Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is pretty good at his job. After spending the first 20 years of his career with the New England Patriots, the 43-year old switched teams in the shortened offseason to bring his new franchise all the way to the Super Bowl. While there were some peaks and valleys, Tom Brady ended the season ranked at or near the top of just about every 2021 efficiency stat, which is just pure lunacy. However, despite the success, Brady believes that he can be even better next year.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the six-time Super Bowl champion (as of this posting) said he thinks “next year’s going to be better than this year”, which is truly insane for a soon-to-be 44-year old. However, a further dive shows that there are several reasons to believe Brady will be even better in 2021 than he was in 2020.
Tom Brady Says He’ll Be Even Better in 2021
2021 Tom Brady Himself
First, let’s start by looking at Brady himself. Despite his advanced age, Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league by just about every metric. Overall, Brady ended the regular season ranked fifth in EPA+CPOE composite and EPA/play, and ninth in ESPN’s QBR rankings. The advanced numbers think Brady still has it, and the film-based grading process from Pro Football Focus agrees. According to PFF, Brady was the second-best quarterback in the league last year, trailing only presumptive league MVP Aaron Rodgers.
Brady can still produce at an elite level, but past production doesn’t necessarily equate to future success. The cliff comes mighty quick for older quarterbacks, as both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees saw their numbers drop from elite to below-average seemingly overnight. However, watching the film shows that both quarterbacks simply didn’t have their old arm strength over their final years. To make up for their lack of physical gifts, those two all-time greats made it through by simply being smarter than their competition and winning before the snap. So even though their numbers dropped out of nowhere, there were warning signs on both Hall of Famers.
Brady doesn’t need to worry about this yet. While he is older than both quarterbacks were at their time of (presumed) retirement, Brady still has the ability to beat defenses on all levels of the field. While he might not have the cannon of somebody like Josh Allen, he can still stretch the field and force defenses to respect his ability to win deep. After all, you can’t lead the league in average depth of target without being pretty good at stretching the field. Ultimately, he still has the arm and the brain to do just about whatever he wants on the football field.
In his 21st NFL season, Tom Brady led all qualified quarterbacks in air yards per attempt (9.6), redefining what can be expected of a quarterback his age.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) February 1, 2021
The Second Year Bruce Arians Leap
Historically speaking, most quarterbacks struggle during their first year under Bruce Arians. Arians loves to push the ball downfield, and that aggressive style of play tends to lead to turnovers and negative play. However, said quarterbacks typically master the system in their second year and put together some of the best seasons of their careers. Carson Palmer nearly won MVP in 2015 while Ben Roethlisberger won a Super Bowl during his second year of Arians calling the shots.
Brady is obviously the outlier here, as he put together one of his finest seasons during his first campaign with Arians. However, while the overall performance was fantastic, there is still some room for improvement. Brady struggled in both of his regular season games against the New Orleans Saints and had some troubles developing chemistry with his receivers early in the season. Those issues shouldn’t be there anymore, as Brady should be a lot more consistent heading into his second year in the offense.
The Supporting Cast
Tom Brady is still a fantastic quarterback, but he isn’t quite as good as he was at the peak of his powers. When in his prime, the three-time MVP was able to turn any random receiver into a superstar and get elite results regardless of supporting cast. He might not be able to do that anymore, but he can still lead an elite offense with the right pieces. Fortunately, those pieces should all be back in 2021.
Mike Evans should be the top option in this offense, and he isn’t going anywhere. Rob Gronkowski has publicly said that he wants to be back in Tampa Bay, and that he’d only play with Tom Brady. Chris Godwin is a free agent, but it’s hard to imagine the team letting him reach the open market. Whether it’s via a long-term deal or the franchise tag, Godwin will be back in 2021. Antonio Brown might be on his way out, but he’s really not that much of an upgrade on Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson. On top of all that, O.J. Howard should be back, assuming he can make a full recovery from his Achilles injury.
— Dave Latham, Lifelong Bucs Fan (@DLPatsThoughts) September 28, 2020
Barring injury, Brady should once again have one of the best groupings of weapons in the entire league. However, good weapons won’t mean much of anything if the offensive line isn’t doing their job. Fortunately, the offensive line should give Brady all the time he needs to dissect the opposing defense. The 2020 Buccaneers boasted one of the best offensive lines in the league last year, and every starter is under contract for 2021. The only free agent of note along the offensive line is Joe Haeg, but he’s easy enough to replace.
Ultimately, Tom Brady has the necessary talent, scheme familiarity, and supporting cast to be even better in 2021. As crazy as it sounds, the soon-to-be 44-year-old passer could be in the MVP race next year while guiding Tampa Bay to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
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