Tom Brady Washed? NFL Scouts, Coaches Aren't Counting on It

Kalyn KahlerContributor ISeptember 16, 2020

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes under pressure from New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

Tom Brady's shoulders slumped forward in his creamsicle Bucs T-shirt as he took the postgame blame for his mistakes. His new head coach, Bruce Arians, called Brady's two interceptions "bad decisions." The stat sheet for Week 1 of the NFL season showed Brady with a 34.5 QB rating, sixth-worst in the league.

Is he washed? One week into his new era with the touted Bucs offense? Because of one 34-23 loss at New Orleans? Of course, you could find Twitter trolls saying "Yes, he is," but what are the experts saying around the NFL?

"I didn't think they would live up to expectations," one rival NFC South scout said. "They were way too high. Unrealistic. It rarely works bringing the dream team together, and that's what was trumpeted."

"New pieces, no preseason; I really am not jumping to any conclusions," an AFC personnel executive said.

Maybe some are insiders who have been on the wrong side of Brady heroics too many times to believe he's really done. Maybe they think he really is in decline but don't want to jinx it or inspire him to bounce back by saying so. But when Bleacher Report reached out to scouts and coaches around the league to collect reactions on Brady's performance, most of them urged fans to please hold the RIP Brady takes for the time being.

Still, Sunday's lackluster Bucs debut does continue a bad pattern for Brady.

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"If he played at a really high level last year and then he opened up the season like this, you would push it away," former Giants executive and current NFL Network analyst Marc Ross said. "But since he struggled so much last year and he opens up the season looking very similar, that's the concern."

One of Brady's interceptions Sunday put him in dubious company. It was a pick-six, and he's now thrown a pick-six in three straight games. Since 2013, only he, Matt Schaub and Blaine Gabbert have had such a streak, according to Pro Football Reference.

Brady's first interception was an obvious miscommunication with Mike Evans, who came up short on a route that Brady expected the receiver to cut in down the middle of the field. Arians originally said Brady overthrew it, but he later corrected that, saying Evans should have bent his route inside. The conflicting reads of the Saints defense was a perfect example of the unfamiliarity between Brady and his new teammates. With more time, Evans will learn how his quarterback sees the game and understand why Brady saw the coverage as quarters and not Cover 2.

"That's kind of where the chemistry comes in, just understanding: one, a guy's body language; two, just making sure we're on the same page in terms of the read," receiver Chris Godwin told reporters Tuesday. "It's not just him learning guys—it's us learning him. We have to understand the types of things that he likes versus certain coverage, versus certain leverage, and make sure these option routes are easier for everyone to complete."

The pick-six was a more egregious error, calling to mind the departed Jameis Winston. The play, Arians said, "Was a screen pass with an outlet called. He threw the outlet....bad decision.Brady threw late and behind the receiver on the out route, an elementary mistake a defense can easily capitalize on.

Janoris Jenkins picks off a Tom Brady pass and heads to the end zone in Sunday's Saints victory over the Bucs.
Janoris Jenkins picks off a Tom Brady pass and heads to the end zone in Sunday's Saints victory over the Bucs.Butch Dill/Associated Press

All league sources contacted for this story agreed that one game is not enough to form an opinion, so they aren't majorly concerned by Brady's performance. "His arm is still plenty strong," one evaluator said. "He just needs more time in the offense with their receivers and their concepts. He will be fine."

One assistant coach says, yes, Brady was a little off on a few throws, particularly his second interception, but he saw plenty of positives. "He still looked like TB12 to me," the coach said. "He's gonna be tough to stop. I don't think anyone thinks he's lost arm strength."

To be fair, this was a team loss. The Buccaneers fumbled a kickoff, a defensive player jumped offside on 4th-and-2, and a field goal was blocked—the sort of errors that Brady rarely dealt with on Bill Belichick's disciplined New England teams. Now that he's adjusting to a new offense and relationships with new receivers, he needs a clean game from all three units more than ever before.

"If you put the Tom of five years ago into the game, they probably win that game," Ross said. "Even though he was never a great mover, he was great in the pocket—a side step here, stepping up there. Now it's like if things are not clean for him, the play is over with."

Brady did try to warn us last week about this exact outcome; we just weren't really listening. In his weekly availability, he praised the Saints defense, talked about the difficulty adjusting to the new terminology and the challenge of not having a preseason to figure out situational football and learn what they are good at and bad at as an offense.

"Your body just does things a certain way that it's done for a long time, without you having to think," Brady said. "And a lot of being a great athlete is not thinking, so the more you're thinking, it's actually slower than if you were just reacting and anticipating. So we're working through that. ... We've got a big test and ... there's no room for error."

Brady (celebrating a touchdown) and the Bucs outgained the Saints offense Sunday and should be in line for some W's against easier competition the next few weeks.
Brady (celebrating a touchdown) and the Bucs outgained the Saints offense Sunday and should be in line for some W's against easier competition the next few weeks.Brett Duke/Associated Press/Associated Press

So how much of the offseason hype was valid? If expecting a great Week 1 showing against the Saints was too much, what expectations are fair?

"With a diminished Brady, are they still good enough [to be winners]? Sure," Ross said. "Will they be good enough to win a Super Bowl? I don't know about that."

The NFC South scout who thinks the Bucs won't live up to expectations this season predicts the offense will improve enough to win games but not enough to become a top offense in the league.

"First games are always weird," the evaluator said. "The Bucs will get better very quickly on offense if I had to guess."

The Bucs have the benefit of a friendly schedule ahead (vs. Panthers, at Broncos, vs. Chargers, at Bears). That plus some improved chemistry and fewer mistakes should help dispel any concerns about Brady's prospects with the Bucs.

"They outgained NOLA [310 yards to 271 yards]," the assistant coach said. "They will be good. Two turnovers killed them and poor tackling. It wasn't their offense."

Or as the AFC executive said in a text, "It's week one lol 🤣"

      

Kalyn Kahler covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow her on Twitter for NFL musings and weird quarantine thoughts: @KalynKahler.