Tom Brady came out of a brief retirement to win another Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rejoining a team that many viewed as the best in the NFC with an elite defense and a high-scoring offense. Heading into Week 7, the defense is the only thing keeping the Buccaneers in playoff contention.
Plenty of things have gone wrong for Brady and the Buccaneers. Chris Godwin, returning from a torn ACL, suffered a hamstring strain in Week 1 that forced him to miss time and then limited his explosiveness. Meanwhile, Mike Evans served a one-game suspension for fighting and Julio Jones’ injuries remain a problem. Combine that with Rob Gronkowski’s commitment to retire life and the state of the offensive line, it’s all led to where things stand heading into Sunday.
Suddenly, a high-powered offense ranks 21st in total yards per game (332.0) and scoring (20.2 PPG). Just as alarming, Tampa Bay ranks 22nd in third-down conversion rate (37.8%), and red-zone touchdown rate (50%) and is 23rd in points per play (0.312). Hanging around in the company of the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans is the last thing anyone expected.
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Let’s examine the factors that have resulted in a woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense and how much responsibility falls on Brady.
Examining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ problems on offense
We can’t blame the wide receivers for what is going on in Florida. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage remain an outstanding trio at wideout and the group is even stronger when Julio Jones is available. While Gronkowski isn’t around, the Buccaneers still have Brady running the offense and he has a better cast of weapons to target than many of his peers.
However, there is one clear issue that is under warranted scrutiny. The spotlight is on the offensive line, a unit that is drawing Brady’s rage and receiving the most backlash from fans.
It’s worth noting that Tampa Bay ranks seventh in Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings. Entering Sunday, the Buccaneers’ front five boasts the fourth-highest Pass Blocking Efficiency (89.1). It ranks 18th in pressures allowed (50) with the eighth-fewest hurries surrendered (31) and Brady has only been hacked nine times this year. Outside of rookie guard Luke Goedeke (19 pressures allowed, 24.8 PFF grade), though, the rest of the line is holding its own.
|Pressures Allowed||Pass Blocking Efficiency||Deep Throw Rate||QB Rating/Pass Yards on Deep Throws|
|Buccaneers’ offense Week 1-6 (2021)||49||90.8||14.2%||85.3/339|
|Buccaneers’ offense Week 1-6 (2022)||50||89.1||9.7%||131.3/246|
While the offensive line is holding is performing relatively well this year, it’s not playing at the level that is providing Brady with as much time to throw deep. It’s reflected in the percentage of deep throws – 20-plus yards downfield – which has dropped off significantly from the same six-game window in 2021 compared to this season.
Related: NFL defense rankings
There’s another issue in Tampa Bay. While Leonard Fournette returned this offseason, the Buccaneers’ rushing attack took a significant step back to this point. Because of the ineffectiveness on the ground, defenses feel even more comfortable playing with two deep safeties and forcing Brady and Co. to take everything underneath.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushing offense (2021): 98.4 rushing ypg, 4.3 yards per carry, 18 touchdowns
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushing offense (2022): 67.5 rushing ypg, 3.1 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns
It makes life easier for a defensive coordinator when they prepare to face the Buccaneers. Play two safeties deep and let the front seven handle a rushing attack that is ineffective on its own.
This helps explain a majority of the Buccaneers, but there is an off-field element that is creeping into the conversations surrounding everything happening in Tampa Bay.
Tom Brady lowering his own standard with off-field life hanging over 2022
Brady spent 40 days of retirement, a period of relaxation with many reflecting on the legacy of the best player in NFL history. Ever since he announced his return, though, the 45-year-old quarterback has gone through a myriad of problems, with some of them even causing him to unleash his frustrations in front of a national audience.
- Tom Brady stats (2022): 1,652 passing yards, 8-1 TD-INT ratio, 67.2% completion rate, 6.7 ypa, 51.8 QBR
It started with conversations held behind closed doors with the Miami Dolphins. He was offered a high-ranking position in the Dolphins’ front office, poised to receive an ownership stake and the door left open for a return to the field. All of that changed with the Brian Flores lawsuit, shattering Miami’s dreams of a Brady-Sean Payton pairing. While Brady avoided discipline for the illegal tampering, the Dolphins weren’t as lucky.
Brady was committed to the Buccaneers after his return, the organization made it clear they wouldn’t trade him or allow him to sign elsewhere. Committed to playing in his age-45 season, Brady quickly learned that Gronkowski wasn’t coming back.
Everything seemed fine until training camp. Brady was excused for personal reasons, taking an 11-day break as his teammates and coaches prepared for the upcoming season. The mystery absence was later revealed as a pre-planned family vacation. When he returned, Brady told reporters he had “a lot of s*** going on”.
Gisele Bündchen later expressed frustration with how unavailable Brady was to his family during the season. One of the most famous celebrity couples was living separately and gossip infiltrated the football-focused view of Brady. The couple has now reportedly hired divorce lawyers with a separation feeling imminent.
In a season that was supposed to be all about Brady running it back to win an eighth Super Bowl is now about Brady’s off-field life. He gets a personal day each week and skipped a walkthrough on Saturday before a Week 6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the Buccaneers have denied Brady is receiving special treatment, it’s clear he is held to a very different standard. While the greatest quarterback in NFL history earned that right, he also isn’t meeting his own reputation of having a maniacal work ethic and always staying cool under pressure.
From breaking multiple tablets during a game to screaming at his offensive line, Brady’s instances of losing his composure and lashing out are now more common. he also drew public backlash after comparing the NFL season to military deployment.
“I almost look at like a football season like you’re going away on deployment in the military, and it’s like, ‘Man, here I go again.’ There’s only one way to do it. ..Whenever you may say, Oh man, I want to, you know, make sure I spend a little more time doing this — when it comes down to it, your competitiveness takes over and as much as you want to have this playful balance with the work balance, you’re going to end up doing exactly what you’ve always done, which is why you are who you are.”Tom Brady on the commitments and sacrifices of playing in the NFL (via Let’s Go! podcast)
None of this is to suggest the personal issues Brady is going through are the direct cause of what is happening to the Buccaneers. However, the 45-year-old quarterback has lost a step in terms of his talent, he only could evade Father Time for so long. When you combine that with Brady clearly not being able to deliver the same focus and commitment that made him a seven-time Super Bowl champion, it’s no surprise he and the Buccaneers took a step back.
The Buccaneers simply aren’t a Super Bowl contender right now and Brady is far from an MVP-caliber quarterback. Unless the entire organization can address its problems and Brady finds a way to put all of his personal troubles and family to the side for months, it’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay returning to glory.