job by his second interview. “The first time he came in, he was dialed in, laid out his plan,” Fitterer said. “Then when he came back in the second time, he took that plan and went deeper, went to a different level.” Reich was offered the position the next day, prompting an immediate response from the legal team representing Wilks and Brian Flores in their lawsuit accusing the league of racial discrimination.

Here are a few other notes of coaching developments occurring around the NFL:

  • Even though Wilks didn’t get the head coaching position he coveted, he ended up landing a top coordinator position in the league with the 49ers, following the departure of DeMeco Ryans. San Francisco defensive line coach Kris Kocurek received some interest for the Texans defensive coordinator position under his former coordinator and was in consideration for the job that Ryans vacated and Wilks took. Wilks apparently was able to convince Kocurek to stay in the Bay Area, keeping a respected defensive assistant on his staff, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.
  • Former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich could be headed to the college ranks, following his recent dismissal from Tampa Bay. According to Grace Remington of 247Sports, Leftwich reached out to Notre Dame about the offensive coordinator position vacated by Tommy Rees, who left to become the offensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa. Leftwich has reportedly remained in contact with the head coach of the Fighting Irish, Marcus Freeman, and remains a strong contender for the job.
  • A slew of coaching updates in Nashville were provided earlier today, with a few smaller assignments sliding under notice. Formerly the running backs coach over star Derrick Henry, Tony Dews has transitioned to the tight ends coaching position for the Titans, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. It was recently reported that former Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust was making her way to Tennessee. Wilson provided clarification that she has been brought on in a defensive quality control role. Justin Hamilton will reportedly join her in a similar role. Finally, Wilson provided news of a departure, reporting that secondary coach Anthony Midget will not be retained in 2023.

Ravens Interview Byron Leftwich For OC

As the Ravens’ offensive coordinator search moves into the finalist stage, the team has met with a recently fired play-caller with a Super Bowl ring. Mentioned as a candidate, Byron Leftwich has indeed met with John Harbaugh about the job, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets.

The four-year Bucs OC advanced to the finalist stage of the Jaguars’ head coaching search last year but backed out of the pursuit for that job. A year later, the Bucs canned him following a wildly disappointing season on offense. But Leftwich, whose initial three Tampa Bay offenses produced top-10 rankings in scoring, figures to have opportunities.

Leftwich has been let go twice thus far in his career; both instances came a year after Bruce Arians retirements. The Cardinals kept the Arians hire onboard in 2018 under Steve Wilks, and a Mike McCoy firing led to Leftwich’s promotion to offensive coordinator. The Cards’ struggled continued, with the team ranking last in scoring and total offense. Both Wilks and Leftwich were gone by season’s end. Arians brought his former quarterback charge to Tampa, and Leftwich turned his career around with the NFC South team.

Although Jameis Winston infamously completed the league’s first 30-30 season in 2019, the Bucs ranked third in both total offense and points. They actually dipped slightly in Tom Brady‘s first season, from a yardage standpoint, but Leftwich resided as the Bucs’ play-caller throughout his tenure. Arians obviously held a significant influence here, but the offense-minded HC delegated calls to his top offensive staffer. Brady bounced back after a down 2019 season, thriving in 2020 and ’21. The all-time great’s 2022 swoon preceded a retirement and Todd Bowles firing Leftwich.

The Bucs fell from second to 25th in scoring this past season, and both Bowles and Brady voiced concerns about Leftwich’s play-calling. The team’s run game was a particular disappointment, ranking as the worst per-game ground attack in league (76.9 yards per game) by nearly 10 yards. Despite the Bucs re-signing Leonard Fournette, the team rarely overcame its O-line issues and became a pass-reliant operation. Brady broke his own single-season completion record — set in 2021 — due to the imbalance.

It is unclear if Leftwich is a finalist for the job, but the Ravens have now spoken to 11 candidates. The Steelers also loom as a potential Leftwich landing spot.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Lamar, Steelers

In a press conference this past Thursday, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta spoke to the future of several Ravens players as the team heads into the offseason. Although the free agency of quarterback Lamar Jackson is obviously the main headline of Baltimore’s offseason, DeCosta still has plenty on his plate from key free agents like cornerback Marcus Peters and offensive guard Ben Powers to veterans flirting with retirement like defensive tackle Calais Campbell.

