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FAB 1. Is There A Rift Between Brady And Arians?

In this week’s SR’s Fab 5 I want to take you inside the Bruce Arians vs. Tom Brady rift, feud, power struggle – whatever you want to call it.

Except that I can’t – because there isn’t a rift or feud or power struggle between Brady and Arians.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to use a click-bait title to get you to read my column this week, but much like an intervention where the person who needs the intervention is manipulated into coming to a family gathering for help, I had to get you here for this edition of SR’s Fab 5.

It’s important for you to know that there isn’t a rift between Brady and Arians during the 7-5 Buccaneers’ bye week despite what the national media is trying to create for drama – because drama equals ratings.

Now it doesn’t mean that everything is rosy in the relationship between Arians and Brady, as I think there is some mutual, professional frustration over things not being perfect offensively yet, but there are a couple of very important elements that everyone should understand before taking everything that ESPN (and I’m not talking about Bucs reporter Jenna Laine), CBS football analyst Tony Romo or former Patriots linebacker and Brady teammate Rob Ninkovich say as the gospel.

Talking heads like ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, Romo and Ninkovich do not know what is going on between Arians and Brady – nor do I necessarily. They are simply interpreting what they’re seeing on Sundays and making conclusions.

By all accounts Brady is a very private individual, and if he does feel like venting a bit – as perfectionists are prone to do when everything doesn’t go their way – to a former QB like Romo or a former teammate like Ninkovich that’s understandable. But any conversation that Brady may have had with either of those former NFL players was one-sided without Arians’ input, and could have been interpreted by Romo or Ninkovich differently than Brady intended.

So as a Bucs insider, let my do my own interpreting as to what may be going on with this 15th-ranked Tampa Bay offense that happens to rank seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 28.7 points per game.

By the way, that mark currently ranks as the highest-scoring team in Bucs history – beating last year’s mark (28.1 avg.) – so folks, it ain’t all bad at One Buccaneer Place.

First, let’s dispel some myths. The first of which is that Brady has run one particular offense for 20 years in New England. That’s nonsense, and was confirmed in the Pewter Report Podcast with Brady/Patriots expert Mark Schofield on Wednesday. This was a great podcast to listen to for even more Brady-Arians analysis.

Brady had several offensive coordinators in New England, including Charlie Weis, Bill O’Brien and Josh McDaniels, during his two decades there, and the offense changed over the years depending on the personnel. Different plays, different play-callers in different years. Did some of the concepts carry over from year-to-year for continuity sake under head coach Bill Belichick?

Of course, but every NFL offense has the same routes – slants, corners, skinny posts, verticals – whether it’s in New England or Tampa Bay. The difference is how those routes are packaged in what personnel groupings, and when and where are those plays called within games.

In 2004, the Patriots rushed for over 2,100 yards behind Corey Dillon’s 1,635 yards while Brady passed for 3,692 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions en route to a 14-2 record and a second Super Bowl championship.

In 2007, the Patriots went 16-0 and lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants with Brady throwing for more than 1,100 yards than he did three years prior with 4,806 yards. He also had a career-high 50 touchdowns, including 23 to Randy Moss, with just eight interceptions, while New England had the league’s 13th-ranked rushing attack.

In 2010, Brady passed for only 3,900 yards with 36 touchdowns and four interceptions in a very balanced offense the NFL’s ninth-ranked running game led by 1,000-yard rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his 13 touchdowns. The Patriots went 14-2 before being upset by Rex Ryan’s New York Jets in the playoffs.

In 2011, New England’s offense leaned on Brady and the passing game much more, as he passed for a career-high 5,084 yards with 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while the Patriots had the league’s 20th-ranked rushing attack. The 13-3 Patriots lost another Super Bowl to the Giants that year.

Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady
Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

When the Patriots had receivers that had the speed to go deep like Moss, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks over the years, Brady threw deep often and accurately. When he didn’t, like in 2019 after Rob Gronkowski retired, Julian Edelman was the primary receiver and the Patriots resorted to more of a quick passing game with greater regularity out of necessity.

The second myth is that Brady is not a good fit for Arians’ vertical-based passing game. To think that Brady didn’t know what he was getting into when he came to Tampa Bay is asinine. Brady was a free agent and studied not only the Bucs’ weapons on offense, but also Arians’ scheme and knew it was vertically-based. Brady chose to be here for that reason, as well as Tampa Bay’s receivers.

Brady is one of the best deep ball throwers of all-time and that’s been the case for some time and that was even the case last year at age 42 – even when the Patriots didn’t have a true deep threat at receiver or tight end.

In fact, prior to the start of the 2019 season, Brady had thrown the most passes beyond 10 yards in NFL history with 659. The next closest was Drew Brees, who had 515 at the time.

Brady started the season hot with successful deep passes and then went into a stretch where he had trouble connecting on deep throws before a nice rebound game against Kansas City on Sunday where he completed 4-of-7 passes over 20 yards.

Just because an NFL analyst may have played in the NFL doesn’t make him an expert on what is going on with a particular team. Because I’ve covered Tampa Bay for 25 years on a daily basis I know far more about the Buccaneers than former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who was just flat out wrong in his analysis on Showtime’s “Inside The NFL” this week, without me having played a down of football past high school.

Bucs QB Tom Brady
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Why is Tom Brady throwing the ball deep?” Marshall said. “That’s not what got him those championships. He’s a dink and dunk quarterback. He comes from a balanced offense where they run the ball and then they play-action. That’s what Tom Brady has done. If he is truly calling these plays and picking these plays, then we have to address his ego. Because that’s not what got him those Super Bowls.”

Yes, Brady has performed well using play-action, and the Bucs could probably incorporate more of those plays down the stretch, but to call Brady a dink and dunk quarterback is an insult, and just plain wrong based on the deep ball statistics I presented. Brady talked about throwing deep after Sunday’s game against Kansas City.

“Just better execution,” Brady said. “We can’t hit every throw, so if we miss it, we miss it, but we’re going to keep taking them.”

Does that sound like a quarterback who doesn’t like throwing – or doesn’t want to throw – the deep ball? Nope.

How about the running game? Does Brady need a balanced offense to win championships as Marshall suggested? No, and the facts bear that out.

Patriots Run Game Rankings In Brady’s Super Bowl Years

2018 – 5th ranked run game – Win
2017 – 10th ranked run game – Loss
2016 – 7th ranked run game – Win
2014 – 18th ranked run game – Win
2011 – 20th ranked run game – Loss
2007 – 13th ranked run game – Loss
2004 – 7th ranked run game – Win
2003 – 27th ranked run game – Win
2001 – 13th ranked run game – Win

As you can see from the table above, Brady has won Super Bowls when the Patriots had a top 5 and a bottom 5 ground game, and he’s also lost a Super Bowl with a top 10 running game, so that’s not a magic bullet.

Does Brady like to throw the ball to running backs? Of course he does in check down situations, and players like Kevin Faulk, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White all became favorite targets over the years in New England.

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski
Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But Brady likes throwing the ball to tight ends, too. Gronkowski had four 1,000-yard seasons in New England, and Aaron Hernandez came close one year with 910 yards.

And Brady is also fond of throwing the ball to wide receivers – not just slot receivers like Edelman and Wes Welker in New England. Moss had two 1,000-yard seasons with Brady in New England, Cooks and Troy Brown each had one, and three others – Brandon Lloyd (911), Brandon LaFell (953) and Deion Branch (998) were awfully close to being 1,000-yard receivers.

Now let’s address a final myth – and one that Marshall mentioned. Whose offense is this anyways – Arians’ or Brady’s?

This is Arians’ offense and has been the entire time, and that hasn’t been a mystery.

