The dynamic is interesting.
Byron Leftwich, a former NFL quarterback, entered the league as a first-round pick in 2003, three years after the New England Patriots selected Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. He exited the league in 2012, at which point Brady — who only had three Super Bowl rings at the time — still was in the early stages of cementing his legacy as the greatest QB in NFL history.
Now, Leftwich is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator, meaning he’ll work in tandem with Brady, who took his talents to Central Florida this offseason after 20 years in New England. And their close proximity in age — Leftwich turned 40 in January, while Brady turns 43 in August — in some ways has allowed them to connect on a different level.
“We?re pretty close in age. We?re from the old-school version of football,” Leftwich said Tuesday during a Zoom conference with reporters. “Me and him talk a lot about the old days where you?d do seven, eight, nine days of two-a-days in a row. We?re from that era of football in this league. We can talk old-school football, things that happened in ?08, ?09, things that are still relevant in this league. The history that he understands and the history that I understand, the ability for us to be able to talk top-level football, high-level football, whenever really on football 101. When you have Tom, you have a guy who?s been there, seen it all and just the conversations that me and him have, I mean, it?s exciting.
“It?s going to be exciting to work with him and try to put him in position to play as good a football as possible. He?s a little older than me, so we can talk a lot of football from the past 30, 40 years. We just communicate in that way and we just try to learn each other, figure each other out, so we can be at our best.”
Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion, already has made a profound impression on his Bucs teammates, hosting workouts and truly embracing his new organization despite an offseason complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
This undoubtedly is an encouraging sight in Tampa Bay, where the Bucs haven’t made the playoffs since the 2007 season. But it isn’t entirely surprising based on Brady’s track record of leadership.
“That?s what you get when you bring Tom Brady in. He?s about excellence. He?s trying to do everything possible to make sure we?re as successful as possible,” Leftwich said. “We, as coaches, are doing the same thing. It?s great to have a guy like that to come in and lead the guys and get as much participation as he?s gotten from the guys. It?s a sign of where we think our team?s at, the maturity of our team. I think we?ve got a lot of players who are willing to do everything possible to become a better football team and win football games.”
Brady is used to working alongside an offensive coordinator close in age, as the Patriots’ Josh McDaniels just turned 44. If anything, Brady has shown in recent years that age is just a number when it comes to on-field success, although it’ll be fascinating to see how he adjusts to playing for a new franchise after two decades in Foxboro.
“I think the greatest challenge is just he?s been somewhere for 20 years,” Leftwich said. “You guys know, some of you guys may have worked at the same job for 20 years. When you?ve done something for 20 years and there?s a change, it?s automatically different. No matter if it?s for better or for worse, it?s just different.
“I try to communicate with him, I want him to just talk football. I know he?s been saying things a certain way for so long. So when we communicate, we?re able to just talk football, because realistically, we?re all kind of running the same plays. It?s when we call them, how we teach them and how we?re trying to attack them that?s different. It?s not a play that he hasn?t heard of. It?s not a play that he hasn?t ran. Now we just got to figure out what he does well and run a lot more of those plays on Sunday than not.”
The Buccaneers have Super Bowl aspirations in wake of landing Brady and his former Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski. While Brady’s execution between the lines ultimately could determine whether the Bucs reach that ceiling, it’s also incumbent upon Leftwich and head coach Bruce Arians to put him and the rest of Tampa Bay’s loaded offense in position to succeed when the 2020 season kicks off.
So far, it sounds like everyone’s on the same page.