Cassel: Why Brady's Bucs are a legit Super Bowl contender originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
I thought Tom Brady was outstanding this season.
U.S. & World
I anticipated the Buccaneers wouldn’t just hit the ground running. They were up and down at the beginning of the season, but that was to be expected with Brady learning a brand new system after 20 years with the Patriots.
You have to retrain your thought process: how you read particular route concepts and patterns, protection schemes and overall schemes. Brady had to get comfortable with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and how he called plays. With no offseason and going right into camp, he probably wasn’t able to have the same impact of putting his stamp on the offense.
I’m super impressed with the season Brady had, but it doesn’t surprise me, because when you surround the best quarterback to play the game with talented receivers and weapons, it’s usually going to result in success. Forty touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 4,633 yards and a 102.2 passer rating?
Anybody in the league would take that.
Other than the 2007 season when he had Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Benjamin Watson and Daniel Graham, he hasn’t had a group of pass-catchers with this amount of collective talent.
And while it takes time to learn a new system and its nuances, he has a wealth of knowledge that he can apply to understand that system. The most important thing is getting to a point in the game where you’re not thinking -- where you’re just going out and playing. And through his hard work, his preparation and his unmatched attention to detail, he's done that.
So, it doesn’t surprise me that he was able to get caught up to speed pretty quickly.
Statistically speaking, this absolutely was one of Brady's best seasons. That's the result of a combination of things: They have a good offensive line and have surrounded Brady with Pro Bowl talent in Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.
Brady understands how to attack defenses and get the ball to the right guy. So, when you put people around him that he can excel with, he’s going to find a way to make it work, because he’s just so knowledgeable about the game. There’s nothing that he hasn’t seen in the NFL.
That's the scary part to me: When you already have talented wide receivers and you bring Tom Brady into the building, he’s going to make those guys even better than they were before. When they watch film together and communicate with Tom on a daily basis, they can understand what he’s thinking and understand what he’s expecting so they can be in the right position on game day.
When the playoffs come around, Brady brings another level of intensity. The meetings are a little more intense, because he knows what’s at stake.
While Brady wants to make the playoffs and win the division, that’s not his ultimate goal. His expectation every year is, “How can I win the Super Bowl again?" It’s a failure in his mind to make it to the playoffs and lose, under any circumstances. And that's what makes him great.
That's why I believe the Bucs are a Super Bowl team. They can put up points and they’re playing their best football right now. This offense is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence, and the guys they have on defense can pressure the quarterback. So, they’re talented on both sides of the ball.
When you’re winning games and playing with confidence, that’s a dangerous combination in the playoffs.