One of the greatest pleasures of my NFL Viewing experience over the last two seasons has been the fact that Tom Brady went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As a lifelong Patriots fan prior to this move, I can say that I respect the Hell out of Bill Belichick and that he is an amazing head coach, but I think Brady did more for the team’s successes than he did---though it was a joint effort.
This is something of a spiritual follow-up to my article called, “Brady is the System,” which can be found here.
In that article, I made my case for why any discussion of, “Greatest NFL Player of All-Time,” (GOAT) is done and why, if there can be a GOAT at all, then that GOAT must be Tom Brady.
As I hinted in the article, there are twenty-two moving pieces on every NFL play and there are positions that you obviously don’t hear talked about as much as you do quarterbacks. Could there be a greatest offensive linemen of all-time if we really looked into it, for example? Maybe even a greatest center, specifically? We know that the greatest Wide Receiver of all-time is undoubtedly Jerry Rice. It’s not even disputable, I don’t care who his quarterbacks were---he owns the most receiving yards AND most receiving touchdowns records by a mile.
At 58 years old, if he could somehow avoid injury, he could probably legitimately still be a slot receiver. I’m not even kidding.
So, what makes Tom Brady the greatest of all-time and not Jerry Rice? If anything, then the answer must be that the TB12 franchise has more Super Bowl rings than any other NFL franchise...which is to say that Tom Brady has seven, one more than the six owned by the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots---the lattermost team winning ALL of them with Brady and only appearing in two Super Bowls (of their total eleven appearances) without him.
In comparison, Jerry Rice has three Super Bowl rings to his credit. It should also be mentioned that the third of those was a game played in January of 1995 (1994 NFL Season), so whilst Tom Brady was winning Super Bowls as recently as last year, Jerry Rice would play the last decade of his career without adding to his total.
Another thing that should be mentioned on the subject of championships is that not only did Tom Brady win a Super Bowl ring with two different teams, but he also won the big one in his first year as the signal-caller for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I mean, what the hell else do you want? While Rice would play for the 49ers and Raiders during his career, all of his Super Bowl wins would come as a 49er. Though, to Rice’s credit, he would have two playoff appearances as a Raider, as well as one Super Bowl appearances---wherein the Raiders were curb stomped by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coached by Jon Gruden. That would actually be the last Super Bowl won by Tampa Bay until Tom Brady came to town, and Jon Gruden himself is now the coach of his then-former team, the Raiders...so it all comes full circle.
While Brady will eventually hold the #1 spot for the major passing statistics of Passing Yards and Touchdowns (barring injury), and probably also Completions (barring injury or retiring in the unlikely event this season goes EXTREMELY poorly for him), nobody else has come anywhere near Jerry Rice’s all-time #1 stats and it’s difficult to believe that anyone ever will.
Granted, Rice always had great quarterbacks dishing the ball to him in San Francisco, and even Rich Gannon with the Raiders was no slouch, but he was just so far and away above other receivers as to be unbelievable. His footwork and speed were second to none and it seemed that he could haul in the long ball basically at will. The closest that we have ever seen is probably Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, who were two of the best to ever do it, but didn’t play as long as Rice did.
Tom Brady has made a career out of being an extremely efficient quarterback who is great at reading defenses, mostly by virtue of his ability to judge what the coverage is going to be via pre-snap motion of Wide Receivers, finding holes in the coverage, delivering quick strikes to receivers such that, even if they are short of the line, they have enough clearance to get exactly what they need...and, most importantly, almost never turning the ball over.
With that, Brady is definitely in a very short list of QB’s in the upper echelon of accuracy, but as of the end of the 2020 NFL Season, Tom Terrific actually sits only at 20th in all-time completion rate, which might come as a surprise to some. Much of that stems from the fact that his first few years in the league weren’t his best and he got better as he aged, which says something about his competitiveness and drive---two areas in which he is peerless when it comes to NFL Quarterbacks.
