In fact, they think Brady is a perfect fit for coach Bruce Arians’ deep-passing preference.
There’s a prevailing thought that Brady’s arm has diminished as he enters a season in which he’ll be 43, although it didn’t matter in the Patriots’ efficient short-passing offense. The Buccaneers are going the other way. They’re convinced his arm is as good as ever.
Bucs not concerned about Tom Brady’s arm strength
Arians’ offense has always been heavy on deep shots downfield, and conventional wisdom is that a 43-year-old quarterback doesn’t fit that.
Buccaneers GM Jason Licht was on ESPN’s “Get Up” Monday morning, and he gave a thorough answer about Brady’s arm strength and how it would fit in Arians’ offense.
"The tape showed to us that he had plenty of arm. In fact, we thought that he had an ideal arm for Bruce in his system," Licht said, via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine. "He can still throw it deep. We felt like the mobility was still the same as he's always had, which, he's never been able to outrun anybody. But he certainly is good in the pocket in terms of eluding pressure and with his poise and his instincts. We did not see a decline in his arm talent whatsoever. And, in fact, we feel like he could still play for over two years for us, and hopefully that's the case."
Whether we want to blame the Patriots’ lack of weapons, New England’s scheme or Brady himself, the numbers show Brady’s strength is not as a deep passer.
Brady’s average depth of target (Pro Football Focus’ aDOT metric) has declined from 9.5 to 8.3 to 8 over the past three seasons. His percentage of deep passes among all his throws, via PFF, went from 13.8 to 11.4 to 10.1. In the Buccaneers’ favor, Brady wasn’t bad last season when he threw deep. His adjusted completion percentage on deep passes (20 yards or more) was 14th of 30 passers with at least 25 attempts, and his rating on those throws was 13th according to PFF.
That’s fairly average, and he’s going to have to throw deep a lot more often if Arians’ history is an indicator. Last season the NFL’s leader in deep throws was Jameis Winston, Arians’ quarterback, with 99. Brady tried 62.
Can Brady thrive in Bruce Arians’ offense?
Presumably, Brady understands the fit as well as anyone. The story that is starting to take on a timeless life of its own is that Brady courted the Buccaneers, not the other way around. Licht repeated that on ESPN.
"It was almost like a recruitment on his part, telling us why it would make sense for him to come to Tampa Bay,” Licht said.
Brady has better receivers to throw to. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are among the NFL’s best. O.J. Howard hasn’t done much in the NFL but is one of the rare tight ends that can stretch the field. Perhaps Brady will show, with much better targets, he’s still a great deep passer (he clearly once was; he threw 16 touchdowns on deep passes alone in 2007 when Randy Moss was his top receiver).
Like everything else with Brady at his age, it’s a gamble. There’s no positive history among quarterbacks his age through NFL history. Yet Brady is a historical outlier in many ways and is already the greatest 40-, 41- and 42-year-old quarterback in NFL history. It’s not like the Buccaneers throw deep every play, and they’ll be happy to have a quarterback who won’t throw 30 interceptions. Maybe he’ll be just fine at 43, too.
The Bucs are banking on it. They believe Brady has the arm strength to thrive in Arians’ offense at age 43, and 44 too.
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