Tom Brady is off to a hot start with his new team, the 3-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, throwing 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. But exactly how hot of a start is it?
Brady has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 1,375 yards, and is on pace to throw for 4,400 yards with 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The 4,400 yards would represent his most passing yards since 4,577 yards during the 2017 season in New England, and his 38 touchdowns would be the third-most by Brady since he threw a career-high 50 TDs in 2007 and 39 TDs in 2011. If he maintains his current pace, Brady’s 38 touchdowns would set a Bucs’ single season record, and break Winston’s mark of 33 from a year ago.
Tampa Bay Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans has caught half of Brady’s touchdowns this season, and his six TD receptions is tied for the league lead. With 22 catches for 271 yards (12.8 avg.), Evans is off pace for his seventh straight 1,000-yard season as he’s currently on pace for 871 yards. But Evans is on course to record 19 touchdowns this year, which would smash his Bucs’ single-season record of 12, which he set in 2014 and matched in 2016.
Brady has never thrown more than 14 interceptions in a single season, and he won’t eclipse that mark if he stays at his current pace of less than one interception per game and winds up with 12. In fact, Brady’s career high is 14, which is an interception total he has hit three times (2002, 2004, 2005) in his 20-year career with the Patriots. Yet Brady has not thrown a dozen or more interceptions over the past eight seasons.
Quarterbacks that throw for over 4,000 yards with a high number of interceptions are not uncommon in the first year in Bruce Arians’ system. In 2013, Carson Palmer completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 4,274 yards with 24 TDs and 22 INTs, while Jameis Winston completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 5,109 yards with 33 TDs and 30 INTs. Brady might buck that trend if he continues at his current pace of throwing three touchdowns to every one interception.
If Brady maintains his current pace his interception total would be less than half of what Winston’s was last year. More importantly, Tampa Bay’s 3-2 record under Brady matches the 3-2 start that Palmer had with the Cardinals in 2013 and is better than the 2-3 start that Winston had with the Bucs last season. Palmer went 10-6 with the Cardinals in 2013 and earned a playoff berth, while Winston and last year’s Buccaneers missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record.
Let’s take a look at the first five games from Carson, Winston and Brady in Arians’ offense.
Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals 2013
3-2 start / 10-6 final record
First 4: 58.8 percent completion percentage, 1,185 yards, 5 TDs, 9 INTs
All 16: 63.3 percent completion percentage, 4,274 yards, 24 TDs, 22 INTs
Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2019
2-3 start / 7-9 final record
First 5: 61.4 percent completion percentage, 1,371 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs
All 16: 60.7 percent completion percentage, 5,109 yards, 33 TDs, 30 INTs
Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2020
First 5: 64.3 percent completion percentage, 1,375 yards, 12 TDs, 4 INTs
Palmer had a very slow start to the season after five games, but increased his completion percentage by nearly five percent as the season went on, and threw 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions the rest of the way in 2013. Winston started the season hot, but then cooled off considerably with 22 touchdowns and 25 interceptions over the final 11 games.
What does the future hold for Brady and the 2020 Buccaneers? We’ll have to see how the season unfolds. Last year in New England, Brady began the 2019 campaign throwing for 1,409 yards while completing 63.1 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He wound up completing 60.8 percent of his passes for 4,056 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
More importantly, Brady and the Patriots began the season 5-0 and finished 12-4 as the AFC East champions once again. Brady may indeed have to throw for 38 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions this year if Tampa Bay is going to get to double-digit wins and make it to the postseason. The Bucs don’t have the luxury of a 5-0 start that the Patriots had a year ago.