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It’s time to stop saying Tom Brady and Bruce Arians ‘aren’t right for each other’

When you look at the overall body of work, it’s clear that Brady and Arians can get the job done.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions
Tom Brady is having one of the more successful seasons of his career during his first year in Tampa Bay.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Once Tom Brady decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many wondered how Bruce Arians’ vertical offense and Brady’s risk-averse style of play would meld together.

The question reached maximum heights throughout the month of December. The Bucs were 7-5 heading into the bye week and were coming off some lackluster performances on offense and defense. As a whole, the team wasn’t playing well.

So, of course, everyone started breaking down the Brady-Arians dynamic. Most reached the conclusion that the six-time Super Bowl champion and the two-time Coach of the Year weren’t right for each other. On the surface, it made sense, but at the same time, it also felt a bit rushed and somewhat contrived.

It’s rushed because Arians’ offense is not an easy one for quarterbacks to grasp in the first year. In fact, Arians has been on record —along with other quarterbacks who played under him— stating that it can take up to a “year and a half” for quarterbacks to feel comfortable in his system, much less churn out All-Pro seasons.

Right now, Brady has completed 65.9% of his passes for 4,234 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He’s on pace for 4,514 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2020. If those numbers hold up, they’ll represent the sixth-most yards and the third-most touchdowns he’s thrown in 22 seasons.

Brady is currently ninth in ANY/A, sixth in DYAR and DVOA*, 10th in QBR, and ninth in EPA/att. A top-10 showing in all of those metrics is impressive, but what makes the feat even more is impressive is that he’s been able to reach those marks while running Arians’ difficult offense.

Take a look at the following numbers when it comes to Brady and the deep ball:

  • Per PFF, Brady is No. 1 in pass attempts of 20+ air yards (82). He’s completed 33 of them, which also leads the league. 14.4% of his throws are deep throws, which is the fourth-most in the league.
  • Per Next Gen Stats, Brady is fourth in IAY per attempt, sixth in CAY, and has a +1.2% Expected Completion Percentage. The latter number isn’t a superior number, but it at least reflects that Brady is completing more throws than is expected of him.
  • Per SIS, Brady has attempted 55 passes of 25+ air yards. That’s good for No. 1 in the NFL. His 30.8% positive play percentage is ninth-best in the NFL and his 0.36 EPA/att is ninth-best among quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts of 25+ air yards.

Brady and Arians are working just fine together. Have there been some bumps along the way? Of course. We’ve seen issues crop up on the field and it’s cost the Bucs some games, but overall it’s working.

Tampa Bay’s 10-5 record and its first playoff berth since 2007 also reflect this sentiment. Brady and the Bucs have broken multiple records on offense this year and are specifically on pace to break last year’s franchise record of most points scored in a single season.

Everywhere you look, the Bucs are having success. And this is in the first year of the Arians-Brady regime, where past quarterbacks —and good ones at that— haven’t had as much success.

Ben Roethlisberger is the only quarterback to come close to matching Brady’s numbers in Year One under Arians. He completed 65% of his passes and threw for 3,154 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions back in 2007. Those numbers were good for 6.55 ANY/A mark and an 11th-place finish in DYAR and DVOA.

Andrew Luck threw just 23 touchdown passes to 18 interceptions in his first year under Arians and Carson Palmer threw 24 touchdowns to 22 interceptions in his. Neither player finished with an ANY/A higher than 5.67.

It’s obvious that Brady is having a lot more success in his first year with Arians. And if the offense is already this good, just imagine what it can look like in Year Two with a full offseason (hopefully) to work on all of the little things that have given the Bucs problems this year.

But for now, it’s time to put the talk of a BA-Brady mismatch to the side. They are making it work. And the Bucs are playoff-bound because of that fact.

*Reflects DYAR and DVOA through Week 15