Bruce Arians wants 'more grit, determination’ from Tom Brady

Sparing no feelings, the Bucs coach says he expects more from his 43-year-old quarterback.
Tom Brady didn't have the Bucs debut that he or his head coach wanted in Sunday's opener against the Saints in New Orleans.
Tom Brady didn't have the Bucs debut that he or his head coach wanted in Sunday's opener against the Saints in New Orleans. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sept. 14, 2020|Updated Sept. 14, 2020

TAMPA — Platitudes have been replaced by pressure for Tom Brady. It came from the Saints defense after it intercepted him twice and sacked him three times in Sunday’s 34-23 loss.

The Bucs quarterback also had to steel himself from the scrutiny applied by coach Bruce Arians, who continued a sobering critique of his iconic quarterback.

"He’s had it before. I mean, he knows how to bounce back,” Arians said of Brady on Monday. “He knew he didn’t play very well. It’s not what he expects from himself nor do we expect. I would expect him to have a little more grit, a little more determination this week.”

Brady passed for 239 yards with two touchdown passes and two interceptions, including a pick-six by Janoris Jenkins that almost put the game out of reach.

Related: Highs and lows: Tom Brady by the numbers

Arians said the first interception, however, was a miscommunication with Mike Evans. After reviewing the tape, Arians said Evans misread the coverage and should have bent the route over the middle of the field where Brady threw the football that was picked off by safety Marcus Williams.

“No doubt,” Arians said. “It wasn’t Cover 2, it was more of a quarters coverage and Mike should’ve split and gone down the middle and never stopped.”

The second pick, a poor throw from the far hashmark to Justin Watson on the sideline, was exactly the kind that chased Jameis Winston from Tampa Bay.

“It speaks for itself,” Arians said. “If you’re throwing an out-route, you don’t throw it low and inside. And that hadn’t been the case up until that one. He was a little late on it and probably better decision to go somewhere else with the ball.”

What happened Sunday is exactly what the Bucs coaches feared.

It’s what you get when you ask Brady to run someone else’s offense. He had been in one system that had evolved to fit his skills for 20 years with the Patriots.

But once he signed with the Bucs, Brady committed himself to learning Arians' system, the verbiage — all of it.

What has made that much more difficult is the lack of an offseason workout program, organized team activities, minicamps or preseason games.

Related: A collision between hope and reality in Tom Brady’s debut with the Bucs

There were some good moments from Sunday’s game, like the 85-yard march on the first possession, punctuated by Brady’s 2-yard run and emphatic spike in the end zone.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

But after that, Brady was indecisive, uncertain. He didn’t involve his running backs in the passing game as much as he did in New England. He held onto the ball trying to wait for receivers to win one-on-one matchups downfield.

He didn’t look like Tom Brady. Some of that, Arians said, is on him.

“He looked like Tom Brady in practice all the time so it’s kind of unusual to see that in a ballgame because (the Saints) didn’t do things that we didn’t get ready for,” Arians said. "Everything they did we thought we were ready for. Some wide receivers have to do a better job of winning one-on-one when (Brady) decides to go their way. He put us in the right run checks a couple times. It was a learning experience that way.

“We can’t say we were out of synch because we started out as good as you can start out right down the field. Then we don’t get any more chunk plays other than pass interference penalties. So, yeah, I think it’s a great learning experience. It’s just Round 1 of a 16-round fight and we’ll learn from it.”

Brady wasn’t the only one who didn’t play well. The Bucs special teams were atrocious. They had a field-goal attempt blocked and botched a pooch kickoff when Mike Edwards collided with returner Jaydon Mickens.

Related: Bruce Arians: Donovan Smith did poor job on ‘easiest guy to block'

There was a blown coverage in the secondary on tight end Jared Cook and Vita Vea jumping offsides on fourth and 2 during a hard count by Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

But the biggest culprit is the lack of game experience in this offense. A preseason game, even a controlled scrimmage against another team, would have been preferable to opening the season on the road against a Saints team that has won the NFC South three seasons in a row.

“It’s just a situation where all that verbiage, when you’re under the guns, it’s different,” Arians said. “And now you’re getting hit for the first time, too. So it’s all different.”

Brady and the Bucs were plagued by poor field position. The average drive start for the Bucs was their own 18-yard line. The Saints' average start was their own 42.

Brady was said to be extremely frustrated following the game.

But let’s add a little perspective. When Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos after 14 seasons in Indianapolis, he took his offense with him to Denver. He had the benefit of an offseason, minicamps, preseason games — all of that.

And still, Manning got off to a 2-3 start in 2012 with the Broncos. Once Manning got comfortable, the Broncos won 11 games in a row.

This was never going to be an easy transition for the Bucs or Brady. Tampa Bay has a roster of stars and an ownership seeking instant success. Brady has to get his teammates committed to fixing their mistakes.

The good news? He has a .787 winning percentage after a loss, the best of any quarterback in league history.

Sunday marked only the fourth time Brady has lost as a starter in Week 1. Each of the three previous times, his team went on to reach the Super Bowl that season.

“I’ve lost plenty of games in my career, so I know I don’t like it, but it happens,” Brady said. “We just have to do a better job."