Peters is headed towards free agency this offseason after three seasons in Baltimore. The Ravens have been fairly top-heavy at the cornerback position in the past few years with Peters and Marlon Humphrey. They invested some draft capital in the position last year, selecting rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams, but due to experience and injuries, they were still forced to rely on contributions from the likes of Daryl Worley and Kevon Seymour. The team signed free agent Kyle Fuller in the offseason, but a Week 1 knee injury knocked him out for the year. DeCosta hinted that the team will continue to try and add more talent at cornerback regardless of whether or not they are able to re-sign Peters.

Powers continued his play this year as a full-time starter and had his best NFL season in a contract year. He may follow the likes of former Ravens’ linemen like Ryan Jensen and Kelechi Osemele, who priced themselves out of a new contract in Baltimore in the past.

The Ravens were able to sign trade acquisition Roquan Smith to a long-term deal and now are faced with the contract situation of fellow linebacker Patrick Queen. Queen’s play elevated substantially while playing alongside Smith and has the Ravens considering his future going into this offseason. DeCosta said he isn’t ready to announce that they will pick up Queen’s fifth-year option, but he made sure to clarify that Smith’s contract won’t preclude them from signing Queen long-term.

Lastly, the Ravens have two esteemed veterans that could consider hanging up their cleats. Campbell mulled retirement last season and will likely kick the idea around a bit once again this offseason. Pass rusher Justin Houston is under contract for another season but could potentially call it a career. He stated recently that he does intend to keep playing, and both athletes met with DeCosta before leaving town for the offseason.

Here are a few more rumors from around the AFC North, starting with the main storyline for the offseason in Charm City:

  • Ryan Clark referenced a debate on ESPN’s first take recently about the details of offers made to Jackson. A source provided knowledge that the Ravens’ initial offer had $113MM in guaranteed money and that offer was eventually upped to $133MM. That guaranteed amount doesn’t come anywhere close to Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s $230MM guaranteed contract, but the second offer would be the most guaranteed money to any quarterback in the NFL besides Watson.
  • The Steelers’ coaching staff is set to undergo some changes this offseason. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one coach on his way out is assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart who is set to join the staff at West Virginia University. Stewart’s father, Bill, served as head coach of the Mountaineers from 2008-10.
  • The Buccaneers parted ways with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich at the end of this season. The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly speculated that, unless Leftwich finds work elsewhere as an offensive play caller, the former Steelers quarterback could find a role as an offensive assistant on Mike Tomlin‘s staff. Kaboly posits that a role as senior offensive assistant/passing-game coordinator could be in play for Leftwich. Leftwich would essentially be a coordinator-in-waiting as current offensive coordinator Matt Canada is in the final year of his contract.

Latest On Buccaneers’ Staff Changes, Free Agency Plans

The Buccaneers are on the lookout for a new offensive coordinator, with Byron Leftwich being the highest-profile coach the team moved on from amid a spree of dismissals and retirements last week. Both Todd Bowles and Tom Brady voiced concerns about Leftwich last season.

Bowles and Brady complained about the offense’s predictability, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud, who adds the team’s lack of commitment to the run game was one of the issues. Bowles believed teams had caught onto Leftwich’s offense, which tumbled off its elite perch of previous years, and Brady problems with the offense emerged back in December.

Tampa Bay finished 25th in scoring, and although it ranked 15th in total offense, a last-place ground attack dragged down the latter number. The Bucs ranked 32nd across the board on the ground, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and totaling just five rushing touchdowns. The Bucs went from 61 TDs in 2021 to 31 this season. Leonard Fournette‘s three-year, $21MM deal produced just 668 rushing yards (3.5 per tote) in 16 games. Much of these woes can be attributed to the changes to Tampa Bay’s interior offensive line, which lost all three of its previous starters — Ryan Jensen (injury), Ali Marpet (retirement), Alex Cappa (free agency) — to lead to lesser replacements creating problems for Brady and the run game. Brady showing signs of decline did not help matters for Leftwich, either.

