2021 NFL Preview: Tom Brady did the impossible for Buccaneers, and will try to do it again
Yahoo Sports is previewing all 32 teams as we prepare for the NFL season, counting down teams one per day of the week in reverse order of our initial 2021 power rankings. # 1 will be unveiled on August 4th, the day before the Hall of Fame game.
(Yahoo Sports graphic by Amber Matsumoto)
For the first 54 years of the Super Bowl era, Peyton Manning was the only starting quarterback to win a two-team Super Bowl.
Manning's second Super Bowl was a gift from the soccer gods, who played it in his first three Denver Broncos seasons when he was historically great at times but didn't win everything. In 2015 Manning was a shell of himself and a phenomenal defense brought the team to the title.
Manning was an uncommon Super Bowl quarterback winner as he was a big name but played poorly for most of the season. Before last season, there was no case where a quarterback was the driving force on championship teams with two different franchises. Then Tom Brady went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
A lot of people are tired of Brady and just don't like him, but what he did last season is amazing. At the age of 43 - no quarterback had seen the slightest success at that age - he switched teams in the strangest offseason ever, and while having no preseason with new teammates, he threw 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns at a Super Bowl -Champion. Tampa Bay was only the seventh wildcard team to win a Super Bowl.
Regardless of what you think of Brady (you've probably cramped up with anger by now if you're not from New England or Tampa), what he did to the Bucs is one of the greatest stories in sports history. There are many reasons Brady should have failed, and instead he took a Tampa Bay franchise, which was for the most part horrific in its history, and turned it into a Super Bowl. This story probably isn't getting enough attention because we're used to Brady winning.
What Brady and the Bucs once did was hard enough. Even if every starter returns for another run, getting back to the Super Bowl will be a huge challenge.
Brady, who miraculously rose from sixth round selection to six Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots and the greatest resume ever for an NFL player, should be washed away by now. For at least the last five years, my preview for the Patriots or for the Bucs 2020 has included skepticism towards Brady. There's going to be more this year, even if it was stupid to fade Brady. Only five quarterbacks in NFL history had even appeared in a game by age 43 or older. We're reduced to three if we set the bar to 44 years: Vinny Testaverde, Steve DeBerg and George Blanda. Testaverde started six games at the age of 44 (with a pass rating of 65.8), DeBerg started one and Blanda didn't start any. We've seen quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Manning play well late in their careers, reaching the finish line well before they were 43. Brady won a fifth Super Bowl MVP at the age of 43.
Brady is smart, and it is no accident that he won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. He must have known the Bucs' potential. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are perhaps the best 1-2 combination of receivers in the NFL. The defense had a strong front seven and was great all along the way, especially in the Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The coaching staff was a perfect mix and somehow offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles didn't get head coaching jobs so they'll be back.
Brady knew he was in a very good position. It took a while to click, but the Bucs went 8-0, including the playoffs, after the bye week. And then somehow the Bucs managed to keep all 22 starters. That was never before in the era of wage caps that began in 1994.
There are challenges. The Super Bowl hangover is real. Brady is at an age where everything can fall apart quickly. Complacency could set in. Injuries that the Buccaneers avoided at an amazing rate last season will be a bigger part this season. It was a team that, despite a great finish, was 7-5 behind last season and didn't even win a league of its own.
But Brady and the Bucs did the impossible once. It's hard to say they can't do it again.
Tom Brady holds the Lombardi Trophy after the Super Bowl LV. (Photo by Cliff Welch / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
One of the stories of the NFL off-season was that the Buccaneers kind of kept all of their starters. Perhaps players like Antonio Brown, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette wouldn't have a big market, but getting them back on one-year contracts speaks to the Buccaneer culture. This team wants to chase another title. Aside from running back Giovani Bernard, the Buccaneers didn't add anyone of importance in the free hand. Much of the money was spent on Chris Godwin's franchise day. You obviously haven't lost any key pieces either. Pass rusher Joe Tryon was the final round one pick, and quarterback Kyle Trask was an interesting round two pick. But there aren't many options for newbies to get into this lineup.
Every year this spot offers a glimpse into the history of quarterbacks at the same age as Tom Brady. The list is getting shorter and shorter. Here are the career numbers for every quarterback aged 44 and over in NFL history on Stathead:
Vinny Testaverde: 94-by-172, 952 yards, 5 TD, 6 INT
Steve DeBerg: 30-by-59, 369 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
George Blanda: 39 of 80, 494 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT
That should put Brady's performance last season into perspective. He threw 40 touchdowns and won the Super Bowl MVP at an age when nearly every quarterback has retired through more than 100 years of NFL football. He did this with a torn MCL last season. Kyle Trask's draft pick is a reminder that Brady won't play forever, but there's no point in predicting when Brady will fall apart. It should hit the wall years ago. What he does is unprecedented in the NFL.
