Ron Rivera was surprised Tom Brady left the Patriots, but now sees why

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Ethan Cadeaux
·4 min read
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Rivera was surprised Brady left the Patriots, but now sees why originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

For two decades, the thought of Tom Brady playing football anywhere but New England seemed unimaginable.

So, when the 43-year-old quarterback signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March after 20 seasons and six Super Bowl titles with the Patriots, Washington head coach Ron Rivera was among those who were caught off guard.

"I really was surprised that he did leave," Rivera said Tuesday. "I was one of those that really did think he wouldn’t leave."

Now, nine months later, Rivera's club is coming off an improbable NFC East title in the head coach's first year at the helm. But, if Rivera and Washington hope their season continues past this Saturday, they'll have to upset Brady and his Bucs in the Wild Card round.

As Rivera prepares to face Tampa Bay, he now sees why Brady departed from New England for Tampa Bay and how big of an impact he's had in his first year with the Buccaneers.

"Seeing where he is and the comfort and confidence level that he’s getting with his team around him is pretty impressive. It really is," Rivera said. "But again, that’s what happens and is created when you’re winning."

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During Brady's final year in New England, the veteran quarterback's play significantly dropped off towards the end of the season.

After the Patriots were upset by the Titans in the opening round of the playoffs, many wondered if Brady was still able to play the QB position effectively. The word "washed" was even thrown around, and many thought Brady would at least mull the idea of retiring.

In his first season with the Bucs, though, Brady has played his best football of the season down the stretch. Tampa Bay is currently on a four-game winning streak, three of which were double-digit victories. Over that span, the Buccaneers have scored an average of 37 points per game, and Brady has thrown 12 touchdowns to just one interception.

“I didn’t realize he was 43 because I’ll tell you, he throws the ball like he’s 23," Rivera said. "He really does. He’s got the arm strength. He delivers a good ball. He’s still who he is. That’s the scary part. He may be that age, but he sure doesn’t play like it."

Part of the reason Brady has been so successful over the past month, though, is that this stretch has really been the first time the quarterback has had all of his offensive weapons on the field at the same time.

Between Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Chris Godwin, the Bucs have unquestionably the best wide receiver corps in the league. Add in talented running backs Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy -- let's not forget about tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady's long-time favorite target in New England, either -- and the Buccaneers offense is as loaded as they come.

"When you watch him, I know he spreads it around, too," Rivera said. "You can’t sit there and say: ‘I know he’s going to throw it to Gronk or he’s going to throw it to Mike or he’s going to throw it to Brown.’ He’s going to do what he does based on what he sees and his years of experience."

When Rivera took over as Washington's head coach in January, he said building a winning culture in the nation's capital was his main goal. Rivera has gotten off to an incredible start in his first season, but even he knows there's a way to go.

Establishing such a culture requires consistency and continuity, something Brady has had throughout his career. That's something Rivera hopes to establish in Washington.

"As they’ve won and created some confidence going forward, it’s been impressive to watch. It really has," Rivera said. "That’s what we’re working toward and striving for is to have that kind of continuity and kind of success and build that kind of confidence."

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Tampa Bay
+140+3.5O 52.5
Green Bay
-167-3.5U 52.5