But Leftwich and other Bruce Arians-hired staffers took the fall. Arians is not pleased with what happened last week, Stroud said during a WDAE Radio interview (via The three-year Bucs HC, who gave the keys to Bowles in a surprising move last March, is “disappointed” and “hurt” his successor canned several of his staffers. Those assistants, some of whom having additional years on their contracts, had been told they would be there as long as Bowles was, per Stroud. Of course, NFL teams’ plans change rapidly. And an 8-9 season was not exactly where the Bucs thought they would be given their performances in 2020 and ’21. Bowles figures to enter the 2023 season on the hot seat. Arians spent the season as a senior advisor to Jason Licht, though he admitted late in the season he missed coaching.

As Bowles gathered his staff for a postmortem Thursday morning — prior to informing Leftwich and Co. they were being fired — he mentioned the team would have a difficult time signing free agents, per Stroud. The Bucs are nearly in Saints territory in terms of cap space, ranking ahead of only their restructure-happy rivals around the league. As of Wednesday, Tampa Bay sits $54MM-plus over the projected 2023 cap. The Bucs have been active in free agency over the past two years, mostly via re-signings. But the team had brought back a number of its top free agents — from Jensen to Carlton Davis in 2022 to Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and Rob Gronkowski in 2021 — during Brady’s stay.

Following that meeting, Bowles called select assistants into his office to inform them of the dismissals. Despite the persistent run-game struggles, Bowles kept Arians hires Harold Goodwin (run-game coordinator) and Joe Gilbert (O-line coach). The team had discussions with Bill O’Brien as a Leftwich contingency plan last year, in the event the latter landed the Jacksonville HC job. O’Brien was Brady’s OC (or de facto OC, as the Patriots sometimes do not do coordinator titles) for three seasons, but he is now back with the Pats.

The Bucs have begun their OC search, with a few candidates surfacing Tuesday. While Leftwich’s ouster may influence Brady in free agency, the early word coming out of Tampa is the 45-year-old superstar will explore other options if he is to play a 24th season.

Ravens Request OC Interview With Vikings’ Brian Angelichio

The Ravens continue to cast a wide net in search of their new offensive play caller. In addition to considering Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson, Browns wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea, and Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales, Baltimore has requested to interview Vikings passing game coordinator and tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

Angelichio has been a tight ends coach in the league since 2012 when he followed Greg Schiano from Rutgers to the Buccaneers. Since then, he’s had some bad luck finding head coaches who have stayed in their jobs long term, bouncing around to Cleveland, Green Bay, Washington, and Carolina before his most recent position in Minnesota. Angelichio joined the Vikings’ staff this year with first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell, who granted him the new added moniker of passing game coordinator.

Angelichio has a few notable coaching performances on his resume. In 2015, he coached veteran tight end Gary Barnidge to a career 1,043-yard season in which he caught nine touchdowns. He’s also coached some of the NFL’s best recent tight ends, overseeing Jimmy Graham with the Packers as well as Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis in Washington. With Angelichio as passing game coordinator, the Vikings ranked fifth in the NFL in passing yards gained and tied for fourth in the league in passing touchdowns this year.

Angelichio has now had his name added to the ever-growing list of candidates to become the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator, alongside Robinson, O’Shea, and Canales. Fowler added that there are a number of other names he’s hearing as potential candidates including former Colts head coach Frank Reich, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

In addition to the many outside candidates, the Ravens also have at least two in-house candidates in wide receivers coach Tee Martin and quarterbacks coach James Urban. Martin is a recent addition to the NFL coaching ranks, joining the Ravens in 2021 after years as a passing game coordinator and play caller for multiple Power 5 programs in college football. Urban has been with the team since 2018, coaching Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson since his rookie season. He’s never called plays, but he’s been in the NFL since 2004 and worked alongside Ravens head coach John Harbaugh for much of that time.

