Although it was inevitable by the time it was announced, quarterback Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots in favor of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was by far the biggest on-field story of the NFL’s 2020 offseason. For the first time in his career, after winning a six-pack of Super Bowls, Brady will play for a head coach not named Bill Belichick.
Brady’s MVP odds opened at 30/1 (Westgate SuperBook) right after Super Bowl LIV. Those who jumped on the futures bet then did so at a value, because the latest odds from William Hill U.S. have Brady listed at 16/1, the fourth-favorite, after signing with Tampa Bay.
Can the three-time NFL MVP add a fourth to his trophy case?
A significant factor in Brady’s favor is joining the "no risk it, no biscuit" high-flying offense Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich operate. The Buccaneers had the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL last season, averaging 302.8 yards per game. All that passing production led to Tampa being tied for third with an average of 28.6 points per game. New England ranked eighth and seventh in those categories last season, respectively.
The Buccaneers threw the fourth-most pass attempts in the NFL last season (39.4 per game), ever so slightly more than Brady and the Patriots did, so no drop off is expected there. Ideally, Arians likely wants to throw somewhere around the 36.9 times per game his Arizona Cardinals teams averaged from 2013-2017, but lack of a proven run game should keep Brady’s passing volume high.
While offensive style and passing volume are big factors, the biggest one is the litany of new weapons at Brady’s disposal.
Brady defenders have lamented the lack of consistent weapons around the future Hall of Famer in recent years. While that’s been a bit overstated most seasons, last year was the best example of Brady being held back by the lack of talent around him. Aside from Julian Edelman and running back James White, no other player on the Patriots roster had even 30 receptions. The No. 2 WR in the offense, Phillip Dorsett, had 29 catches in 2019.
Looking back at Brady’s MVP seasons in 2007, 2010, and 2017, he always had at least four reliable pass-catching options. In 2007, Randy Moss had a historic season, Wes Welker was sensational and Kevin Faulk, Donte’ Stallworth and even Ben Watson served as solid secondary options. In 2010, Brady relied on wide receivers Welker and Deion Branch, coupled with the up-and-coming tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski led the way in 2017 alongside wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola and running back James White.
Brady’s fearsome foursome this season will be led by Mike Evans, who is one of only two players in NFL history (Moss) to begin a career with six straight 1,000-yard seasons, and Chris Godwin, who emerged as a star last season and earned his first career Pro Bowl selection. Talented but underperforming tight end O.J. Howard could serve as Brady’s third option, while fellow tight end Cameron Brate, who has a nose for the end zone, could become a red-zone favorite for Brady. The Buccaneers may still add another wide receiver—maybe even in the first round like Buccaneers reporter Luke Easterling makes the case for—and a pass-catching back via the upcoming draft, adding even more weapons to Brady’s arsenal.
In Brady’s three MVP seasons, he’s averaged around 34.4 pass attempts per game (550.33 per season). Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay averaged more than 39 passes per game in 2019. If Brady flirts will 575-600 pass attempts again (he had 613 last season), he’ll have good enough numbers to be in the conversation with the narrative squarely in his favor.
Some may dismiss the importance of that last point, but human beings are voting on these awards. If Brady has a strong statistical season of around 4,400-4,500 passing yards, is among the league-leaders in touchdowns, and the Buccaneers win double-digit games, he’ll get all the credit for turning Tampa Bay into a contender. The “V” of MVP will be argued in his favor. Plus, there is some nice synchronicity in Brady being named the MVP in 2007, 2010, 2017, and 2020.
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