In fact, many long-time NFL fans will remember that the New England Patriots, and Tom Brady, would win the franchise’s first three championships within a three-year span (somehow missing the Playoffs entirely after their first Super Bowl). That missed playoffs after the first championship is actually the ONLY year a Tom Brady led team would ever miss the Playoffs, the other year being one in which Brady went down in Week 1 and was replaced by Matt Cassel for the remainder of the season. Even with that asterisk, the Patriots went 11-5 that year.
However, much ado was made about the Patriots next Super Bowl loss, which would come during a year that followed a perfect 16-0 regular season. That season, Tom Brady had Randy Moss to throw to. By the early 2010’s, Brady was regarded as a remarkable quarterback who, at the time, had thrown the most passing Touchdowns in a season (50) which was since bested by Peyton Manning (with 55).
Brady would continue to play to a very high standard over the next few years, which were all abuzz with talk of Peyton v. Tom as being the best quarterback of that era, or perhaps even ever, with Joe Montana also getting frequent mention in that regard. The point is, it would take the Patriots winning the Super Bowl every other year, beginning in 2014 Season (and appearing in four out of five) before the talk of Tom Brady being the GOAT was seriously on. It was more than a casual mention then, with the standard basically being detractors having to stretch to make an argument for anyone else.
After that, Peyton Manning supporters would cling to the fact that Manning had won the big one with two different teams, but those who don’t support Brady as the GOAT Quarterback no longer have that argument in favor of Manning anymore.
However, there are some other stats that we should look at such that Brady can at least be statistically compared, at least in the regular season (he has so many playoff appearances that no stats in that regard are even close) where Brady appears to be mortal.
When it comes to passes completed in a single season, Drew Brees appears as six of the listings in the Top 10 and Brady is nowhere to be found until you get to the 30’s. However, Brees only holds the Top 10 in Passing Attempts three times, so there’s more to these numbers of completions in a season besides the mere act of throwing the ball a ton. It certainly helps, but Brees is also the second-most accurate QB of all-time (completion percentage), compared to 20th for Brady, as I mentioned before.
That said, unless KIrk Cousins is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time (spoiler alert-he isn’t) then that stat doesn’t automatically mean a whole lot by itself.
One area where Brady shines is Interception Percentage, in which he is fourth all-time as of the end of last season. Of course, unless Colin Kaepernick (tied with Brady) is also one of the best Quarterbacks in NFL History, then that stat alone doesn’t mean anything. Those with a lower Interception percentage are Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and (somehow) Dak Prescott, in that order.
Naturally, while it’s not the end all and be all, Interception Rate is an incredibly important statistic. If there’s one thing that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady hate (though, everyone hates it, to some extent) it is turning the ball over. In another life, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would have likely made excellent casino advantage players, as it seems that they are experts at taking just enough risks to be successful, but not to such an extent that the risk-taking is ever really to their own detriment. Brady also specializes in having his receivers run routes such that he puts the passes to where only they have a chance at the ball.
However, that’s also what might be detrimental to his completion rate. Essentially, especially on sideline and end zone type routes, Tom Brady shifts a ton of the responsibility to his wide receivers, which was why it really upset him that New England (Bill Belichick) really didn’t seem to get him a ton of help after Ron Gronkowski retired. While it’s true that he puts the passes where only his receivers can get them, he also needs receivers that are capable of making stretching catches, toe tap catches and being skilled at doing quick changes of direction to get an extra yard or two for first downs.
Because of that, as well as his first few seasons in the league not being his best years (New England did not emphasize the pass as heavily), Brady suffers a lower completion rate than what otherwise might have been. While Brady himself is great, he also needs to have greatness around him. That’s not a shot at Brady, of course, because knowing what to do with the talent around you is the most important component of having talent around you---and Brady certainly knows what to do with his guys, as well as what his guys can do.
Brady has gained somewhat of a reputation, at least amongst his detractors, for focusing on short-yardage, “Dink and dunk,” throws, but that’s exactly what his offensive systems have been based on---so it can hardly be considered an insult!!! Tom BRady led teams have had an excellent, effective and turnover-safe plan of execution and Brady has been phenomenal at implementing it.
