NFL

Playing in Tampa Could Improve Tom Brady’s Game According to Science

Weather conditions often set the tone for crucial NFL games. Now, with former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady headed to Tampa Bay, weather could play a big role in the final chapter of his legendary career. But will it help or harm him?

Brady knows how to throw in the frigid Northeast. Will that hold up in hot and humid Buccaneers territory? His stats tell one story, but science and the intangibles of training and playing a full season in the South answer differently. Here’s how a change of climate could improve Brady’s game.

How climate affects outcomes on the gridiron

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wipes the sweat off his face in 2018
Quarterback Tom Brady wipes the sweat off his face in 2018 | John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Intuitively, we all know how weather affects our bodies. Extreme heat leaves us exhausted and dehydrated, while cold weather seems to stiffen our muscles. Our sports are scheduled accordingly.

The NBA is played almost indoors to regulate temperatures. Baseball spans through temperate months and tolerates punishing heat with a more leisurely pace of the game. Football avoids the worst summer heat due to the punishing nature of the sports.

But the decision to shy away from heat leads to a new set of problems as the season progresses. Cold weather forces blood away from the skin as the body attempts to regulate core temperature, as Accuweather explains. This contributes to muscles stiffening, making it harder for athletes to move quickly and react to coverage. 

An ESPN study demonstrates that energy is used up faster, leading to quicker fatigue in cold weather. Counterintuitively, this is increased if athletes have too much downtime in low temps. While hot weather athletics generally benefit from short, cool-down periods, cold weather is the exact opposite. Brady has had to consider these factors for his entire career. Now, however, he’ll spend a sizable chunk of the season in a different climate.

How Tampa Bay’s conditions could help an aging player like Tom Brady

Brady spent two decades as one of the most feared NFL quarterbacks. While age has slowed him somewhat, his decline leaves him in the middle of the pack of starters. He’s still an immensely valuable option with the added intangibles of his long experience in the league.

So how will he handle transitioning to Tampa Bay? He only played at Raymond James Stadium exactly once in his career, according to NBA Sports. And CBS Sports also dug up some worrying stats: Brady tends to play worse in warm weather than he does in the cold. Will his decline accelerate in Tampa Bay?

First, we must consider that Brady will now train and play his games primarily in a warmer climate. His advantages in cold weather were born the same way. Cold weather was an advantage for Brady because he was used to it. Now, he’ll get used to the natural benefits of working in relative warmth.

How cold-weather home teams use brutal conditions as an advantage

A Weather Channel analysis spells this out: The football is harder to handle and fatigue is a bigger problem in the cold. Brady’s statistical advantages in cold-weather games come from his experience working in frigid conditions. He isn’t alone on this front.

The Green Bay Packers are one of the most famous cold-weather teams in the NFL. The worse things are at Lambeau Field, the bigger the Packers’ advantage over the visiting team. It’s a matter of experience rather than some kind of superhuman advantage.

Brady himself recognized his issues in warm weather in 2018. In an interview with WEEI Sports Radio, he said, “I think the climate plays some role,” referring to an uncharacteristically difficult game in Miami. But now, Brady will be the one training in a warm climate. When he does travel, all the old muscle memory of playing in the cold could kick in. It will be an interesting upcoming season for this aging great.