Leftwich is in his third season with the Bucs and head coach Bruce Arians and in his second season working with quarterback Tom Brady. Leftwich also was Arians’ offensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.
The Bucs lead the NFL in yards per game (405.8) and passing yards per game (306.6) and rank second in points scored per game (23.4). They ranked seventh, second and third in those categories in 2020. For rushing yards per game, the Bucs ranked 28th in 2020 and 27th this season.
The Bucs’ offense led the NFL in passing and ranked third in points per game and yards per game in 2019 with quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Jaguars requested permission on Dec. 28 to interview Leftwich, but he said he didn’t want to talk to the Jaguars because he wanted to concentrate on the upcoming game against the New York Jets. Something apparently changed his mindset this week because he’s interviewing two days before the Bucs (12-4) host Carolina (5-11) to close out the regular season.
Tampa Bay is currently the No. 3 seed in the NFC but can move up to No. 2 by beating the Panthers and having the Los Angeles Rams lose to San Francisco on Sunday. They also could drop to the No. 4 seed if Dallas beats Philadelphia on Saturday and the Bucs and the Rams lose.
“I really think it’s disrespectful to the Jets and whoever you’re playing that week when you’re talking about things that really has nothing to do with Sunday’s game,” Leftwich said last week. “I’m completely focused on this football game on Sunday. Obviously, as a coach anytime your name is thrown around, I guess it is what it is, but it really means nothing at this point. It really means nothing at this point, and I kind of think it’s disrespectful to the guys that you really work with every day. That’s really how I view that. If I’m ever fortunate enough to be in that situation, that’s when I’ll handle it, but as of right now, I’m really focusing on the opponent we’re about to play and getting us ready to try and play our best football.”
If Leftwich were to be hired — the Jaguars have already interviewed Jim Caldwell, Doug Pederson, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and are also scheduled to interview Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett within the next week — it would be a homecoming for him. The Jaguars drafted Leftwich third overall in 2003 out of Marshall, and he ranks fourth in franchise history in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
O’Brien went 52-48 in six-plus seasons with the Texans, leading the team to four AFC South titles and four playoff appearances, from 2014-20. He was fired after the team’s 0-4 start last season.
O’Brien’s tenure with the Texans crashed hard in 2020 after he became the permanent GM. He had been serving as the de facto general manager during the 2019 season after the team fired Brian Gaine in June 2019. Though the team named Chris Olsen as interim GM, O’Brien had final say over all football matters and Olsen was fired after the 2019 season ended.
O’Brien was named the permanent GM and named Jack Easterby executive vice president of football operations in late January 2020. O’Brien traded receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had had at least 1,165 yards receiving in six of the previous seven seasons, and a fourth-round pick to Arizona for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick, a move that was criticized across the league.
The Texans fired O’Brien on Oct. 5, 2020, after an 0-4 start. A report later surfaced that O’Brien got into a heated exchange with defensive lineman J.J. Watt at a practice before the team’s Week 3 game against Pittsburgh. A source told ESPN’s Dianna Russini that the day of the argument was the moment that O’Brien “lost the team.”
O’Brien spent the 2020 season as Alabama’s offensive coordinator — working alongside former Jaguars coach Doug Marrone, who is the Crimson Tide’s offensive line coach — and helped quarterback Bryce Young win the Heisman Trophy. The Crimson Tide play Georgia for the national championship on Monday night.
O’Brien went 15-9 in two seasons as Penn State’s head coach in 2012-13 before taking the Texans job.
The Jaguars have also requested interviews with Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
The Jaguars fired Urban Meyer with cause just before 1 a.m. ET on Dec. 16 after he went 2-11 and committed a string of embarrassing missteps that included two viral videos of him behaving inappropriately with a woman who wasn’t his wife, reports of him berating his assistant coaches, trying to hire a strength coach who was accused of making racist remarks and bullying Black players at Iowa, and having No. 1 draft pick Trevor Lawrence alternate days with the first team with Gardner Minshew during training camp.
Former kicker Josh Lambo on Dec. 15 also accused Meyer of kicking him during warm-ups before an August practice, an allegation that Meyer disputed. A spokesperson for owner Shad Khan released a statement to The Associated Press that said Khan made the decision to fire Meyer after the Jaguars’ 20-0 loss in Tennessee on Dec. 12.
ESPN’s Jenna Laine contributed to this report.