Beyond that, Brady’s detractors are also flat out wrong as Brady sits currently tied for 29th All-Time in Passing Yards per Attempt. We’re talking about the guy who has thrown the most Pass Attempts of all-time, so that’s one hell of a solid standard and is some serious yardage per attempt! Besides, if you think that’s the end all and be all stat, then you’d have to be willing to argue for Tony Romo (7th) to be the GOAT, which he definitely isn’t.
Brady is nowhere near the top in Yards Per Completion, but that’s because none of the modern quarterbacks are! Of active quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes (55th all time) is the highest.
The reason that the Yards per Completion stat has changed so much is that old-school NFL offenses would either run the ball, or chuck it way down the field and hope for the best. Of the guys who inhabit the top of the overall Yards per Completion list, you will not find most of them very high on the Yards per Attempt list...because their completion percentages were abysmal by the standards of the modern NFL. Essentially, by today’s standards of offensive play, every single pass might as well have been a Hail Mary!
Finally, Tom Brady is 8th in overall passer rating, all-time, which can be seen as kind of a combination of everything and also takes Touchdown Percentage rate (honestly, relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things) into account. Brady is actually better than both Peyton Manning and Joe Montana in this regard, believe it or not, so that should be sufficient to end any comparisons there. Besides, you can be highly efficient and still not win, just ask Kirk Cousins (6th all-time, as of right now).
The point is that Tom Brady has dominated in Super Bowls and in Playoff Stats, and consequently, is the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time. It’s totally indisputable, and if you’re thinking about disputing it, let me save you the trouble: You’re wrong.
As I mentioned in the other article, you can’t simply refuse to factor in his Playoff stats because he appeared in so many Playoff games. You can’t disregard his Super Bowl stats because he has appeared in ten Super Bowls (literally, every other year of his career if you don’t count his first year in which he backed up Drew Bledsoe and threw three total passes) and won seven of them...he appeared in that many because he IS the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time.
I would also venture to say that he is the Most Valuable Player of All-Time, how couldn’t he be? When you have an individual with more Super Bowl Championships, as of the time of this writing, than those held by any other individual TEAM...you’re the most important player to ever live and the most valuable.
However, is he the greatest overall player? Personally, I think so, but he also benefits from the fact that Quarterback also happens to naturally be the most important position on the football field. If you want to talk about the Most Outstanding Football Player of all-time, then I’d have to give it to Jerry Rice because he’s not just highly ranked in every category for his position---he’s the BEST at it by a mile and will probably never be touched. It’s quite possible that nobody else will ever get close enough for the matter to be up for discussion.
If you had the regular season stats that Tom Brady does, but no Super Bowls, then you would say that he is one of the Greatest of All-Time, but there would be some fair debate as to whether or not he actually is THE greatest, especially if anyone else ever gets close on yards and touchdowns in their careers.
Brady Being the System
The main focus on my, “Brady is the System,” article was that many of his detractors ridiculously criticize him for being a, “System Quarterback,” despite the fact that literally EVERY quarterback at all levels of football plays in some sort of offensive system. I guess backyard football is technically an exception to that, since you just draw up plays in the dirt...or just say, “Go out and try to get open!”
For most football games, however, the offense has an overall scheme with sets of plays that they are trying to execute. You could have an All-Star team with the best players at every position and if your entire offensive plan was, “Go out and make plays---use your athleticism,” that team would lose to a team like the offensively hapless New York Jets in a blowout, assuming that the Jets had time to prepare for them.
If football was meant to be played without a plan, then the players would not have multip0le practices per week, countless hours studying film and all of the assorted meetings of player positions that take place week in and week out. The product that you see on the field is not a result of these players simply being good, it’s a product of being good AND well-prepared.
When you look at players who are considered Quarterback busts, such as Johnny Manziel, Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell, those guys were GOOD! They weren’t good NFL players, but that’s because, for one reason or another, they were not prepared to play at the NFL level. They basically created rookie contracts because JaMarcus Russell held out for a huge contract (half of which was guaranteed money) and then decided he no longer cared about trying to win football games. Manziel and Leaf both had personal problems and substance problems, although, Manziel was also a victim of his own newfound financial fortunes...and also Leaf, to some extent.
