Tom Brady’s Buccaneers debut last weekend was eye-opening for all the wrong reasons. A model of consistency throughout his 21-year NFL tenure—most of it spent under the tutelage of Bill Belichick in New England—Brady looked erratic in the loss to New Orleans, struggling to get on the same page with Mike Evans (1-2-1 receiving line on four targets) while committing a pair of uncharacteristic turnovers including a morale-spoiling, third-quarter pick six. For all his struggles, the veteran signal-caller did contribute three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in the losing effort, perhaps a sign that Brady’s Week 1 clunker had more to do with his high-powered opponent than Father Time tapping him on the shoulder.
A trendy Super Bowl pick before the season started, Tampa’s bandwagon has thinned out considerably of late with plenty of brake-pumping on any Bucs title talk. While some might be tempted to give the four-time Super Bowl MVP the benefit of the doubt—betting against him has rarely paid dividends—at least one analyst, Bucky Brooks of NFL Network, is ready to throw in the towel on the whole Brady/Bucs experiment.
“I think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have a little buyer’s remorse,” said Brooks, suggesting that Brady’s tepid Week 1 was no outlier. “If you go back and look at the last 10 games that Tom Brady has played, Jameis Winston has been a better player and I don’t think Tom Brady can turn it around.”
Winston, of course, was on the opposite sideline for last week’s opener in the Big Easy, serving as Drew Brees’ backup. Many felt the Bucs were getting a substantial upgrade at quarterback by swapping out Winston, last year’s NFL interceptions leader with 30, for Brady, despite his diminished arm strength and relative lack of mobility (even in his athletic prime, the former Patriot was never an adept scrambler). But with Brady seemingly in steep decline, Brooks thinks Tampa Bay may have backed the wrong horse.
“Completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating are all in the bottom five of the league during that span," Brooks remarked during his appearance Friday on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. "I love Tom Brady for all the things that he’s done but I don’t think he will ever return to being the player that we saw in New England.”
It was only a matter of time until Brady lost his fastball. Even the immortal Peyton Manning succumbed to his age at a certain point, throwing nearly twice as many interceptions as touchdowns while struggling to fend off Brock Osweiler in his Denver finale. Learning a new system on the fly comes with growing pains and maybe Brady experienced some of those in Week 1. But at the same time, the Bucs knew the gamble they were taking enlisting a 43-year-old on his last NFL legs. Regressing to average, or even a notch below that, was always a distinct possibility for Brady, who has thrown a pick-six in three straight games dating back to last year.
Will Brady, who has made a career out of defying expectations, shrug off last week’s disappointment, or will he prove Brooks right by sinking further into the abyss? Time will tell.