TAMPA — The story ends with Tom Brady and the Bucs winning Super Bowl 55. But it didn’t begin there.
The Bucs quarterback ended the first drive with his new team with a touchdown run at New Orleans. But he threw two interceptions, including one returned for a score, in a 34-23 loss to the Saints. Afterward, Bruce Arians didn’t sugarcoat his assessment of Brady’s performance.
“One (interception) was a miscommunication between he and Mike (Evans),” Arians said. “He thought Mike was going down the middle. It was a different coverage. Mike read it right and he should’ve been across his face and Tom just overthrew it, and the other one, it was a screen pass with an outlet called and he threw the outlet and it was a pick-six. Bad decision.”
Brady fans, and those who never heard Bill Belichick publicly criticize Brady, were aghast. At the time, Brady didn’t have much to say about it. “He’s the coach. I’m a player,” Brady said. “I’m just trying to win a game.”
Was the perception reality? Was there ever bad blood between Arians and Brady?
You can find out by watching “In the Current: A Season with the Buccaneers.” The team produced six-part series includes original behind-the-scenes footage which does more than just provide a cinematic time capsule to the franchise’s most memorable year.
Turns out, Brady never had a problem with being called out.
“I think when you know Bruce and you know him well, he’s just a straight shooter,” Brady said. “If I make a play and we throw an interception returned for a touchdown, you should hear about that from the coach. You know, there’s no excuse for that.
“I don’t want to make mistakes out there. I want to be a great player for this team every week, and I’ve got to be able to play with confidence. I’ve got to be able to play with discipline. I’ve got to play with a great focus and determination.”
Arians said he was surprised by the fallout from his criticism of Brady.
“I just answered the question,” the coach said. “They asked what happened, and I told them what happened. If that’s criticism, people have really, really, thin skin, because the truth never hurts.If it was different for the quarterback than where he had been in the past and I guess his friends and the media, then tough.”
The Bucs’ in-house production rivals almost anything you will see by NFL Films. In many instances, it’s better. Clearly the team had some access and interviews with players and coaches you won’t find anywhere.
The series, which debuts Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Buccaneers.com and the Bucs’ YouTube channel, is broken into six segments. The first four represent the four quarters of the season, from the opener at New Orleans to the regular-season finale vs. the Falcons. One is devoted to the playoffs, and the final episode is Super Bowl 55 and its aftermath.
All of it was produced despite restrictive COVID-19 protocols. “Just the fact that we were able to do this in any type of way is something,” said Stephen Lynch, the Bucs’ production supervisor for the project. “This is hardly going to be “Hard Knocks” or “All or Nothing,” where we’re going to people’s homes and all that good stuff, because the protocols prevented that. Even the interviews, those are the little bit of gold we have during the piece.
“We would set up these rooms that were robotic cameras. I’m on a Zoom, and I would set up a laptop as if it were a person and they would just be looking at the laptop with the camera to the right or the left. We’re in a completely different room talking to them.”
The series does a good job of focusing on storylines surrounding players, whether it was the redemptive game linebacker Devin White had against the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey or the rivalry between receiver Mike Evans and the Chargers’ Keenan Allen. Playing on a sprained ankle, Evans had six catches for 122 yards vs. the Chargers.
“It was a great performance,” Arians said of Evans. “I think he had a hamstring and ankle. I think he just went out and gutted it out. They wanted to play him one-on-one, and we love it when anybody wants to play Mike one-on-one.”
There was also the ascension of rookies such as tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Antoine Winfield, Jr.
Lynch said it was a complete team effort producing the film, since the Bucs utilized videos taken in the locker room during celebrations from various people, including Mike Greenberg, the team’s vice president of football administration. Fans get an inside look at everything from the team during an eight-hour delay on the tarmac on the way to a game in Carolina to their night practice in the indoor facility.
The film begins with the ending, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell presenting the Lombardi Trophy to the Glazer family that owns the team. “In a season we will never forget, you are the Super Bowl champions we will always remember,” Goodell said.
You’ll remember this film, too. You can almost smell the avocado tequila.
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