Tom Brady spent nearly half his life playing for Bill Belichick. During his time with the New England Patriots, the 2000 sixth-round pick developed into the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Along the way, he won three MVP awards, secured six Super Bowl rings, and set numerous records.
While Brady’s final year in Foxborough featured more frustration than anything, he found an ideal free-agent fit by joining forces with the Buccaneers. After bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Tampa in his first season with the team, the seven-time champion has a chance to win back-to-back titles for the second time in his career.
But well before the playoffs arrive, Brady will have an opportunity to stick it to his old coach (and team) in the most ironic way possible.
Tom Brady stormed back with a vengeance in 2020
Coming off one of the worst seasons of his decorated career, Brady joined the Bucs with a big chip on his shoulder. While it took some time for the offense to get on the same page, the experiment ultimately proved fruitful.
After completing only 60.8% of his passes for 4,057 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2019, TB12 shattered those marks in his first season playing for Bruce Arians. Of course, it helped to have a deep cast of weapons that included several established stars. Relying on the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown, Brady totaled 4,633 passing yards and 40 touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 102.2 represented his best mark since 2017 when he won MVP honors and led the Patriots to a Super Bowl appearance.
Thanks to their new quarterback (and a strong defense), the Buccaneers blazed through the playoffs and emerged as champions. Brady’s postseason run included 10 more passing touchdowns, including three against the Kansas City Chiefs. In his age-43 season, the future Hall of Famer proved he’s far from finished.
The NFL has given Brady a chance to stick it to Bill Belichick and the Patriots in the most ironic way possible
Let’s just say Brady and Belichick lived completely different experiences in 2020. The star quarterback quickly found himself back in the familiar place of competing for the Lombardi Trophy. Meanwhile, the legendary coach failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Based on their offseason moves, the Patriots appear primed for a turnaround this season. But because of the way the NFL set up the schedule, Brady officially has a chance to stick it to his old team in the most ironic way possible. New England will host Tampa in Week 4, and the matchup carries historic implications.
Drew Brees currently holds the record for most career passing yards at 80,358. Brady sits 1,154 yards behind the New Orleans Saints icon. If the aging signal-caller maintains his 2020 pace of 289.6 passing yards per game, then he would break the record against his former franchise.
Could there be a more perfect way for Brady to stick it to Belichick than to return to Foxborough and become the NFL’s all-time passing leader? After he made so many big throws inside Gillette Stadium as the face of the Patriots, it seems incredibly ironic he could knock Brees off his throne by picking apart his old team.
Can Belichick’s re-tooled defense help the Patriots defeat the Buccaneers in Week 4?
You can bet Belichick will have a well-devised plan to slow down Brady and the Bucs. More importantly, the Patriots legitimately have the talent to compete against the reigning Super Bowl champions.
New England struggled to control the line of scrimmage last season. So how did Belichick respond? He used free agency to fill a number of critical roster holes. The front seven now features Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, and Kyle Van Noy. Plus, the Patriots drafted two high-upside prospects in defensive tackle Christian Barmore and edge rusher Ronnie Perkins.
An improved front seven should help the Patriots’ deep secondary make more plays on the ball. Still, J.C. Jackson, Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, and the rest of New England’s defensive backs face a tall task in trying to stop one of the league’s top offenses.
Will Belichick’s re-tooled defense find a way to spoil Brady’s return? Or will the beloved Patriots icon set the all-time passing record in a Buccaneers uniform at his old place of work?
Week 4 can’t come soon enough.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.