It’s not enough to be great, as they say, “Hope is not a plan,” and skill is also not a plan. You can’t simply skill yourself to success or hope for everything to go well, only a plan is a plan.
In the other article, I described the Patriots offensive system under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady thus:
Throughout Belichick’s tenure, the New England Patriots have employed a modified Erhardt-Perkins offensive system. In its most fundamental form, the goal of the system is simply to run effectively (trying to get a few yards at a time---not necessarily to break off huge gains) in an effort to control the clock and maximize time of possession in order to wear a defense down.
The Erhardt-Perkins system has been described as, “Pass to score, run to win,” with the idea being that a quarterback can run a bunch of play-action (read: fake handoff) plays and eventually the defense will be selling out so much to prevent the run that the quarterback will find himself with blown coverages or defenses that have simply broken down on pass protection.
With the main difference in the Patriots’ implementation of the system being that they came to also heavily rely on the short passing game to set up the run, to a certain extent. Basically, the Patriots would sometimes even use the threat of a pass to set up the run. If opposing defenses tried to sell out for either, given his tremendous understanding of the game, Brady could always switch up the play under center and make them pay.
When it comes to the offensive playbook, most NFL teams have several hundred to sometimes 1,000+ plays in their book available to them. However, most teams will only bring anywhere from 50-100 to plan to use during a game. Of course, with Tom Brady, you not only have one of the most efficient passers in all of history, but you also have a coach on the field who can expertly audible receivers, running backs, audible into a whole new play...or even change specific blocking assignments all while the play clock is running!!!
Essentially, the Patriots might bring 50-100 offensive plays onto the field each week, but with everything that Brady is able to accomplish, it’s really the same thing as having several thousand plays immediately at their disposal, at all times. You can get into the math of what having Receiver #2 do any one of these ten different things instead, then do the same for other players on the field, if you want to.
In order to accomplish that, the entire team must spend countless hours in meetings and dissecting the film.
When you hear the broadcast booth talking about, “Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the defense,” they’re not talking about what the viewers at home can do for themselves. It’s not anything as simplistic as, “Richard Sherman is great at covering passes, but this other guy is not quite as good as he is, so we should throw this other guy’s way.” It’s nothing anywhere even close to that.
In terms of talking about strengths and weaknesses, probably the best gambling comparison that I can make is to that of playing Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. While it’s possible that many viewers at home understand the odds and could play the game competently in a low-limit setting---that’s not what it takes to be a professional poker player. Basically, you have to be able to analyze your opponent’s tendencies and get all of the information that you can on him in order to dissect what he tends to do in specific situations that are going to come up on the different streets of a Texas Hold ‘Em game.
However, football is so much MORE than that, because you have not only an overall defense that you have to dissect...in terms of their tendencies when the offense trots out a specific look (again, that part is easy), but you have to know how each individual defensive player is going to play his situation and what they tend to do in highly specific situations. You’ll spend several minutes in the film room, especially if you’re the team’s quarterback, just looking at a single play and trying to figure out what all of the individual defensive parts are not only doing, but why they are doing it, and asking yourself, “How can I cause this corner to think our receiver is breaking out on an out route right when he’s actually doing a quick comeback route...and even if he recognizes the comeback route and pounces on it, how can I place the ball where only our receiver can get it so that the worst case scenario is an incompletion?”
And, remember, that’s just looking at the cornerback for one specific play that you might run in one specific situation. That’s going to be pretty easy and is something that many High School Quarterbacks could do, at least, in isolation. However, the NFL quarterback is going to need to know how all of these men in coverage respond to every single situation for every single play that might be run, have a backup plan in case they don’t do what they are expected to do...and he also has to have this ready for ALL of his receivers in all possible coverage matchups.
If anyone has ever played SIMON or Pocket SIMON, then you know that you can get into the twenties with just a little bit of patience...think of a quarterback as getting into the hundreds on Simon whilst playing six Simon devices at once and actually having to physically execute something more demanding than tapping a button!
