Brady or Bucs: Who's To Blame?
By Martin Rogers
As you already know by now, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost on Sunday. And as we are about to find out and experience all season long, whenever Brady and the Bucs lose, the Great TB12 Divide will get wider.
It's a funny old thing and it started up years ago around the age-old discussion of how much credit for all those championships with the New England Patriots should be Brady’s alone, and what portion was a result of him playing in a superb system behind a brutishly brilliant offensive line.
Since his big summer migration to Tampa, the divide is different now in that it hinges around a blame game. A single defeat on the road to the New Orleans Saints does not spell doom for the six-time Super Bowl champion and his new brigade of Floridian pals, but everyone saw enough to indicate that the Bucs aren’t capable of going on an unstoppable tear through the winter months.
They’re going to lose sometimes, perhaps as frequently or more so than they win. This means it will either be Brady’s fault or it won’t, he’ll either be past it or not, and will be cosseted or unfairly maligned, depending upon which side of the divide you happen to pitch your tent.
"It took officially two minutes 12 seconds until all of a sudden we were to the point of the season where (people were saying) Tom Brady doesn’t have enough help," said FS1’s Nick Wright on First Things First. "Where the interceptions were not on him. Of course, they are not on him, (people say) they are always on the receiver."
Wright has long argued that Brady is judged by an easier metric than other QBs, simply because of his standing in the game. For others, however, the opposite is the case, that Brady’s lofty career exploits mean that magic is expected to spring from his fingertips every time he touches the ball and that any blips are immediately seized upon.
"It is only Week 1," responded Wright’s co-host and former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall. "Continuity versus a lot of change. We saw that show up play after play. Tom Brady is going to be fine. The Bucs are going to be fine. The biggest issue, it really is that offensive line."
There is no disputing that it was a messy afternoon for the Tampa Bay offense, and not the kind of outcome Brady was hoping for in his shiny new uniform.
The first interception thrown by Brady in his team’s 34-23 defeat was intended for wide receiver Mike Evans, but instead ended up in the hands of Saints’ corner Marshon Lattimore. That result meant that even Bucs head coach Bruce Arians was drawn into the blame game, absolving Evans – who stopped rather than continuing into a deep route – of fault.
The second interception was a telegraphed pass that allowed Janoris Jenkins to jump the route and return the pick for a touchdown and a quirky bit of trivia: making Brady the first NFL quarterback since 2013 to throw a pick-six in three straight games.
"On paper, the Brady-led Tampa Bay offense looked potent," wrote Yahoo Sports national columnist Dan Wetzel. "In practice, well, it needs practice."
The practice part was supposed to be where the Bucs had an edge, or at least mitigated the disadvantage of having a brand new quarterback. Brady and his group got out there early, putting in work at a high school in the third week of May, while most of the country was totally locked down.
Glowing reports of not only his propensity for training field effort but his growing connection with his receivers flowed freely through the press as the campaign opener neared.
Ultimately, as was made painfully obvious, there is no substitute for having a settled combination in place, like the Saints and Drew Brees – the one NFL quarterback who is nearly as old as Brady.
"It is the same old story for some reason or another, whether it is in New England or Tampa," Wright added. "When Brady plays terribly, it is the pieces around him as opposed to maybe, just maybe, the oldest QB ever is playing like it. Maybe there is a reason no other QB has ever started a season at age 42 and now into 43."
To be fair to Brady, he wasn’t among those trying to shift blame from himself and took full responsibility. "I just made some bad, terrible turnovers and it’s hard to win turning the ball over like that," he told reporters. "I obviously have to do a lot better job."
The Bucs are perceived to have a relatively soft schedule, with a home date against the Carolina Panthers coming up next week. Maybe that gives him some time to fix things, maybe there are things that can’t be fixed.
Whether Tom Brady is still "Tom Brady" is going to be one of the seminal questions of this NFL season, but if things continue to turn sour, no one will be able to agree on an answer. Because no one can agree upon who's to blame.