The total Tampa Bay winnings at BetMGM is 12 and that is a lot. After all, the Buccaneers were 11-5 last season. But I don't want to take the lower one. It's a lot more juice than I like to give away, but maybe the Bucs to win NFC South with odds of -190 is the best bet with this team. It's hard to see someone else taking over the division.
From Yahoo's Scott Pianowski: “The Buccaneers have brought the band back together - all the starters are returning - and this is especially good news for Tom Brady. The bright side of things is that the Buccaneers may have the deepest talent in the league; Problems for these receivers and tight ends, but Brady will enjoy throwing at the man with the easiest matchup. On the flip side, Tampa's stellar defense will limit Brady's shootout potential - we're a long way from the 2019 Buccaneers Mardi Gras when Jameis Winston had his 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
"Brady is a long way to go to be a top 5 fantasy quarterback. He's in no rush to do that, and the Buccaneers won't need him to top the league in attempts. But last year's QB8 finish is one achievable goal. Age is just a number for the NFL's most successful quarterback. "
Tampa Bay has had one of the most notable seasons of all time when it comes to injury luck. The Buccaneers lost 25.6 games to injury (not counting COVID-19 issues) in the Football Outsiders Customized Games Lost Metrics. Every other team lost at least 41. Teams lost an average of 70.8 games due to injury according to Football Outsiders' numbers. The Bucs were almost a third of that number. The injury luck is unsustainable and the Buccaneers would have to move into the lottery to have another season with so few lost games.
Can the Buccaneers handle expectations?
Bruce Arians cursed his team's training after camp started. Tom Brady is already screaming and slamming his helmet. The Buccaneers are trying to beat last season's Super Bowl, which isn't easy.
“That's the thing with the whole building. Nobody worries about the past year, ”linebacker Devin White said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Yeah, obviously we got the same team back and we know what that team did. But we're working on rebuilding it together and getting better than last year. "
“It's a new year. The coach did a great job setting the tone, ”said Ndamukong Suh. “The focus is on the task that lies ahead of us. All that happened last year is water under the bridge. "
It's hard to tell a team that dominated Super Bowl LV and has it all back that they'll start in # 1. The last season was not easy for her. The Buccaneers were 7-5 at a time. They lost 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints. You didn't win the NFC South. They had a hard time ousting a Washington Football team that started quarterback Taylor Heinicke in the wild card round. It was a difficult road to go as we remember last season, and it will be a difficult challenge for Arianer and his staff to refocus everyone.
The Buccaneers team we've seen in the last eight games have mostly been dominant. The Super Bowl win when they put out a fantastic offensive in Kansas City was impressive. It can't be too surprising that we have a champion who started slowly and came together late in a strange 2020 season. Continuity should help this season. Tampa Bay also faces a much lighter challenge in the NFC South with the retrofit of New Orleans. The Buccaneers have talent in every key area, and even if Tom Brady loses something, the defense has enough to pull off a 2015 Broncos routine. It would be a huge shock if this team doesn't win a division title, and of course another Super Bowl championship is a realistic goal.
It's fair to see the Buccaneers as a team that was only okay for much of the season last season, then got hot at the right time (thanks in part to an incredible stroke of injury) and won a title. And that's fine. Championships aren't starred and no one would deny that the Bucs deserve champions. But assuming the Buccaneers will just pick up where they left off is a little dangerous. Not to mention that in theory one of those years Tom Brady will finally no longer be Tom Brady. Even a bad Bucs season will likely mean double-digit wins and a division title. But when some are already behind the long off-season and are wondering if the Buccaneers can go 17-0, it will be a difficult hurdle for the Bucs in 2021.
Tampa Bay won its last eight games, grabbed the Lombardi Trophy and brought them all back. I've argued for a long time between the Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs about the top spot. They're mostly interchangeable, but I picked Kansas City # 1 because of my appreciation of their perennial excellence. I don't think the Buccaneers' injury luck can repeat itself, and Kansas City was arguably the better team all of last season. The Buccaneers were much better in the Super Bowl, however. The Buccaneers are a fun story because in this era of parity and freedom of choice, we never see a champion come back intact. Tampa Bay could win another Super Bowl and it wouldn't surprise anyone. I just think there are a couple of challenges that are holding them back from pulling it off.
32. Houston Texans
31. Detroit Lions
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. New York Jets
28. Cincinnati Bengals
27. Philadelphia Eagles
26. Carolina Panthers
25. Atlanta Falcons
24. Las Vegas Raiders
23. New York Giants
22. Chicago bears
21. Denver Broncos
20. Dallas Cowboys
19. Washington soccer team
18. Arizona Cardinals
17. Minnesota Vikings
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
15. New Orleans Saints
14. New England Patriots
13. Miami Dolphins
12. Los Angeles chargers
11. Cleveland Browns
10. Titans of Tennessee
9. Seattle Seahawks
8. Green Bay Packer
7. Los Angeles Rams
6. San Francisco 49ers
5. Indianapolis Colts
4. Baltimore Ravens
3. Buffalo Notes
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
August 15, 2:30 a.m.
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