Actually, another good comparison would be that of a Chess Grandmaster playing twenty games simultaneously against Masters, with a time limit and the rules of the game are actually a bit different for each board. Oh, and also, you’re going to want to try not to get hurt by the guy who wants to break you in half in the middle. You can’t only be thinking about your receivers, because you’ve got a whole defensive line and blitzing linebackers who would really like to bring you to the ground, and if you’re Tom Brady, you’re probably not going to be getting away from those guys by scrambling.
That’s why it’s so easy for casual fans to just sit around at home and make comments like, “This quarterback sucks,” or remarkable in-depth insight such as, “He should not have made that throw,” because most of us don’t actually know anything about what’s going on on the football field and all of the preparation that went into it. And, why should we? We’re watching the game to be entertained, after all.
I also don’t want anyone to think that I’m casting aspersions on them because, even as someone who knows a little bit (and, I mean that literally) more about the intricacies of the game and preparation than the average fan, when watching games, I often do the same thing. “Oh my God! How could you throw that? Do you even know where your receivers are?”
But, it remains no less true. We make offhand comments about players, “Sucking,” without regard for the fact that it would be a lot worse if they didn’t have their outstanding physical gifts and did not pour hours upon hours into studying every aspect of what their opponents do on the opposite side of the ball. In other words, even an NFL fan who is in remarkable physical shape, perhaps even a former high school and/or low-level college player could never hope to be 5% as good at, “Sucking.” If nothing else, it’s possible that he hasn’t even developed enough memory to at least look competent out there.
Exception to Tim Tebow, of course, who did---almost objectively, completely suck.
If you want to know what really goes on on the field in an NFL practice, then here’s an excellent article by Ryan Riddle, who had a pretty unremarkable professional career.
As Riddle would discuss in that article, that was a particularly intense practice sessions, where as most sessions are just about running the base plays and keeping the stamina and physical mechanics where they should be. The physical aspects of the game are obviously the most important, but in terms of game preparation, are almost secondary themselves. You could probably wake Tom Brady up from a dead sleep, twenty years from now, drag his 64 year old self to the backyard...and he’ll still very likely put a football through a tire hanging from a tree...with a strong wind...from thirty yards out...on the first try.
With that, we have established that all quarterbacks operate (as do all players) within a particular offensive system that is meant to emphasize the strengths of each player. We have also addressed how Tom Brady seems to get better as time goes on, or if not, his preparation levels and mental acuity are at least enough to compensate for the fact that age must be catching up to him in some regard.
So, how did Brady bring a Super Bowl to Tampa Bay? Why, with his system, of course! What made me think of the article from earlier this year, and inspired me to write this one, is a Bill Belichick quote leading up to Tom Brady’s return to New England for the Sunday Night game that can be found here, in which he says:
It's the offense he's run his whole career. Well, I mean, as it evolved here, but you know. The running game is the running game. The running game is different, but passing game's the passing game. That's pretty similar. I mean, you could call almost every play from the flare control to the protection, you know, similar to the way we do it.
Oh, man! Shots fired! Tom Brady basically said, “Tom Brady is using our offense in the passing game.” That would be harsh, except it’s basically true. Of course, Tom Brady would use the system, and talk Buccaneers Head Coach Burce Arians into allowing him to use pre-snap motion (something Tampa Bay did not do at the beginning of last season) in order to make the passing game look even more like what Tom Brady ran for the New England Patriots.
Of course, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers also won a Super Bowl that season, so Brady essentially migrated the Patriots’ passing offensive scheme, with tremendous success, in the space of one year? How did Cam Newton do in the Patriots system, anyway? Who’s the favorite to win the AFC East this year? (It’s the Buffalo Bills, if you wondered.)
Again, Brady IS the system. You might have created one of the most effective offensive systems in the modern NFL, Bill Belichick (and also Tom Brady himself and longtime Offensive Coordinator, Josh McDaniels), but Brady is the one to enjoy the most recent Super Bowl success with it; in only one season implementing it in Tampa, at that.
Bruce Arians was able to return fire here, though it seems pretty hollow:
“I think they [Patriots] copied a lot of ours so it’s probably the same,” Arians said, per Buccaneers.com. “Ask them which film they watch every week. They always picked ours up and watched it, so it’s the same stuff.
