Change of philosophy
Let me start this out by saying this is an opinion-based piece; my opinion, of course, but hopefully, you, the reader, will find it the square peg for the square hole. Let’s get straight to it. If you stay up on your Bucs news, or maybe you’re more casual either way, you may have known for a while that Tom Brady, since his arrival, has had broad authority over the offense. In other words, there has been a Brady filter that the offense goes through before it materializes on your big screen. While that is true, when Bruce Arians was still storming the sidelines along Dale Mabry, he definitely still influenced the bottom line. Exit Mr. Arians and the offense definitely took on a more Bradyesque style. More passes to the backs, and the receivers didn’t venture into biscuit land nearly as much. More dinks and dunks than slings and chunks, you might say.
“A different group of guys”
So with the regular season almost complete, it’s safe to say that the transformation has gone over like a fart in church; can I get an amen? This is where I insert the injuries’ affirmation/disclaimer. Yes, I’m aware that the offensive line has been a triage all season. That has necessitated getting the ball out faster. I’m also aware that as beat up as the line has been. It has played well enough in almost every game to give Brady a good number of plays with protection. The problem has been that on those numerous opportunities. Brady hasn’t made the connection. The once reliable hook-up of Brady to Evans had lost its edge considerably. No longer a weapon to be accounted for in the Bucs’ Arsenal. Longer down-the-field passes had all but disappeared for the most part. In other words, Leftwich’s/Arians’ base offense had been scrapped for Brady’s. Brady all but acknowledged this fact when he said, “What we can be compared to other years, I don’t think that’s what our goal is. We’ve got to maximize our potential. There’s a different team, a different group of guys.” Meaning the old style from the previous two seasons was being left behind. Brady cites: “a different group of guys” as the reason the offense isn’t the same as years past. If Arians were still the Head Coach, do you think that he would have changed his offense to this degree because of “a different group of guys”? When you really look at it, Gronk is gone, Antonio Brown is gone, and rookie Rachaad White is involved in the offense. I don’t see how, when it comes to skill players, this should alter the offensive base.
From the #1 offense in the NFL to blah
For the last two seasons before this forgettable one. The Bucs were the most explosive, points-producing team in the NFL. Brady, arguably, had the two best seasons of his career chunking biscuits in Arians’/Leftwich’s scheme. In 2022, Brady has had a down year in completion percentage (near his lowest for a season) and touchdowns. Overall points are way down. I’m sure by now you get my point. In yesterday’s — “put-up or shut-up” — home game with the Panthers, you could smell the biscuits baking. Evans was, once again, a huge force. Brady was finding his star receiver deep with no problem, which allowed Evans to capture that elusive record for a 9th straight 1000-yard season. That rag-tag wall of protection was giving him enough time to hit some deep routes. Trust me; that has been the case all season. The Bucs just haven’t called it that way with Brady’s influence. The protection isn’t going to win any awards, it allows too many sacks, and Smith holds like Velcro. Such is the nature of the beast when dealing with multiple injuries, and a left tackle, when healthy, is being taken advantage of by better defensive opponents: You don’t hold if you aren’t beat.
Brady, Evans, and Bucs kick down the door en route to the division crown
There isn’t a soul that could argue that Brady didn’t play one of the best games of this season, Sunday, against a highly motivated Panthers team. He has had some furious comebacks, but those were short in duration. This was as close to a complete game as we’ve seen in 2022 from the GOAT. We have heard, all season, how the Bucs are not playing up to their potential, but on Sunday, save for a couple of hiccups (Evans’ drop and Godwin’s fumble and penalty), they did just that. The defense stood up in the second half and exposed the Panthers for what they were: an average, at best, team playing over their head. The Bucs, on the other hand, finally look like what most fans expected every Sunday this season. So while Brady has to be saddled with some of the blame for this season, he can also be the hero if he is as smart as we all know he can be. In a nugget of news — it doesn’t matter how or why it happened; it just needs to happen again and again, and so on — There is room for both Leftwich’s/Arians’ influence and Brady’s preferences. I thought that is what had been going on here for the last couple of years. It was an undeniable success. Sometimes the best thing to do is just keep a good thing going and leave it alone. I have said in other articles that if the Bucs did get into the post-season, they were going nowhere. Correction: if the Bucs can do what they had been doing the prior two seasons, as they did against the Panthers (average team), then they should be able to compete with almost anyone — Figuring in that the defense holds things down as well, of course. The sky is the limit if so! Go Bucs!!