Baltimore is doing its due diligence with its search for a new offensive play caller. The team has doubled down on their intent to center the offense around Jackson, going as far as to allow him as much input into the coaching search as possible. Angelichio becomes one of many names for Jackson, Harbaugh, and company to consider.

Buccaneers To Fire OC Byron Leftwich

The Buccaneers are moving on from Byron Leftwich. The team’s offensive coordinator of the past four years will not return in 2023, according to the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud.

In addition to Leftwich’s dismissal, Stroud points to other changes. As many as five offensive staffers and multiple defensive assistants will not be back next season. This follows a season in which the Bucs’ offense declined considerably after two strong years with Tom Brady. The changes came to pass after a Todd Bowles meeting with GM Jason Licht and Bucs ownership, per Stroud.

This news comes a year after Leftwich, 43, was on the HC carousel. The Jaguars interviewed their former quarterback twice in January 2022, but Leftwich removed his name from consideration for the job. Jacksonville ended up hiring Doug Pederson and is now in the divisional round. Leftwich’s fourth Bucs offense dropped from second in 2021 to 25th this season.

In December, a report emerged indicating Brady and Leftwich were not seeing eye-to-eye, and a recent report noted a Brady 2023 return could well be contingent on Leftwich’s dismissal. Many connected Brady to Bruce Arians‘ exit as well, though Arians has repeatedly denied he was forced out. While Brady’s Tampa future is up in the air, Bowles will search for his own offensive coordinator. Bowles’ seat warmed after the Bucs’ 8-9 finish and blowout loss to the Cowboys in the wild-card round, and he will tie his future to a handpicked OC.

A name to watch is Georgia OC Todd Monken, per’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Monken has a history with the Bucs, having been on staff from 2016-18, and Jeremy Fowler of adds (via Twitter) he has generated interest from teams.

The Bucs moved on from Monken upon firing Dirk Koetter after the 2018 season, leading Monken to Cleveland and the Arians-Leftwich tandem to Tampa. Monken has been Georgia’s OC since 2020, and his tenure has overlapped with the greatest stretch in the program’s history. The Bulldogs have won back-to-back national championships, the most recent being cemented via a 65-7 rout of TCU. Monken’s 2018 Bucs season also included Ryan Fitzpatrick posting a 9.6 yards-per-attempt figure, which still ranks in the top 10 all time.

Leftwich earned a second chance as an OC following a dismal 2018, which featured the Cardinals’ first post-Arians season end with a 3-13 record and the team ranking last offensively. Arians, who had retired following the 2017 slate, brought Leftwich to Tampa and installed him as the Bucs’ play-caller. Jameis Winston‘s historically high-variance 2019 season gave way to Brady in 2020. After a rocky start, the legendary QB drove the Bucs to a top-three ranking on offense that year. Leftwich collected a Super Bowl ring that season, and Brady led the NFL in touchdown passes and passing yards in 2021. Tampa Bay’s final Winston-led offense also ranked in the top seven in both points and yards, which should reflect well on Leftwich. But this season brought an undeniable blow to his value.

The Bucs ranked last across the board in rushing this season, despite the team re-signing Leonard Fournette on a three-year deal worth $21MM. Offensive line issues plagued the team, and Brady’s QBR fell from second in 2021 to 18th in 2022. The Bucs’ 198 fewer points from 2021-22 doubles as the second-steepest decline in NFL history, behind only the Falcons’ freefall from 1973-74 (h/t Fox Sports’ Greg Auman). Although Brady threw for 351 yards in Tampa Bay’s woeful wild-card performance, he struggled throughout and did not confirm anything about his 2023 plans postgame. The 45-year-old passer has been connected to retiring again, playing for the Bucs in 2023 or playing elsewhere. More Brady-dominated news cycles are coming, but Leftwich will be on the lookout for his next gig by that point.

Leftwich’s Winston offense outperforming Monken’s Winston work should work in the former’s favor, though some of Winston and Brady’s Tampa production will undoubtedly be attributed to Arians. Leftwich, a former Jags top-10 pick, entered coaching in 2016 as an Arians intern but rose to the OC level by 2018, when the Cardinals fired Mike McCoy in-season.

