Tom Brady Makes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl Contenders

Tom Brady Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shocked the NFL world yesterday when they signed Tom Brady away from the New England Patriots. The six-time Super Bowl champion apparently wanted a change of scenery, and, for the first time in forever, the Buccaneers will be in serious contention for the Super Bowl. Brady still has plenty left in his tank, and the rest of the roster is good enough for a deep playoff push.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Can Win a Super Bowl With Tom Brady

Most quarterbacks entering their age-43 season don’t have anything left to give, but Tom Brady is not most quarterbacks. From a statistical standpoint, Brady is coming off his worst season in quite some time. His 88.0 passer rating is his worst since 2006, and, per Football Outsiders, he finished 16th in DYAR, 17th in DVOA, and 16th in ESPN’s QBR. These marks are well below his usual standard, and some could conclude that he’s on the decline.

Brady might not have another 2007 in him, but most of his statistical regression was due to having one of the worst supporting casts in the league. Julian Edelman was the only constant, and even he suffered a few major injuries throughout the year. NBC Sports’ Tom Curran noted that Edelman couldn’t raise his arm above his head for most of the season, and he was clearly battling to even be on the field by the end of the season.

The Patriots never replaced Rob Gronkowski, and the trio of Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, and Demaryius Thomas lasted a combined seven games in New England. Without those four, Brady’s best options in the passing game were undrafted free agent Jakobi Meyers, an injured N’Keal Harry, and midseason acquisition Mohamed Sanu. For good measure, Sanu suffered a high ankle sprain in his second game with the Patriots and wasn’t himself for the remainder of the season. Overall, New England’s receivers ranked dead last in terms of separation per route.

Nobody could succeed in these conditions, but Brady did the best he could. Brady ended the season as the 12th-best quarterback in the league, per Pro Football Focus, and finished third in Accuracy+. Brady can still put the ball wherever he wants it, he just didn’t have anyone capable of getting open.

Tampa Bay’s Offense

Lack of separation shouldn’t be a problem in Tampa, as Brady has arguably the best supporting cast in the entire league. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are both amazing, top-10 caliber receivers. It’s not hyperbole to say that these two are the best outside weapons Brady’s had since Randy Moss. Additionally, O.J. Howard has tons of potential and could have a fantastic year with someone like Brady conducting the offense.

Some may question how Brady can fit in Bruce Arians’ aggressive, downfield offense. Historically, New England liked to work the short and intermediate parts of the field, so this dramatic change could theoretically affect Brady’s efficiency. However, a deeper dive shows that Brady is good enough to make any style of offense work. Back in 2017, the Patriots traded for speedster Brandin Cooks and lost Julian Edelman to a preseason ACL injury. In the face of these changes, the Patriots essentially transformed their offense overnight into a deep passing attack. Brady’s average depth of target jumped to 10.2 yards, and he won MVP for his fantastic work.

Brady spent the 2017 season throwing to Gronkowski, Cooks, and Chris Hogan. O.J. Howard is obviously no Rob Gronkowski, but Evans and Godwin are considerably better than Cooks and Hogan. If Brady did it then, it stands to reason he can do it again.

The last major worry comes down to Tampa Bay’s offensive line. Brady isn’t the most mobile quarterback in the world, but he doesn’t need mobility to evade a pass rush. Brady’s pocket presence is second to none, and he excels at making offensive lines look better than they are thanks to his ability to sense the rush, step up in the pocket, and use positioning to put a blocker between him and the nearest defender. As long as the line isn’t an outright disaster, Brady should succeed with these weapons. Tampa Bay’s offensive line shouldn’t be atrocious, as they ended the year as PFF’s seventh-best pass blocking unit. Brady has everything he needs to succeed, and should be able to put up elite numbers once more.

The Defense

The Buccaneers should have an elite offense, but it’s hard to win a Super Bowl without an adequate (or better) defense. In recent years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess. However, there is reason to believe that will change in 2020.

For one, the Buccaneers actually had a pretty solid defense last year. The points per game doesn’t reflect that, but that’s entirely the fault of Jameis Winston. Tampa’s former quarterback threw 30 interceptions last season and constantly put the defense in position to fail. When adjusting for Winston, the defense actually outperformed expectations.

According to Football Outsiders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended the year as the fifth-best defense in DVOA. DVOA, for those unfamiliar, takes a defense’s performance and adjusts based on a variety of factors including field position, down and distance, and caliber of opponent. Tampa Bay led the league in rush defense DVOA while finishing a respectable 12th in pass defense DVOA. Defensive performance is fickle and highly volatile, but the Buccaneers aren’t losing any significant contributors and should be able to put up similar results in 2020.

Points per game is going to go down thanks to Brady not throwing 30 interceptions, and the secondary actually has room to grow. Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis are both young cornerbacks with bright futures, and Jamel Dean looked like he could develop into one of the biggest steals in the 2019 NFL Draft. If even one or two of these guys take a leap in 2020, then this should be one of the better secondaries in football.

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