The Arizona Cardinals have been a dumpster fire on offense, and we now have our second coordinator firing of the 2018 regular season. Four days after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the Cardinals have fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. The Cardinals are promoting quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich into the position.
The move is not surprising given how atrocious the Cardinals offense has been. Even having a rookie quarterback in Josh Rosen does not make up for the decision-making that has led to the third lowest scoring offense in the league, and the second least efficient offense.
Buffalo is probably the worst offense, but Arizona has David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, and an intriguing rookie receiver in Christian Kirk. There is no excuse for how McCoy was calling plays for David Johnson. On Friday morning, after another disastrous Cardinals performance, Deadspin put together a look at how bad DJ’s usage has been. He’s one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL, and McCoy has basically been running him into a brick wall week-in and week-out.
The move comes at a slightly notable time in the schedule. The Cardinals just got pummeled by the Denver Broncos, and now have ten days to prepare for a Week 8 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Two weeks ago, the two sides squared off in a game the 49ers dominated statistically, but lost thanks to five turnovers. Josh Rosen was inaccurate for stretches, but the 49ers defense also held David Johnson to 71 total yards of offense. By comparison, in 2016, before he missed most of the 2017 season, Johnson averaged 132 yards of offense per game.
I have no idea what the promotion of Byron Leftwich will mean for the Cardinals offense. Former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians has said he thinks Leftwich has a future as a head coach. Things cannot get any worse for the Cardinals offense, but Leftwich has never handled play-calling duties. That doesn’t mean he can’t do it, or will struggle in the role, but it leaves a big question mark as to what to expect.
SI’s Andy Benoit sat down with Leftwich recently, and while the new OC did not get into any details, Benoit came away with this.
What was apparent from our conversation is Leftwich believes that everything an offense does must tie not to a certain philosophy, but rather to your quarterback’s perspective. You must understand how your QB sees things and build your plays and verbiage accordingly. That may seem obvious, but it’s not something every offensive architect acts on.
The Cardinals are not going to change their playbook in the next ten days, but I suspect we see some changes to their play-calling. David Johnson strikes me as the player who will benefit most from this change. Rather than running him into a brick wall between the hashmarks, I have to think Leftwich dials up more opportunities to get him out to the edges. I’m basing this on McCoy’s failure with Johnson thus far, as opposed to knowing anything about Leftwich. It makes this game a tough one to figure out with this curve ball ten days out.