Tom Brady Could Return To Buccaneers In 2023

Recent reports have indicated that quarterback Tom Brady will not return to the Bucs in 2023, but Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times says that is not necessarily the case. Assuming Brady wants to continue his playing career, a fourth year in Tampa should not be ruled out.

After all, the future Hall-of-Famer continues to enjoy a strong relationship with team ownership and with GM Jason Licht, and the team has proven throughout Brady’s tenure that it will do whatever it takes to build a contender around him, even if its maneuvers create future salary cap headaches. Plus, the fact that the Bucs clinched the NFC South and qualified for the postseason could encourage Brady to return (although the weakness of the division obviously played a major role in the team’s playoff berth).

Stroud does note that Brady’s preference would be to play for Sean Payton, the former Saints head coach who is presently working as a FOX analyst but who appears ready to return to the sidelines in 2023. At present, only the Broncos have obtained permission to interview Payton, and Denver would be unable to add Brady due to its commitment to Russell Wilson. Of course, Payton and Brady appeared ready to join forces on the Dolphins in 2022, though it is now unclear whether Miami would be willing to make current HC Mike McDaniel a one-and-done just to facilitate a brief Brady-Payton partnership.

Payton could elect to return to the Saints, and New Orleans boasts enough offensive talent to entice Brady to join him there. However, as Stroud notes in a separate piece, joining the Bucs’ division rival would be difficult for Tampa Bay ownership to stomach, and Brady may not want to “stick it” to the Glazers in that way.

Brady will likely have suitors that are interested in only him and not in Payton. The 49ers, Raiders, and Jets could all be in play, and none of those teams appear as if they will be parting with their current head coaches (plus, if Brady elects to sign with Las Vegas, he would be reuniting with longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, which could appeal to him). The upshot here is that all options, including a new deal with the Bucs, remain on the table.

On a related note, it seems that a Brady return to Tampa would lead to a dismissal of OC Byron Leftwich, especially in light of the reported friction between the two men. If that happens, then Stroud expects current Alabama offensive coordinator and former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien — who was on the Patriots’ staff for five of Brady’s years in Foxborough — to be in the mix as a possible replacement. Indeed, O’Brien and Licht have a close relationship, and the Bucs were interested in O’Brien’s services last year, when it appeared as if Leftwich would leave Tampa to become the Jaguars’ head coach.

The Patriots are also said to be interested in a reunion with O’Brien.

Bruce Arians Discusses Coaching Future

Bruce Arians moved from the sideline to the front office this past offseason, with the 70-year-old now serving as the Buccaneers’ senior advisor to general manager Jason Licht. While Arians sounds appreciative of his current gig, he recently made it clear that he’d jump at the opportunity to return to coaching.

“Would I love to be coaching? Yeah,” Arians told Rick Stroud of “It’s what you do. It kills me to go upstairs. I’m on the sideline in pregame and it kills me to have to go upstairs and just sit there. It kills me. It’s hard. It’s what I do. I’ve done it my whole life. I’m smart enough to know it’s over.

“It’s not the same. That daily interaction with the players and the coaches, the relationship I’m in. I sat and talked to Mike (Evans) and Vita (Vea) for an hour. The new guys are told, ‘That’s the old coach. You don’t want him cussing you out.’ I just (cussed out) a couple of them for the hell of it.”

Arians’ tenure in Tampa Bay spanned three years, including a 31-18 record and the franchise’s second Super Bowl title. He seemed prepared for a fourth season at the helm but plans changed with the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady‘s future. Working under the impression that his franchise QB was going to hang up his cleats, Arians weighed the possibility of an unproven QB room against his desire to see defensive coordinator Todd Bowles succeed him.

By ultimately stepping aside, Arians allowed the organization to retain both Bowles and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, with the now-former head coach continually asserting that he wanted to set up the Buccaneers organization with a solid succession plan. Still, despite Arians willingly giving up his gig, it sounds like he would have stuck around had he had more clarity on Tampa Bay’s outlook for the 2022-23 season.