We reported that during the offseason when the Buccaneers signed Brady, and again when he and his teammates worked out together over the summer on the football field at Berkeley Prep. It would be smarter and far easier for two players – Brady and Gronkowski – to learn a new offense rather than the nine other players in the huddle who already had a year in Arians’ system, and that’s exactly what’s happened.

While it’s Arians’ scheme, he let’s his quarterback choose the plays for that week’s play sheet based upon what the QB liked in practice that week and felt comfortable with. That’s been the way Arians has done things dating back to his days as a play-caller in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, in addition to his head coaching stints in Arizona and Tampa Bay.

“We have Tom calling a lot of his own – we’re picking his own on the sidelines from the game plan,” Arians said. “It’s not lack of trust, it’s just lack of continuity within the offense of the whole picture.”

Brady has complete say-so over the plays that Byron Leftwich calls in the game on Sunday, in addition to the authority to check out of a play and into another one at the line of scrimmage if he doesn’t like the defense he sees. Due to his inexperience, Jameis Winston wasn’t afforded the ability to audible much at the line of scrimmage last year, but when you’ve got 21 years in the league and you’ve won more regular season games more postseason games and more Super Bowls than any other NFL player, a player like Brady gets that privilege.

So there is no rift between Brady and Arians. They’re on the same page trying to learn each other in a year in which COVID-19 took away the entire offseason for collaboration time, forced a truncated training camp and deprived Brady of preseason games to work the kinks out and develop chemistry with his receivers, tight ends and running backs before the bullets started flying for real in the season opener at New Orleans.

“I’ve got a great relationship with B.A., and we talk every day,” Brady said on his weekly appearance with Jim Gray on Westwood One radio. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him and how he runs the team and so forth.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

“Any time you lose games, a lot of people want to place blame, especially in the media, and they want to pit one player against another player, or a player against a coach and so forth. That’s not been my style. … And I just think about it from a player’s standpoint. I always think about what I need to do better, and I certainly haven’t played to my level of expectation, and I’ve got to do a better job, and that’s what it comes down to for me.”

After 12 straight weeks of football, the Bucs are 7-5 – not 5-7 like they were a year ago – and are scoring more points than they ever have. Brady is also having the best first year of any QB ever under Arians.

Just how good? Click on the next page to find out.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at:
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1 month ago

enough of it, we are going to win 4 straight and roll into the playoffs the hottest team. After this bye week I believe we will get things back on track.

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Reply to  Ivan2727
1 month ago

No one will consider this team hot if they win four in a row vs the Vikes, Falcons, Lions, and Falcons. 2 of the 3 teams have an interim HC and all have losing records.

That said, it’s entirely possible the Bucs go 4-0, 3-1, or 2-2.

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1 month ago

I think it’s more on our defense than our offense. We can’t seem to put pressure on the QB. We need to be creative in both sides of the game!!

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Reply to  Bucco-Bruce
1 month ago

More concerned with the secondary who seem to get really confused in zone coverage.

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1 month ago

Wonder how much positivity on Brady’s play is due to the much better TD:Int ratio compared to last year. Is his high redzone TD efficiency sustainable? 9 of his TDs are from 4yds or in, on other teams does Rojo get to eat and would maybe half those 9 end up not passing TDs. If his TD:Int ratio then is just 2:1 or less, would the shine be off a little? Excluding first 2 games given the circumstances, Brady to me has played really well in the next 7 games (ex chicago) and has not been as good in the… Read more »

1 month ago

Not much meat in this Fab 5. Fab 1 was more like a conspiracy theory and most of us don’t pay attention to them.
I’m not giving up on this team and will still be happy if we make it to the playoffs which I believe we will. I’ve lost some confidence we’re going to do much of anything in the playoffs because our present record says we won’t.

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1 month ago

I can’t say I agree with everything Greenberg said Scott, but I can’t say he’s all wrong either. Rojo, and Fournette might not be the best RB tandem in the league, but five carries in a game is not giving them much of a chance. No wonder we’re ranked 28th in rushing. So calling Greeny a clown is a bit harsh here.

