For the first 20 years of his NFL career, Tom Brady had one head coach: Bill Belichick.
In Year 21, Brady made the decision to join the Buccaneers, a choice which meant he’d have to acclimate to a new head man, Bruce Arians. But Arians also feels like the addition of Brady has been like bringing another coach on board.
“I allow him to be himself,” Arians told Peter King ahead of the NFC title game. “Like, New England didn’t allow him to coach. I allow him to coach. I just sit back sometimes and watch.”
The relationship hasn’t always been perfect for Brady and Arians in their first season together. At various points, Arians critiqued Brady’s inaccuracy and failure to read certain coverages. There were general concerns as to whether Arians would adapt his classically deep-throwing scheme to fit the 43-year old’s arm.
But Arians has also spent time appreciating what it’s like to work with Brady. He said earlier this season he wasn’t sure how Brady would handle younger players, based on his New England reputation, but that Brady was great with the young guys.
Their partnership has certainly worked more often than not on the field. Brady threw for 40 touchdowns during the regular season, second-most in his career and most since he threw 50 in 2007. Brady’s mark was also a Tampa Bay franchise record.
A season after Arians had to deal with Jameis Winston throwing 30 interceptions, Brady threw just 12. Brady’s presence also contributed to the acquisitions of Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, both of which have worked out for the Buccaneers.
Of course, Arians’ opinion of Brady’s previous role with the Patriots is only one thought. In just a recent example, Belichick brought Brown in in 2019 in what looked like something Brady wanted. New England certainly didn’t often go totally against Brady, who helped win the franchise six Super Bowl rings.
But maybe Arians learned in just his one season with Brady that with a player that historically great, it’s best, as Arians said, to “sit back sometimes and watch.” Such a strategy has taken Tampa Bay to the NFC Championship Game and a matchup with Aaron Rodgers, another quarterback who in the not distant past had questions about his new head coach, Matt LaFleur. Both he and Brady seem to be doing just fine.
During New England’s heyday, some wondered whether Brady made Belichick or if Belichick made Brady. It was likely some of both. But Brady has proven in his new stop, with Arians, that he’s just fine without Belichick, and Arians seems just fine letting Brady be Brady.