Welcome To Tampa: Ex-Steeler Byron Leftwich Gets Chance at Redemption

michael wongCorrespondent IApril 13, 2009

CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 19:  Quarterback Byron Leftwich #4 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to pass the ball during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 19, 2008 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Byron Leftwich was ran out of Jacksonville without much fanfare.

I might be in the minority on this, but I believe that Byron Leftwich did not deserve to be tossed out of Jacksonville. I truly believe that.

Statistics don't lie, and typically, neither do I.

Since 2003, Leftwich has played for three NFL teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Atlanta Falcons, and last year, tossed into the heat of midseason-action, he performed admirably for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now he's headed to Tampa Bay, where he is going to get a much-deserved second chance to start for a team that actually has the possibility of being a playoff contender

Second chance? Many of you will respond that he has had way more than two chances. I mean seriously, he did get playing time with four different teams, right?

I stand by what I claim. This is only the second time that Leftwich has had a chance to prove to the NFL, the fans, and the nation as a whole that he deserved to be picked in the first round back in 2003 by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Here is why.

His first four years in Jacksonville, Byron played in 46 games, starting only in 42 either because of injury or replacement as a starter by head coach, Jack Del Rio.

His statistics, which are not gaudy, are acceptable and even above-par, considering the learning curve for most rookie QB's in the league.

789 pass completions for 9042 passing yards, 51 passing TDs versus 36 interceptions.

That's not even including the fact that Byron is considered by many to be a mobile QB, something which can be seen in his statistics.

364 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns can be added to his totals during his career in Jacksonville.

Factoring in all of this, even if we add in the partial fourth season when he was benched in favor of David Garrard, Leftwich has averaged 2351.5 combined offensive yards and 14.75 combined touchdowns per season.

Not too bad in a run-based offense that featured not one, but two star-running backs—Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.

His interception ratio was even better. Over his entire career with the Jaguars, Leftwich averaged only one interception per 37.33 pass attempts.

To put that against another QB in comparison, Steelers' star QB Ben Roethlisberger averaged one INT per 26.59 pass attempts.

Hopefully, you're starting to get the picture.

(Just as further evidence of his mobility, Roethlisberger was sacked once every 9.83 pass attempts. Leftwich was sacked only once every 17.68 pass attempts, almost double)

Back to the main picture.

In my opinion, getting a second chance in the NFL is defined by having significant playing time, preferably as the starting QB, without having to worry about looking over your shoulder every single time you toss an incomplete pass or interception.

So you think he got a second chance with the Atlanta Falcons? He played in three games, starting two.

No wonder he never really got a chance to settle in, gel with the offense, learn the schemes and come to terms with the head coach.

This doesn't even take into account the fact that Bobby Petrino, the head coach, and Michael Vick, the previous starter at QB, both did their best to completely destroy the team.

OK, then scratch Atlanta. How about his second chance in Pittsburgh?

He was signed as a primary backup and ended the season not even starting a single game.

The only reason he was even signed was because career back-up, Charlie Batch, a decent quarterback in his own right, broke a collarbone before the regular season even began.

His statistics for the brief time he was on the field were impressive. 21 of 36 completions for 303 passing yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions.

Tack on one rushing touchdown, seven rushing yards, and finally a season passer rating of 104.3, and you've got yourself a QB with a strong-arm, a slightly long delivery, decent mobility, and over a dozen reasons why Byron Leftwich should do just fine when playing in Tampa's offensive scheme.

His career passer rating of 80.3, even through all the different stops and trouble finding playing time shows he's just the man to get the job done with the Buccaneers.

Besides, he's a local boy who played his high school ball at Howard D. Woodson High, right down the road in the nation's capital, Washington D.C.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byron_Leftwich (for more information on his early career)

-Let's gets this straight. I hate Washington the city, the team, the players, the organization and even the students. With a passion. I am a Baltimore-raised, Baltimore-loving, purple-blooded Raven's fan who only admires and cheers for players such as Byron Leftwich and Darrius Heyward-Bey purely because they played local ball within a vicinity of 50 miles of where I live and was born. Love me or hate me, email me at: wong_83@hotmail.com


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