The Bucs defense got a major upgrade with Tom Brady. Yes. Tom Brady. There are a lot of hopes and expectations pinned to the Buccaneers’ acquisition of Tom Brady this offseason. Most people give credit to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cam Brate as the motivating factors for Brady selecting Tampa.
This seems to be only half the story. The factors Brady specifically noted for choosing Tampa as his landing spot included the abundance of offensive weapons, the weather, and an up-and-coming defense. How much does a defense truly affect a quarterback’s performance?
How to Judge a Quarterback’s Success
To judge a quarterback’s success, you first have to decide on a measuring stick. Trent Dilfer is an interesting example of how muddled the facts can get. In the year 2000, Dilfer won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. That year he finished with abysmal statistics which extended from the regular season through the postseason. Dilfer was actually awful that year, even finishing 31st out of 40 quarterbacks with 200 or more pass attempts in Net Expected Points. He was awful but his team was fantastic.
Compare that to some talented quarterbacks like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, and Warren Moon, all of whom never won the “big game.”
Let’s look back at Tom Brady’s defenses in his Super Bowl years. According to Pro Football Reference, in 2002, the Patriots defense was average and ranked 17th overall, but when they won in 2004, they leaped to third overall. During 2005 they dropped back to 17th. In their three other Super seasons, their defense ranked 10th, fifth, and first overall. EVERY championship year Brady’s defense was in the top half of the NFL and in four of those seasons, the defense was top 10.
Trent Dilfer showed that teams CAN win with a sub-par quarterback but that is a glitch in overall statistics. It is important that a team has both a solid quarterback and a top-notch defense, but part of the story is untold by these stats. An excellent defense makes a quarterback look good and brings team success, but there are important ways that a quarterback affects the play and ranking of a defense.
How this Ties into Tampa Bay
This brings us to the Buccaneers’ defense. The Buccaneers’ defense finished ranked 29th last season. Key injuries played a role in that number and the defense played much better as the year progressed. Another enormous part of that is the quarterback play last season. As Winston threw 30 interceptions, the defense was often in a hole. Playing against short fields and giving up more points decimates a defensive ranking. Your defense is already behind before they even get started.
Tom Brady only threw eight interceptions in 2019. Compare the defensive impact of those statistics, plus the massive impact that Winston threw seven pick-sixes. Tom Brady has thrown 14 pick-sixes total in a 20-year career. He does not put the defense in trouble often.
The statistical impact of Brady on defensive numbers will be startling. It isn’t just interceptions that will create this impact. An opposing team will want to keep the Buccaneers’ offense off the field. The way to do that is ball control. Opposing teams will less likely aggressively attack and try to score quickly. This plays directly into what appears to be the Buccaneers’ greatest defensive strength, run defense. This also will affect defensive effectiveness and statistics.
While Antoine Winfield Jr. is an exciting addition to the Buccaneers defense, it is likely that the biggest impact on the defensive unit will be because of the addition of someone not even on that side of the ball. The Bucs defense got a major upgrade. Tom Brady.