Week 12 takeaways: Tom Brady is not the problem in Tampa Bay

Jeff Simmons
·5 min read

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are doing a poor job with Tom Brady.

Rather than playing to the strengths of his quarterback, head coach Bruce Arians is forcing Brady into his offence, which relies on deep passing concepts. That’s a classic management mistake and hardly a great fit for a 43-year-old quarterback. Brady’s effectiveness has dwindled as a result, as he has four interceptions over the last two weeks and Tampa Bay has just one win in its last four games.

There are some obvious adjustments that need to be made from a coaching standpoint. The Bucs’ passing game lacks motion, which is used in today’s NFL to create clear mismatches. On top of that, there aren't enough outlet passes to running backs, a staple for Brady throughout his career and a way to better utilize running back Ronald Jones, who coincidentally scored on this exact type of play in Week 12. But the biggest issue for Tampa Bay has been the lack of play-action passing. Brady is one of the most effective passers in the NFL off of play-action throws — both historically and in 2020 — and the Bucs used play action only six times against the Kansas City Chiefs. That is a coaching failure.

Arians has proclaimed that Brady has missed open receivers, that the QB needs more time to gel with his new teammates, and even that Brady is choosing all the plays. All of those have some legitimacy, but the coach needs to spend less time offering excuses and make some significant adjustments to his offence during the bye week.

The Bucs had more success offensively in the second half against Kansas City, going to traditional Brady concepts and getting the ball to No. 1 receiver Mike Evans, who had two touchdowns in Week 12. This is how Tampa Bay should play going forward, rather than the stubborn approach of the last four weeks in which Tampa Bay fell from a possible No. 1 seed to the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs.

Tampa Bay has five games left to figure out how to maximize its quarterback.

The Chiefs are obvious Super Bowl favourites

The Pittsburgh Steelers are undefeated, the New Orleans Saints have won eight in a row and the Green Bay Packers whooped the Chicago Bears in primetime, but it’s clear the class of the NFL right now is the Kansas City Chiefs. With apologies to Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes is playing at a different level than anyone else in the league and he absolutely torched a very good Buccaneers defence with 462 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday.

The difference between the Chiefs, and say the Packers, is the variety of weapons Kansas City has on offence. Mahomes’ best receiver, Tyreek Hill, had a career game in Week 12 and now leads the NFL in receiving yards, while tight end Travis Kelce ranks second. Andy Reid has this offence humming and until someone shows they can stop Mahomes, the Chiefs have to be considered the best bet to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Tom Brady and Bruce Arians need to get on the same page -- and quickly. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tom Brady and Bruce Arians need to get on the same page -- and quickly. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Is it possible Sam Darnold is just bad?

There is a school of thought that New York Jets QB Sam Darnold will have a similar career breakout to Ryan Tannehill once he gets away from Adam Gase and lands in a better organization. That is a fair assumption given his track record as a No. 3 overall pick and top prospect coming out of USC, but it also might be possible that Darnold simply isn’t very good.

He appears tentative and a bit limited as a passer and is struggling to make plays down the field. It was especially telling that the Jets were more productive on offence with backup QB Joe Flacco than they have been with Darnold, who has zero touchdown passes and four interceptions over his last four starts and only put up three total points against Miami. On the contrary, Flacco made the Jets offence more potent with the same personnel with five touchdowns in his last two starts alone, while Darnold has just three TDs in seven games. There should be “buyer beware” label on Darnold going forward.

Chargers need to move on from Lynn

It was painful, as an objective viewer, to watch the final minutes of the Los Angeles Chargers’ loss to the Buffalo Bills. Not only did the Chargers waste a career game from Joey Bosa, the coaching staff continues to show an incompetent level of basic clock management principles. This sequence below in the final minute of the game shows an inexcusable level of game management errors, and arguably head coach Anthony Lynn’s worst coaching gaffe to date, which is hard to imagine given the Chargers have blown four double-digit leads this season.

Lynn is a well respected, tough coach, but the game management issues are going to cost him his job. The Chargers, with a young franchise QB in place and another top-10 pick coming, will not have trouble attracting another coach.

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