TAMPA — Whose offense is this, anyway?
Tom Brady has learned the terminology and philosophy of Bruce Arians' five receivers eligible, downfield attack. A collaboration between head coach and quarterback has taken place over the past six or seven months, on and off the field.
But like the football, Brady will have to put his own spin on it.
“He’s got the ball, okay?” Arians said.
Case in point. Last week during practice, Brady read the defense and determined which receiver would be open, completing a short pass. Arians saw another receiver deep and would have expected the ball to go downfield.
“I was looking at a completely different spot," Arians said. "He completed the ball. He completed the ball and then we talked about it and I said, ‘You had a matchup that was favorable for a big play. As long as you complete it, I don’t care.’ He said, ‘I didn’t even look over there, because I wasn’t thinking that. I knew I had this.’
“Once he went and watched the film, he said, ‘Oh my God, that was an easy 40-yarder.’ One of the receivers beat a guy off the line of scrimmage and he fell down. But he took one because he knew he had it, and he has the ball in his hands. I have no problems with that.”
Brady said Thursday that he plans to keep the game simple and adjust to what the Saints defense presents him in Sunday’s opener.
“I think we’re going to have to see as the year goes,” Brady said. “You always have a plan or a strategy before we go into a particular game, and we’re going to decide what we need to do that’s going to work the best. I think I try to make football relatively simple for me. If they’re deep, throw it short. If they’re short, throw it deep. If they’re inside, throw it outside. If they’re outside, throw it inside. If they’re not guarding the run, you’ve got to run it. If they’re aggressive, you’ve got to play-action. I think the fundamentals really take shape.
“Being a good quarterback is making good decisions, understanding risk/reward. And I do have the football, so the team trusts me to do it and I’ve really enjoyed working with (Arians) and understanding how he sees it and working with Byron (Leftwich). It’s been a lot of fun. ... I think we’re all excited to be able to compete against a real team and understand nothing is going to be perfect for a long time. But we’re going to work our tails off to get it right.”
Leftwich says like any offense, the Bucs' scheme has been adapted to fit the quarterback.
Sunday’s game will be just the first example, but it is likely to evolve as Brady becomes more familiar with his receivers and play-caller.
“It won’t be exactly what it was last year,” Leftwich said. "It’ll be different, because it’s based on the quarterback. We’re just trying to rep enough plays and I’m trying to see what he’s doing with the ball, the decisions he’s making, so I can figure him out and always put him in the best position to be successful. ...
“It’s fun being with him, it’s fun coaching him. It’s especially fun because he’s so willing to be coached."
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While Brady has spent time in the offseason building chemistry with some of his receivers and tight ends, he had no preseason games to work on in-game communication at the line of scrimmage. That could be both verbal and non-verbal signals, which includes setting the protection with the offensive line and running backs.
Brady can’t be sure what the identity of the Bucs offense ultimately will become. Will they be a good rushing team? Are they built for explosive plays downfield in the passing game? Or will Brady simply be surgical in his ball placement and short passing game?
“The reality is we don’t know what we’re very good at and we don’t know what we’re not good at. But we’re going to try some things and see how it looks under real competition,” Brady said. “This is the first time this 2020 team has a chance to perform and compete together.”
Brady knew when he arrived in Tampa Bay how much time he had to prepare for Sunday’s game, down to the hour, minute and second.
For the first time in 20 seasons, he will lead a team other than the Patriots onto the field. Now that the game is fast approaching, how does he feel?
“I think the reality hit me today that we’re actually getting ready to play a game," he said. “We’ve got live contact, live football, real results. And it’s something I haven’t done in nine months. ... Hopefully, I can recall some of the things I’ve done over a period of time and go out there and try to play a real solid football game against a great football team.”