Tom Brady in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform: Let that sink in for a moment.
The NFL legend is expected to sign for the NFC South side following 20 years with the New England Patriots, providing an unlikely face to a franchise that — frankly — has been a football afterthought for most of its existence.
Over the past nine seasons, the Buccaneers have had eight losing campaigns and Jameis Winston — who they drafted first overall in 2015 — was unable to get them out of the proverbial hole.
Last year was one of the more significant anomalies that we’ve seen from an NFL quarterback as Winston led the league with 5,109 passing yards, but he also threw a league-high 30 interceptions.
He became the first passer in NFL history to throw for 30-plus touchdowns and 30 picks in a single season.
His struggles overshadowed the fact that the Buccaneers are actually one of the more promising teams in the NFL.
Chris Godwin and Mike Evans have created an impressive wide-receiving duo as the two combined for 2,490 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.
Tight end OJ Howard has the intangibles to become the next top-tier tight end in football given his athleticism and dependability. He doesn’t get a ton of looks, but he’s averaging a catch rate of 67.1% in his first three seasons.
Running back Ronald Jones also showed flashes of developing into a legitimate dual-threat in the backfield, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, 1,033 all-purpose yards, and six scores.
On the opposite side of the ball, Tampa Bay’s run defense was the top-rated unit in the NFL last season, which seems like a lone bright spot on paper; the Buccaneers allowed the fourth-most points and the third-most passing yards.
But that’s not the case when delving deeper into the analytics.
When taking Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), which calculates a team’s success based on the down-and-distance of each play during the season followed by how much more or less successful each team is compared to the league average, the Buccaneers’ total defense ranked fifth in the league.
So can a change at quarterback really be the difference in Tampa Bay?
While the Buccaneers went 7-9 in 2019, seven of those losses came by one possession where Winston threw a whopping 18 interceptions.
Brady has thrown 19 interceptions over the past two years.
To get to Winston’s 2019 mark of 30 interceptions, you’d have to combine Brady’s picks dating back to the 2015 season.
His better days are behind him, that’s for certain, but Brady is the exact game manager that the Buccaneers need while providing the soon-to-be 43-year-old with the weapons he was lacking last year in New England.
Even in one of his worst seasons as a pro, Brady threw for 4,057 yards with 24 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Suddenly Evans, Godwin and Howard become that much more dangerous.
But the Buccaneers could be getting another major outside threat if Brady gets his way. Per multiple reports, he wants disgraced receiver Antonio Brown to join him down in Tampa.
The 31-year-old is currently under investigation by the league under its personal conduct policy after his former trainer, Britney Taylor, filed a lawsuit against him alleging that he sexually assaulted her.
Brady and Brown spent 11 days and one game together as teammates with the Patriots last season before he was released. Brown is a seven-time Pro Bowler and was the league’s top-producing receiver over six years from 2013-2018.
With Brady entering an organization with a foundation already built, the Buccaneers’ chances of winning the NFC are only going to increase.
If there’s one thing the conference has had in recent years, it’s parity. There have been six-different teams representing the NFC in the Super Bowl in the last six years.