I don’t know that they are watching the Buccaneers film every week to try to learn new offensive systems, so this comment has me raising an eyebrow a little bit. If they watch Tampa Bay film every week at all, then it’s probably on the notion that if they can learn how to stop the best quarterback to ever play the game, then they can learn to stop anyone. The second possible reason is that Belichick might have his current crop of QB talent watching what Tom Brady is doing in the hopes that they can emulate it, but then, they could just watch old Patriots film for that.
Most likely, the only time that Belichick’s team (other than maybe the QB roster) spends watching Tampa Bay is in the week leading up to this game...because that’s who they are playing. It might be true that Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl last year, but the two teams are not even in the same conference, so what Tampa Bay is busy doing is typically going to be of little relevance to Bill Belichick.
Besides that, how would Bill Belichick, “Copy,” an offensive passing scheme that he had a big hand in creating and implementing, again with credit to McDaniels and Brady? He can’t copy a system that he himself was partially responsible for creating.
That said, I could see where Arians might feel the need, as a professional matter, to defend himself against Bill Belichick’s statement. However, he might have just pointed out that he was the most recent coach, of the two, to have won a Super Bowl, and as such, regardless of whether or not there was any, “Copying,” done, his offense was clearly the more effective of the two last year.
Besides, the only one who could even really be accused of doing any copying was Brady himself. In the same presser, Arians basically said that Tom Brady is not just the quarterback, but as I highlighted above, essentially also a coach on the field. Even then, I’m not sure that Brady could really, “Copy,” anything, when one considers that he probably tweaked the offensive system he had to play when with the Patriots, even if you don’t want to give him credit for having invented it.
In fact, he’s the only one in the mix as it was originally designed, at least still playing in the NFL, who was actually tasked with going out and executing the damn thing!
When Belichick refers to, “Line control,” I assume that he means having the Quarterback delegate blocking assignments to the offensive line based on what the defense is doing. While Brady might run the same offensive system as he did with the Patriots, the concept of the Quarterback controlling the offensive line in this way isn’t anything terribly unique. It’s unusual for a QB to be able to do it so coolly, but Peyton Manning basically did the same thing with both the Colts and the Broncos.
Audibling into a different offensive lay altogether and audibling individual receivers isn’t unusual, of course, but what Brady and Manning excel at is the ability to identify blitzers, coverages and change up blocking schemes all at the line of scrimmage. Some of these changes are pretty overt, “Alert! Alert!,” from Brady, for example, but others might just come by altering the QB’s normal, “Cadence,” pre-snap a little bit. Even something as simple as just slightly more emphasis on a certain syllable could tell a center to be on the lookout for a particular linebacker to blitz! Pretty amazing stuff.
Certainly, some of you will also be wondering what is meant by, “Flare control.” In its most basic form, “Flare Control,” is mostly communicating to a running back (when he is not the primary intended target of a pass) that he should be on the lookout for a particular defensive player to possibly blitz (try to sack the quarterback) on a particular play and be ready to block him, if so. On occasion, you might hear an announcer say something like, “He went out and I think he missed his block,” when referring to a running back to which you might wonder, “Why would a running back be blocking?”
Well, announcers typically won’t say that on a whim, but they’ll have a general idea of what the quarterback whose offense they are commentating upon does in the area of flare protection, then based on the cadence and pre snap audibles and commands, will decide that the running back might have been told to look for a particular blitzer---who he must have decided wasn’t coming. Of course, that’s also an aspect of the defensive side of the ball---to be a player who is able to fake out the blocking scheme by doing an initial move that indicates coverage or spying, when you’re actually going for the sack, or alternatively, an initial move that makes it appear that you are blitzing, but that you’re mostly doing to delay the running back from running his route. It really is a chess game out there...and a poker game...it’s both at the same time!