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1 month ago

You, by name, brought up Tony Romo and insinuated Dan Orlovsky and talked about how wrong they were….yet you never actually addressed what they talked about? I guess that makes it easier to write the rest of Fab 1 and makes it a pretty easy argument to win. Romo and Orlovsky specifically brought up play action (which you kind of admit is real issue without admitting it?) and mostly the lack of motion in the offense pre-snap. The lack of motion wasn’t mentioned at all in Fab 1 and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t an oversight. It just would have… Read more »

Reply to  tbb345
1 month ago

Agreed! The thing with no motion pre-snap makes zero sense to me when it can give you a clue to what the D is running. Even though they’ve been better at it as of late, the Bucs still need to cut down on the first down running plays and run play action on half the reps they’d have run it on 1st down. I’ve paid pretty close attention to those plays this year, as I’m sure most Bucs fans have, and we were atrocious at it almost all year until the 98yd TD run. The problem is that gave our… Read more »

1 month ago

Look, this team is improved. Its not great but it is good. There is always a rift when games are not won. Wanna unrift that rift? Then RUN THE TABLE baby. Go 4-0 and into the playoffs with momentum No excuses Bucs. Head on into the fray!.

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1 month ago

The writer lost me when he include Chris Hogan, a 4.55 to 4.6 WR as a receivers that had speed. Cook and Moss yes. Not Hogan.

” ………When the Patriots had receivers that had the speed to go deep like Moss, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks over the years,……”

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Reply to  Eddie
1 month ago

Idk about his speed, but I remember thinking he was a decent deep receiver. Nothing special though.

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peter benet
1 month ago

The writer doth protest too much, methinks: no rift! I said, no rift! Then why did Tom snap at Jenna when asked about it, and walk off abruptly after two minute press conference? Two minutes? To say Romo and Ninkovich only heard Brady’s side of his discontent is to acknowledge they talk to him. This insider account sounds like the party line which needed to be disseminated after the firestorm engulfing BA since Romo set it ablaze. But to accept that the lack of motion, lack of play action, lack of slants and crossing routes, long bombs on third down… Read more »

Reply to  peter benet
1 month ago

Yeah not only that, but Arians own words show that they’re not on the same page imo. He was asked about Brady checking it down to his RB’s (Successfully too, at least that game!) one recent game & he replied that those plays and one play in particular were “sort of audibles at the LOS by Tom.. That wasn’t the way that play was designed..” (I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist) I just remember reading it and thinking it sounded a lot like Brady telling the RB to be available as a receiver, rather than as part of the… Read more »

1 month ago

Not concerned about making the playoffs. Not concerned about the GOAT as our QB. Concerns remain (as they have for 6 1/2 years) with our secondary and our pass protection. Those two concerns go from the players trying to cover and protect, to the coordinators trying to call the right defenses/offenses, to the head coach trying to manage the game strategy, to the GM who was supposed to fix those concerns at some point over the last 6 1/2 years, but clearly has not. But the GOAT, he’s not our problem, despite some obvious let downs in games.

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1 month ago

I’d like to see BA bury Fournette on the bench and play McCoy or Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Fournete has frying has for hands and the heart of a hamster. Does one good run over 12 games means he gets a pass on the rest of the season. You bring up a good point about Brady and the offense but what you and the rest of the PR staff has neglected is what the heck is going on with the Bucs defense. Three of the losses this year and in the last month have come when the defense let the opposition come… Read more »

Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

These slow starts on both sides of the ball are very concerning to me. On the bright side, for some reason, the team has been willing and able to claw itself back. That’s encouraging. Totally agree about Leonard Fornette. He just seems disinterested to me. Unless he picks up the pace the next four games, I’ll be surprised if he’s here in 2021. I’m pretty sure Suh is nearing the end of his stellar career and unlikely to return with his relatively high pay grade. I wouldn’t mind seeing AB come back at a reasonable 3rd WR salary. SMB will… Read more »

Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

I agree with most of what you said scubog but as far as SMB is concerned? The time is now to put up or shut up! I know he’s young and I have higher hopes for him than I ever did for Hargreaves (with him it was more a 🙏) but we need him to play well NOW. He has been an obvious weak spot out there and teams are focusing on him now. I think that’s why Winfields play has dropped off a bit too as of late. He’s worried about certain CB’s being able to do their jobs!… Read more »

1 month ago

It seeuto me Defensive Coordinates have BL figured. If we know what’s coming, then it’s easy for them. Plain Jane, vanilla offense.

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1 month ago

My guess is Brady is a grown man and a great player. I think he and Arians are on the same page. But Scott I’m not reading War and Peace to find out. If PR is paying you by the word, you made enough to retire on this article. Consider it. They can kick Cook upstairs and he will write articles that don’t require a PHD in BS to read.

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The Wall
1 month ago

Come on Scott; you just made the “rift” (or lack of) between Brady and Arians the big issue. You know it isn’t. I don’t know if it gave you an opportunity to defend Arians or if it was a way to back off from the real controversies. You, Jon and most of your staff have been rightfully critical of Arian’s and Leftwich’s play calling; game planning; inflexibility; use of players; it goes on and on. The fact there isn’t a rift between Brady and Arians is a credit to Brady. Yes, over time the offense will do better, but that… Read more »

1 month ago

5-7 in 2019 and 7-5 in 2020. The difference is Tom? No. The difference is the schedule. Lets recap the first 12 games of 2019. Giants game blown by kicker and defense. Missed extra points and missed field goals. Defense gave up an 18 point halftime lead. Titans game given to Tennessee after Devon White fumble recovered and returned for TD. Refs overturned on errant whistle. No turnover. Seahawks OT game lost b/c the defense gave up 5 TD’s to Wilson. No turnovers by offense. 5 away games in a row: At Rams, at Saints, London for Panthers “home” game,… Read more »

Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

Stop living last year !an. It’s getting old. Winston couldn’t even get the starting nod over a totally unproven Taysom Hill.. Why? Because he was an F-ing turnover MACHINE and absolutely lost us game after game! How many turnovers did he have in those games you are on everyone but that dope?? He’s a SAINT NOW! God. Go cry about last/lost years somewhere else. This site is for real Bucs fans as far as I can tell. I admit it was amusing g at first but when you disappeared after every big win I started to see you for… Read more »

1 month ago

Seems to me that SR got a phone call from the Bucs front office who told him to tone down the criticism of Arians’ offense. I heard it in his voice on one of the last two podcasts. I could be wrong, but that’s what it seems like to me. They are journalists, but also have to maintain contact with the Bucs to keep their credentials and I would guess this means towing the party line at times. Or as Shakespeare said “the lady doth protest too much methinks”

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1 month ago

I read most of what SR wrote as the team still being affected by Tom’s being in a new system and coaching tree for the first time and more importantly, losing most of the offseason program and having so few reps with everyone. Absolutely true. I’m with everyone else though on the stubbornness and the play calling though. You should be able to script and opening drive score with consistency and when you consistently go 3 and out instead, that says to me you didn’t scout and gameplan your opponent properly. BA trying to impose his scheme on the opponent… Read more »

1 month ago

Dang man. This is one of the few articles I’ve read on Pewter Report where I question why they’re saying what they’re saying.. Ok, maybe no big brouhaha between Arians and Brady.. But Brady can’t possibly be happy with the idiot play calling! Greenberg was dead RIGHT about everything he said! No play action when they ball out of it? Check. No pre snap motion to get at least a clue about what the D might do? Check. I’ll give you the long ball theory in part as Brady has been successful with it throughout his career, but he also… Read more »