When Tom Brady signed with the Buccaneers back in March, everyone put the Bucs in the Super Bowl. Some even had the Bucs winning the Super Bowl. This was before we knew the ramifications of COVID. That there would be no OTA’S, no mini-camps, and no pre-season games. Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians were adamant that the offense would not change because the G.O.A.T. was coming to town. The expectation was that Brady would learn the offense.
There was one big difference between Arians’ offense and the offense that Brady was used to running in New England. Arians loves the deep ball. Brady’s strength is not in throwing the deep ball. That’s not to say he can’t do it, but Brady has missed more on the long ball this season than on those he has connected. The Patriots used motion and the play-action pass to help take the pressure off Brady. On the one hand, I can count the number of times the Buccaneers have used some pre-snap motion this year. It is not a staple of Bruce Arian’s offense.
The most crucial factor that has affected Brady’s play is the lack of a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Brady had James White in New England. White caught 56, 87, and 72 passes in Bradys last three seasons in New England. When the pressure was on, and everything was covered downfield, Brady could always find James White as a safety valve and get some positive yards.
This year, the Bucs have used three backs as receivers. Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, and Le Sean McCoy. McCoy has the reputation of having a good set of hands, but the Bucs have barely used him at all this season. Fournette and Jones have proven to have hands of stone at times this season, which has led to a lack of confidence in their pass-catching ability from Tom Brady. Fournette has 31 catches, Jones 28, and McCoy 14 this season.
Arians have also been critical of Brady’s performance after some games this year. The Sunday game against New Orleans and the Monday night game against the L.A. Rams come to mind. There is no problem to hear Brady and Arians talk about their relationship in the weekly press conferences. Arians seems confidant that Brady will get the turnover issues fixed.
Brady talks about how he has to play better and says all the right things about his relationship with Arians. The two were scheduled for a golf outing a few weeks ago, but the N.F.L. got wind of it and shut it down due to the COVID restrictions.
Have Arians held Brady back? The short answer is yes. There have been very few components of the New England offense that has been embraced by Bruce Arians. You would not expect the Bucs to remake their offense to accommodate Tom Brady. However, you would expect Arians to incorporate some offensive schemes that Brady is comfortable with. That has not been the case.
Brady signed a two-year contract in March. I expect Arians and Brady to be back with the Buccaneers next season.
Brady has done his best to learn the Buccaneer’s offense. Even holding workouts with his teammates during early summer at a local high school. Activities that were not approved by the N.F.L. A good coach will always design his offensive scheme to fit what his quarterback does best. Arians have not done that.