Flare control is especially important in a Tom Brady offense because his Tight Ends, such as will-be Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski, are often Brady’s intended #1 target on a particular play. In old-school football, Tight Ends would almost be used exclusively for blocking...but would sometimes run routes. Essentially, what Brady does in his offensive system is frequently use Tight Ends for route-running (as opposed to mostly blocking) and gives blocking orders (or potential ones) to his running backs so that they can keep him protected when the Tight End is not blocking.
The reason that the running backs don’t end up just straight blocking on every single play, of course, is when you have highly dangerous tight ends who can block extremely well on some plays, but are just as (or more likely) to be a receiving target on others...as well as slot receivers who are running quick underneath routes AND the potential for halfback screens, then aside from your Defensive Line, you’re put into a position in which you have to devote many of your resources to pass protection.
The concept of Flare Control is also used for the purpose of getting defenses out of their rhythm, and also, to betray what their coverages and blitzing assignments are for the play. In the way Brady uses it with presnap wide receiver motion, the defense might also overshift (as each man on the opposite side wants to do his job), but it actually betrays what the defense is planning to do that play and where the coverages are.
In other words, there’s a hell of a lot more to the pre-snap wide receiver movement than the fact that the wide receiver is going somewhere else and running a different route. In fact, and this is more poker and chess, that might be what the wideout was supposed to do the entire time, but they made it look like an unplanned motion just to try to get the defense to betray itself. At that point, Brady might change plays entirely, may change the blocking scheme, give the running back a potential blocking assignment or give any player on the field a different route.
Make no mistake, Brady became a coach on the field because of his time spent with the Patriots. It’s not like Tom Brady would have went to some team as an NFL Week 1 Rookie (assuming he’d actually been drafted with the intention of starting him---which he wasn’t) and had been able to execute stuff like this. However, the fact remains that it’s also Brady’s system because Tom Brady is the system, so it’s highly unlikely that very many quarterbacks to come after him, with the New England Patriots or otherwise, are going to be able to execute these things with as high a degree of success. Tom Brady is basically the Stephen Hawking of quarterbacks, in terms of the mental game.
CONCLUSION AND GAME PREDICTION
This is going to be an interesting game to watch as Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Foxboro to face Brady’s former team and head coach. What you can expect here are two teams that are very well-prepared for one another as Brady knows the New England Patriots inside-and-out, and Bill Belichick built his career on being a genius on the defensive side of the ball and knows what Tom Brady wants to do inside and out.
After all, it was Belichick who said, “...you could call almost every play from the flare control to the protection…,” so I guess we will now get to see:
A.) Can he actually back that statement up?
B.) Does he have enough talent on defense to do something about it even if that’s the case?
I also expect Belichick and Mac Jones to draw up some plays to exploit what I consider to be a somewhat confused-looking (at least, sometimes) Buccaneers secondary who has something of a tendency for giving up big plays. I guess the only question there is whether or not Mac Jones will have the horses to exploit anything that the offensive staff can identify, after all, putting the ball in the best spot is only half the battle.
In the meantime, I would expect little pre-snap movement on the Patriots’ defensive side of the ball when the Buccaneers offense is on the field, if Belichick thinks that they can essentially know everything that’s coming ahead of time. The reason for that is, particularly when it comes to flare control, the defenses cause themselves to get exposed by way of too much pre-snap movement, which exploits their plan in coverage.
While it’s easier said than done, the easiest way to defend against an offense that has a lot of pre-snap movement is to basically have your defense set up to defend what the offensive play to come is, not to defend what the offense comes out looking like. Essentially, the defense must be in the right place to account for the pre-snap motion before the offense has even done it. If there’s one coach in the NFL who has any chance of reliably doing that and exploiting Tom Brady’s tendencies, then that coach is Bill Belichick.
That leaves two problems for the New England Patriots, in my opinion:
1.) I don’t think that the Patriots can score, even if Tom Brady has a pedestrian game by his standards. They just haven’t got the goods on offense and I think Mac Jones is going to frequently find himself overwhelmed by the five-man defensive front. I would also expect Tampa Bay to mix in some blitzes out of the Nickel, but they’ll probably send that pressure from directions that the Patriots won’t have seen on film yet this year.
2.) Tom Brady is still Tom Brady.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 31 New England Patriots: 13