When Tom Brady announced his move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the entire process was under the microscope. The quarterback’s incredible track record in the NFL was key. Plus, with sports largely canceled worldwide, it’s become one of the few big stories to talk about at all.
Pundits and fans are picking apart every detail of the trade. A recurring take is that, all the hype aside, the Bucs landing Brady isn’t a big deal. He doesn’t have his old capabilities — specifically, the arm strength. Is it true, or is this a hot take born of restlessness rather than cold, hard facts?
Tom Brady is getting old, but is he really declining?
At 42 years old, Brady isn’t exactly a long-term option no matter how good he still is. His move to the Bucs is about a steady hand steering their offensive ship this year and perhaps the next. But which version of Brady is Tampa Bay getting?
The future Hall of Famer has slowed. Brady began the first half of 2019 making just 59% of his passes, reports Fox Sports. But he’s slumped before, including in the middle of his career. But a case could be made that his frustrations weren’t fully his fault. Even after winning games, he seemed annoyed by his own offensive line. Post-game reports back up his feelings.
The Washington Post tracks Brady’s real decline in fairly generous terms. He fell to being the 17th most effective QB in 2019, which means at the absolute worst this 42-year-old is average among QBs mostly half his age. With the Bucs’ more effective offensive line, he’ll likely look even better in 2020.
Brady’s arm strength at the twilight of his career
One of the first signs of a QB going over the hill is arm strength. Can a middle-aged guy really throw the long ball like he used to? This has become a focus for critics of the Bucs’ move to pick up this legend. And it appears to have very little credence.
Brady recently proved he can still throw bombs at 61 miles per hour. What does this mean in terms of throwing a football at an advanced age? Potential No. 1 overall pick Josh Allen, at 23 years old, recently threw 62 miles per hour at the NFL Combine. Brady’s throws under pressure might’ve suffered in 2019, but this focus on his arm strength is uncalled for.
What Brady faces with the Bucs’ offensive line
The truth of how a player will impact a new team is always in the numbers, not vague feelings. And the numbers tell us that when Brady is paired with receivers like Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, his completion rate will look much better. These two, Godwin in particular, were likely responsible for making struggling QB Jameis Winston look somewhat better than he was.
One counterpoint involves the number of sacks allowed. The Patriots did a better job keeping Brady safe than the Bucs did with Winston. But NFL Next Gen Stats tells a more complex story. Bolstered by his veteran mind, Brady released passes within 2.75 seconds on average. Opposing teams simply had little time to sack him in the first place, even if they got through.
Brady’s arm is fine. He lands fewer passes but releases the ball quickly. He’ll likely improve his passer rating with the Bucs’ quality offensive line. This isn’t just a vanity acquisition for Tampa. Brady is the real deal and will help the team win games in 2020.