For months following the 2019 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't know if Tom Brady would be one of the possibilities behind "Door Number Two" as they planned how to move forward at the quarterback position. Once they realized it indeed was a possibility, Brady instantly became the top priority and the quarterback that Bruce Arians and Jason Licht would be the perfect fit.
"We do our due diligence every year after a season to see how we can better our football team and better our organization," said Arians, as the Buccaneers' head coach took part in Brady's introductory conference call on Tuesday. "We looked at everybody that might be available at the quarterback position, obviously really never dreaming that Tom would be available. But if he was, he was going to be our number-one choice, mainly because he can do everything we want to do in our offense. But more than that is his leadership ability that we need in our locker room to get where we want to go."
It might seem like a little bit of unnecessary hand-wringing to wonder if the man widely considered the greatest quarterback of all time, who is still playing at a high level two decades into his career, would be a good "fit" for any offense. But, of course, it is a key part of any free agency acquisition to not only evaluate how good a player is but if his talents will help your team win. The Buccaneers know the answer to both questions with Brady, and it has nothing to do with his six Super Bowl rings or any of the other trophies on his mantel.
"Going after Tom in free agency was our number-one priority this offseason because we knew he'd be a perfect fit for what we're trying to do here," said Licht, the Buccaneers' general manager, who worked for the Patriots when they drafted Brady in 2000. "He's a Buccaneer today not for what he's done in the past but for what we know he can accomplish here in the near future as well. We know that Tom's going to have a transformative effect in our locker room and he's going to demand the best out of himself, his teammates and anybody that's around him."
Brady agrees that his many accolades will have little to do with how he is viewed as the Buccaneers quarterback and leader. Of course, all the information and experience he gathered while earning those accolades are a big reason why he and the team expect him to succeed in the second chapter of his career.
"Where I've been I've learned a great deal," he said. "As I move forward, I said the other day, no one cares what you've done in the past. They don't care what you did last year or five years ago or 10 years ago. I think hopefully the knowledge I've had from my experience playing quarterback will allow me to transition quickly. There's a lot of things I've got to get up to speed on, obviously learning different terminology. That's a unique challenge that I haven't faced but it's one that I'm looking forward to, also."
Brady said that he has paid quite a bit of attention to Bruce Arians and his offense through the years and has seen many different players and types of quarterbacks succeed in it. He called it a great offense for everybody in the huddle: the quarterback, receivers, tight ends and running backs. He knows that Arians has espoused his "no risk-it, no biscuit" offensive belief for a long time, but to him thriving in that offense takes the same approach as thriving in any other.
"Everybody has somewhat different styles and philosophies in how they call things and so forth," said Brady. "Football to me is about throwing the ball to the guy who's open, and if he's open deep that's where you throw it. If he's open short, you throw it there. If he's open outside, you throw it there. If they're open inside, that's where you throw it. You get the ball to the guys who can do something with it.
"There's some really talented players here on this offense that have very unique skillsets. It's really my responsibility…I have one ball, and I've got to be able to deliver that ball to the guy who can do something with it. There's a lot of ground to make up because I haven't worked with these players, and I'm going to have to learn what they do and their body language and how they like things."
The Bucs are not getting a less aggressive quarterback in Brady. The NFL's NextGen stats compiles a metric called "Aggressiveness" that "tracks the amount of passing attempts a quarterback makes that are into tight coverage, where there is a defender within one yard or less of the receiver at the time of completion or incompletion." It is displayed as a percentage of all the quarterback's throws that fall into this category.
Brady's "Aggressiveness" percentage in 2019 was 15.2%, which is not significantly lower than what the Bucs' previous quarterback, Jameis Winston (16.8%) had last year. It was also a higher percentage than those put up last year by 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson (14.7%), 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes (12.2%), 2011 and 2014 MVP Aaron Rodgers (14.2%) and the only man who is ahead of Brady on the NFL's all-time passing charts, Drew Brees (13.8%). Clearly Brady, like the other great quarterbacks in this paragraph, know how to be aggressive in a way that works.
Brady also had success throwing to all areas of the field in 2019 as he put up 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. NextGen Stats also has a chart that separates the field into 12 quadrants, with left, right and middle areas each for passes thrown deep, intermediate, short and behind the line of scrimmage. Brady's passer rating was well above average in five of those areas, including deep right and deep left. He was graded as within average on the rest. NextGen has this table from 2019 back through 2016 and Brady doesn't have a single "below average" quadrant in any of them. Indeed – throw it to the open man, deep or short, right or left.
Any concerns about Brady's fit in the Buccaneers' offense should also be assuaged by the iron-clad knowledge that he will grind as hard as possible to make it work. His work ethic is as legendary as his career numbers and he's clearly thrilled with this new challenge.
"I've been playing quarterback for a long time, and that's what I do: I watch film and I study. I try to learn, I try to grow, I try to evolve every year," said Brady. "I've watched this offense over a long period of time with a lot of different quarterbacks have a lot of success. There have been a lot of great players who have been a part of working with Coach Arians. Again, for me, it's for me to come in and understand the things I've got to learn to be successful within what we're all trying to do and what we collectively do well. It's not about what one player does well. Great offenses aren't about one player; great offenses are about every guy being on the same page and playing with confidence and anticipation."