Cardinals fire OC Mike McCoy, promote Byron Leftwich to role

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mike McCoy was fired by the Arizona Cardinals on Friday morning, the second straight year he has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator in the middle of the season.

He will be replaced by quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich.

"Seven weeks into the season, based off where we were from the standpoint of production on the offensive side of the ball, I felt the need to make a change, and that's what I did," first-year head coach Steve Wilks said at a news conference.

The Cardinals (1-6) made the move hours after losing 45-10 in prime time to the Denver Broncos, the team that fired McCoy after Week 11 in 2017.

Wilks said his decision to replace McCoy was not based on Thursday night's game alone.

"We weren't productive enough," Wilks said. "Let's just say that, and that may be an understatement."

The decision to fire McCoy was Wilks' alone, he said. Wilks also hinted that more changes may be coming.

"I can see myself continuing to try to evaluate and see exactly where we are," Wilks said. "I think you have to continue to be evolving and making sure that, again, I'm doing everything I can to make sure this team is moving in the right direction."

Under McCoy's direction, the Cardinals' offense was among the worst in the NFL -- and in some categories it was the worst. Arizona has not gained 300 yards in any of its seven games this season and has not had a 100-yard rusher.

The offense was ranked last in 15 categories heading into Week 4 and has gotten slightly better. Heading into Week 7, the offense was last in yards per game, first downs per game, third-down conversions, third-down conversion percentage, red zone dives and time of possession; 31st in points, receiving yards per game, net yards per pass attempt and offensive efficiency; 30th in point margin; and 27th in interceptions per pass attempt and red zone touchdowns.

Asked if Leftwich should be considered an "interim" coordinator, Wilks said, "Right now, it's hard to say anybody is going to be permanent."

Leftwich can help rookie quarterback Josh Rosen better understand the offense, something that was missing under McCoy, Wilks said.

"I told Byron this morning, Josh is a very smart and intelligent guy," Wilks said. "He can handle a lot. I think it's clarity. That's what we need, and we didn't have that. We have to have clarity in exactly what we're doing in certain situations, so therefore that's where the thinking comes in. So, it's not a mere fact of him being smart. He's very intelligent and can pick up a lot, but we've got to make sure that we have clarity across the board in how we see things."

Leftwich is a holdover from the staff of coach Bruce Arians, who retired after last season and was known for his dynamic offense.

"You definitely want to be able to try to get David Johnson going in the run game as well as the pass game," Wilks said. "With Byron being here before and being part of that and understanding some of the success he's had in the past, hopefully we can tap back into some of the things David was doing in the past."

Leftwich was a coaching intern when Johnson led the league in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns two years ago. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach last year and called plays in the preseason this year.

Wilks has a coaching background entirely on defense. He was defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers last year. He entrusted the offense to McCoy, figuring his experience as head coach of the Chargers for four seasons would help.

Wilks said there's "constant communication" between himself and the offensive coordinator so he can know "exactly what they're doing on that particular side of the ball." Wilks said he doesn't tell the offensive coordinator what to call but instead tells him what he sees from a defensive standpoint after watching film.

But the offense sputtered from the beginning, especially in attempts to get the ground game moving.

The Cardinals switched from Sam Bradford to Rosen three games into the season, and Rosen had a rough night against Denver, throwing three interceptions -- two were returned for touchdowns -- and fumbling the ball away twice.

Rosen was injured on his final play and was in a walking boot with a sprained toe on his left foot, although he is expected to make his next start, Oct. 28, against visiting San Francisco.

The 38-year-old Leftwich, a first-round draft pick out of Marshall, played quarterback in the NFL for 10 seasons with four teams -- Jacksonville, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.

Rosen has been Leftwich's primary project and the two already have a close relationship. Wilks talked about the need to streamline the offense. He said Leftwich can relate to Rosen because of his own time in the league, which will help Leftwich coach Rosen through the turbulence of this season.

"He's been in that situation and these predicaments before," Wilks said. "He understands the ins and outs and the little nuances, as you want to call it, that you need for that position. I think the communication and just relationship is going to be a plus."

Wilks added: "I think what Byron is going to do, from what he and I have talked about, is really trying to figure out what Josh does well. That's the key thing. When you have a young quarterback, we want to make sure that we're putting him in a position to where he can go out there and not have to think so much. Those are the things that we've talked about."

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim talked Friday morning to 98.7 FM about how he felt after his team was blown out and about the changes that needed to be made on the team.

"When you are in this situation, it's lonely," Keim said. "At the same time, you find out a lot about yourself, you find out a lot about your organization. You have two choices. You can curl up in a ball and hope it goes away -- which it's not -- or you come out swinging and fight.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm coming out swinging like hell."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.