The Jaguars offense is undergoing a dramatic change, from a "West Coast" style to a true drop-back design. This one is a much better fit for Byron Leftwich's legs.
"Most of those teams had a quarterback who could run," Leftwich said of "West Coast offense" teams such as San Francisco with Joe Montana and Steve Young, Green Bay with a young Brett Favre and Philadelphia with Donovan McNabb. "We all know that's not my forte," Leftwich added.
No, mobility isn't Leftwich's forte. He's a classic big, sturdy, drop-back passer whose talents also include a strong instinct for and a keen awareness of what's going on around him. The guy is said to be a master of reading defenses, yet, the "West Coast" offense he was in the previous two years may not have fully capitalized on his mental skills.
One of the major criticisms of the Jaguars offense last season was that Leftwich didn't call audibles at the line of scrimmage. Fans couldn't understand why a quarterback of Leftwich's cerebral skills wasn't allowed to change the play at the line.
"In a true 'West Coast' system, there are no audibles," Leftwich explained to reporters at a noon press conference on Wednesday. The Jaguars had just completed preparation for Thursday's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Leftwich went on to make his point by using a key third-and-three situation in last year's loss to Pittsburgh. The Jaguars were at the Steelers 18-yard line late in the game and trailing, 16-14. The Steelers bunched up to stop the run, leaving Jimmy Smith in press, man-to-man coverage to the outside, almost tempting the Jaguars to throw in Smith's direction.
"Our system, with the personnel we had in the game, didn't allow for it," Leftwich said when asked why he didn't take the bait and change the play from a run that was stuffed to a pass that may have clinched the win.
That was last year, when the Jaguars finished a lowly 29th in the league in scoring, causing Bill Musgrave to be fired from the offensive coordinator's job and head coach Jack Del Rio to hire Carl Smith and begin the dramatic change from a "West Coast" offense to a drop-back attack.
Will the Jaguars audible this year?
"We are doing some," Leftwich said, careful not to divulge information. "The system will allow you to get your team out of a situation.
"I would never blame Bill Musgrave. Maybe I didn't play well enough. But I do love what we're doing now," Leftwich said.
"We're going to have guys attacking people. He wants you to win the game. He doesn't want you to be the guy who doesn't mess it up," Leftwich added of Smith's demands of the quarterback. "We're not going to let teams make mistakes. Last year, they made a mistake and we only got 12 yards. Last year, we probably had five guys running seven-yard routes."
The change in offensive style hasn't produced results quickly enough for a lot of Jaguars fans. They want touchdowns and they want them now.
"I see us every day getting better. I see us going uphill. Maybe some people don't see that, but I respect their opinion," Leftwich said.