Tom Brady has a better reputation than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, and rightfully so. He’s done more than they have.
Also true: The Brady-Tampa relationship has been mutually beneficial. The Bucs are a really good team with pieces that have both helped Brady and at times bailed him out.
Yet due to either blinding love for Brady or — eh, it’s probably that — there’s been a common refrain this season: Anything good the Bucs do is because of Brady and anything bad is because of the Bucs.
If you’ve watched Brady’s road to his 10th Super Bowl, you know that line of thinking has been proven incorrect, but we’ll still hear it — certainly for the next couple of weeks, but long beyond that if Tampa beats Kansas City.
I’m not trying to take credit away from Tom Brady. Really, I think the opposite is in play for a lot of people. Because they love Brady, they’re giving him way too much of it. That’s fine, though; it’s how fandom works. We watch these games and root for these teams so we can be happy about something.
Sunday marked the second straight week of the whole “look at what Brady did with this stupid Bucs team!” gushing being proven incorrect, though. In the divisional round against the Saints, a not-very-good Brady got through thanks to New Orleans dropping picks, the Bucs defense playing well and Drew Brees stinking.
And that’s fine. The quarterback doesn’t have to be the best player on the field. Brady often was with the Patriots because he was the best player in the league at the time, so it’s easy to see another Brady playoff run and think it’s just like the others.
It isn’t, though. Despite good moments, Brady obviously wasn’t good against the Packers, either. Yes, tHe BuCs HaD dRoPs, but anyone racing to point to them is probably ignoring Chris Godwin’s circus catch for a 52-yard gain to set up a touchdown.
Brady finished the day 20-of-36 for 280 yards with three touchdowns and three picks. Aaron Rodgers clearly outplayed him, so ask yourself this: If the quarterbacks were switched for that game, who wins? Without a doubt the Bucs, right? Rodgers would do wonders with that supporting cast.
This isn’t a Brady vs. Rodgers argument, though. Rodgers obviously is the better player right now, though I’d argue Brady has been better historically. The reason I bring up switching the QBs is to illustrate that one of them benefited from his team more than the other, which illustrates that Brady’s team is pretty damn good.
Brady has undoubtedly helped the Buccaneers. Their quarterback play last season was extremely detrimental. In swapping out Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions for Brady’s 12, Tampa improved an already good offense.
But we can say the Bucs have helped Brady, too. They aren’t a hopeless group of nobodies. They gave Brady the best receiver room in the NFL and a top-10 defense (No. 6, per Pro Football Focus). They also added 13th overall pick Tristan Wirfs to bolster the offensive line and signed Leonard Fournette. When Brady hasn’t looked like his old self, like the last two weeks, Tampa’s been able to pull out victories against good teams anyway.
That doesn’t mean that if Brady goes out and smokes the Chiefs that he won’t deserve Super Bowl MVP. He’s still a really good player and might have a big game in him. To count him out at any age in one game seems dicey, even against a team quarterbacked by the great Patrick Mahomes.
But let’s be realistic about how everyone got there. It’s easy to call Brady a legend because we’ve rightfully been saying it for years, but to say he’s taken the Bucs from rags to riches is a misrepresentation. They’ve helped him just as much as he’s helped them.