It appears at first glance Tom Brady is positioned to succeed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs have a surplus of weapons, including Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Brady’s longtime buddy, Rob Gronkowski, who recently unretired and joined Tampa Bay in a trade from the New England Patriots. They’re also well coached, very motivated, and the 2020 schedule could work in Tampa Bay’s favor.
But a deeper consideration of the Buccaneers’ apparent offensive philosophy suggests Brady might not hit the ground running with his new team after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.
Consider this: Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen recently told The Athletic that head coach Bruce Arians wants to “keep the offense the same” in 2020. More specifically, Christensen envisions the Bucs deploying “Bruce’s offense with a Brady influence.”
That sounds nice in theory. Tampa Bay ranked third in the NFL in total yards per game (397.9) and tied for third in points per game (28.6) last season despite Jameis Winston’s knack for turning over the football. So, it stands to reason the Bucs will benefit from simply replacing a mistake-prone quarterback with an all-time great whose biggest strength resides between the ears.
But are we sure Arians’ offense — which typically involves a lot of seven-step drops and downfield passes — is conducive to Brady’s skill set at age 43? It seems especially farfetched if any leaks emerge in Tampa Bay’s offensive line.
“If they ask Tom Brady to do what Jameis Winston did, just with fewer interceptions and more effectiveness, he won’t make it to Year 2 of this contract,” Nick Wright said on Friday’s episode of “First Things First” on FOX Sports 1. “He’s 43 years old, but he’s not a wizard. The idea that he can’t get beaten up, that he can’t get knocked out of the game. If you ask him to take five- and seven-step drops, stare in the face of pressure — like Bruce Arians asked Carson Palmer to do in Arizona — and get the snot beat out of him, then 2020 will be his only year with the Tampa Bay Bucs.”
Brady represents an upgrade over Winston. No doubt. But they’re far different quarterbacks, stylistically. Thus, it’s perhaps foolish to think the Bucs can just plug in Brady and then it’s off to the races.
For one, Brady isn’t exactly fleet-footed despite being able to navigate well in the pocket. Nor does he have Winston’s arm strength at this stage of his career. All of this could lead to some unnecessary physical punishment for No. 12, who, while incredibly durable throughout his two decades in the league, is no spring chicken.
“I don’t think it’s gonna go as well as it could go,” former NFL coach Eric Mangini, who worked on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England from 2000 to 2005, said Friday on FS1. “They should say, ‘This is a Brady offense with an Arians influence,’ as opposed to the other way around.
“When you take a guy who’s done something for 20 years — and done it at a very high level — and put him in a new environment, what you wanna do is make him as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible. And that means doing the things that he knows, or things that he understands, the things that he has the answers to, as opposed to forcing him to learn a bunch of new things and slowing down his thought process. It really doesn’t make any sense.
“There’s so many things that Tom has to learn. It’s not that he can’t learn it. It’s not that he’s slow. It’s just why not allow him to start as fast as he possible can and be as effective as he possible can right away.”
Brady is one of the smartest players in NFL history. Asking him to adapt upon joining the Bucs — rather than requiring several holdovers to change — seems like the path of least resistance, particularly when you consider Tampa Bay’s 2019 offensive success and the NFL’s condensed offseason amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Just don’t be surprised if that path leads to a dead end for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.