Bucs’ offense under attack by more than opposing defenses

Television analyst Tony Romo is the latest to say Bruce Arians’ offense isn’t a fit for Tom Brady.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians looks on as quarterback Tom Brady (12) comes off the field on fourth down during the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the Chiefs.
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians looks on as quarterback Tom Brady (12) comes off the field on fourth down during the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Nov. 30, 2020|Updated Dec. 1, 2020

TAMPA — Tony Romo always calls his shots. The former Cowboys quarterback has risen to the top of the NFL analyst world by reading his keys and predicting how the action will unfold.

So when Romo started railing at how Bruce Arians’ offense is wrong for quarterback Tom Brady during Sunday’s telecast of the Bucs’ 27-24 loss to the Chiefs, you had to believe he was forecasting trouble between the coach and quarterback.

Romo said he talked to Brady during the week leading up to Sunday’s game. You don’t have to read between the lines to know what the 43-year-old quarterback thinks is wrong with the Bucs’ offense.

“Where’s the play-action stuff to give him time?” Romo asked Sunday. “Everything’s a drop back. (The) screen game hasn’t been great. It’s like all this stuff that’s easy for quarterbacks ... they don’t have much of it.”

“Just talking to him, I sit here and watch the tape, and I’m watching an offense that’s very different than his. And one area of concern I have, they’re throwing it a lot, and they’re throwing it downfield. People talk about, ‘He’s throwing the ball great. He’s throwing some of the most difficult balls he’s thrown in his career right now and completing a lot.’ Then they go through stretches where they don’t complete it. Teams are playing coverage against them. They’re daring you to run the ball.”

The bashing of Arians’ offense under offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich continued Monday on ESPN’s Get Up! as former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky kept up his sharp criticism of the Bucs’ scheme.

“Right now, Bruce Arians is wasting Tom Brady,” Orlovsky said. “He got served on a silver platter the greatest quarterback to ever play, and all you had to do was use him the right way. And he’s failing Tom, and I’ve got fear that it’s going to bury this team this season.”

Orlovsky wasn’t the only one to say so.

Former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich, a teammate of Brady’s in New England, said, ‘I’m giving Tom Brady a new head coach, because Bruce Arians, at this point, is not cutting it.”

Said former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, “It’s a big ‘if’, but if they don’t make the playoffs, I would look for B.A. to retire.”

At 7-5 and still sixth in the NFC playoff field after losing consecutive games to the Rams and Chiefs by identical scores, the Bucs’ head coach and offensive coordinator are facing more pressure off the field than they are between the white lines.

After the game Sunday, Brady dismissed reports that there were problems between him and the coaching staff.

“It is just external noise that, when you are losing, that is what you deal with,” Brady said. “I love playing for the guys that I play with, and the coaches, the whole organization, has been unbelievable. I certainly have to do a better job the last four weeks of the year.”

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Leftwich is only in his second year calling plays for the Bucs. He makes the game plan, runs the offensive meeting and does it without much input from the rest of the coaching staff.

While it’s true the Bucs didn’t use much play-action, Brady went 4-for-5 for 83 yards and a touchdown when they did use it Sunday. Contrast that with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who used play-action 16 times.

“I’d love to, if we’re not 17 (points) down early,” Arians said Monday. “The nice thing about this one (was), we stayed with the game plan and clawed back in it. I look at the game and three possessions offensively. Kicking a field goal on the first drive (of the second half) when we’ve got first-and-goal on the 5(-yard line). ... We got three (points), but seven was huge. Then, the two scoring opportunities where if we just get field goals, that’s six points (and) that makes the difference, (but) we turn it over. To me, those were the drives offensively that were really important.”

As for the lack of pre-snap motion, Arians admitted he’s not a huge fan of it.

“We’ve done it in the past — we did it for years,” Arians said. “Peyton Manning never wanted anybody in motion, so each quarterback is so different with what they want the motion for. We have used jet motion a little bit. I’m not a big fan of it if it’s going to disrupt what you’re doing versus just blocking people.”

Where the Bucs have struggled most is at the start of games. They have been outscored in the first quarter of the last four games 52-7.

Many have suggested that shows a lack of preparation and quick adjustments.

“The Buccaneers right now are the definition of insanity,” Orlovsky said. “Doing the same things over and over and over again and expecting different results. Here’s my thing, last week I ranted on the motion. Okay, so now this week you have no plan for pressure?”

After watching Brady run a couple plays he brought from the Patriots, Romo came to a conclusion.

“This is going to have to happen as time goes on. They’ve got to get to the plays he’s used forever,” Romo said. “He knows football. He just needs to know how to get through his progressions faster and help these guys.”