With Tom Brady in Tampa, how much will Bruce Arians’ offense change for his new quarterback?

Not only is Tampa Bay a new challenge for Tom Brady – Tom Brady is a new challenge for Tampa Bay.

Bruce Arians will be charged with the task of coaching arguably the game’s greatest player, in his first foray outside of the New England Patriots organization. And while that might sound like an outstanding opportunity — and it is! — there’s the small concern about how Arians’ offense will fit with Brady’s preferred style.

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Arians is entering his seventh season as an NFL head coach. It will be his second season as the head man in Tampa Bay, after spending five seasons as head coach in Arizona. And in each stop, he’s shown that he likes his offenses to take risks. He summed up his philosophy in his book with a quick little rhyme: “No risk it no biscuit; you can’t live scared.”

In fact, prior to becoming a head coach, he was the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers, where Arians’ tactics often rubbed the blue-collar fans the wrong way. Arians’ response? “I got booed in the Super Bowl parade. I look over and I hear. ‘Get a full back,’ and I say never.”

And while that’s all well and good, much of the speculation as to why Brady left New England has centered on the fact that he and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reportedly were not on the same page in terms of how the offense should flow.

Even though Brady denies discord between himself and McDaniels, the revelation did spark conversation regarding how the Tampa Bay offense will cater to Brady, if at all, since Brady prefers a more methodical attack.

You can see the difference in the numbers. In 2019, the Buccaneers had two 1,000-yard receivers. Chris Godwin caught 86 balls for 1,333 yards and 9 touchdowns, and Mike Evans caught 67 balls for 1,157 yards and 8 touchdowns. Not surprisingly, Tampa Bay was the No. 1 passing and receiving offense in the NFL.

New England, meanwhile, had one 1,000-yard receiver last season in Julian Edelman, who caught 100 passes for 1,117 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Patriots’ next leading receiver was running back James White, who recorded 645 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns on 72 catches.

Some of that difference is about the weapons each team had, of course, but the stats also represent a huge difference in offensive approach. Arians likes to let his QBs take big shots downfield; last year, Jameis Winston was second in the NFL in the average distance his throws traveled through the air, at 10.5 yards (per NFL’s Next Gen Stats). Brady, who’s more surgical in his approach, was 24th, at 7.6.

So what can we expect of Brady and Tampa Bay this upcoming season? Will Arians shift his offensive philosophy to make Brady’s transition easy, or will Arians ask the GOAT to follow his lead?

Former NFL quarterback David Carr believes that something will have to give, considering last season, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston consistently pushed the ball down the field, leading the league in passing yards, passing attempts and passing yards per game.

“How is that system going to take in Tom Brady and adapt? When we see it on the field for the first time, is it going to be traditional New England Patriots offense, which is playing inside-out? … That’s how Tom’s played the second half of his career. And now you go to Tampa Bay, who’s really outside-in. That’s really their strength. But that’s not Tom Brady’s strength at this point, to push the football downfield with this ‘no risk it, no biscuit’ type of mentality … Jameis Winston could push the ball downfield. He’s a big physical guy and he’s going to hang in there and take shots. Jameis would get rocked. This offensive line isn’t strong.”

Even though he was magical through the air last season – aside from his league-leading 30 interceptions – Winston was sacked 47 times, the second most in the NFL. Brady was only sacked 27 times last season.

Clyde Christensen, the Buccaneers quarterbacks coach, addressed the issue this week with The Athletic, saying that, “Bruce wants to keep the offense the same. We did some good things last year.”

However, Christensen also acknowledged that Brady will have a significant influence on the offense, and that Brady has been open to fitting into the offense as opposed to directing it.

“Tom has been terrific as far as saying, ‘Just tell me what you want to do.’ And honestly, there’s a lot of carryover from all these offenses; it’s just what you call certain things. We’re looking forward to seeing how he can influence the offense. He’ll make it better. That’s what the great ones do. He’ll have some great ideas so we’re anxious to get his take on things.”

 

Nick Wright thinks the notion that Brady can simply represent a less interception-prone version of Winston in Tampa Bay is “foolhardy,” pointing to the fact that Brady cannot hold the ball as long as Winston had become accustomed to without risking injury.

“You have a new quarterback who doubles as one of the smartest players in the history of the NFL, so you feel like it’s easier for him to adapt … And you have this lack of an offseason where you won’t be able to make wholesale changes to the offense, so you ask Tom Brady to be the person that changes more … but in practicality I think it’s a terrible idea … He’s 43 years old but he’s not a wizard … If you ask him to take 5- and 7- step drops, stare in the face of pressure and get the snot beaten out of him, then 2020 will be his only year with the Bucs.”

Carson Palmer played under Arians for five seasons in Arizona, passing for over 4,000 yards in the three seasons that he played at least 15 games. He was a Pro Bowler in 2015, a season in which he led the Cardinals to a 13-3 record and a berth in the NFC Championship Game.

Palmer thinks that the Buccaneers will find a nice balance between Arians’ offensive principles and Brady’s comfort zone.

“Bruce is a very difficult guy to play for. He has very high expectations but he treats his vets like adults … Brady coming in, having the experience he has, I see them running a lot of what Bruce’s offense has been for a number of years, but I also see Tom coming in and going, ‘Look, I need my 30 pass plays that I absolutely love.’ … At the end of the day, it’s a really good mixture of those two guys’ offenses.”

One thing that’s for certain is that Arians has an immense amount of respect for his new quarterback, even supporting the addition of a previously retired Rob Gronkowski to the mix in Tampa Bay at the request of Brady.

Said Arians: “It was really Tom. Tom brought it up to me, and I didn’t even think it was a possibility that (Gronkowski) wanted to come back. And (Brady) was adamant about, ‘Yeah, he really wants to play; he’d love to play with us.’

All that’s left is for Brady to take the field, Arians to take the sideline and the fireworks to rain.

Let the Tompa Bay era begin in Tampa.

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