It won’t end up like this, of course. Schadenfreude is like that. It’s a quick hit. A sugary snack. A shot of Jägermeister that we’ll all regret in the morning. But for those among us who care to indulge from time to time, Sunday night’s 38–3 Buccaneers blowout, the most lopsided loss of Tom Brady's career, was better than a four course, belt-rupturing meal at Peter Luger Steak House.
In case you somehow missed it, Brady jammed the signing of mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown into Tampa Bay’s mainframe, despite prior, on-the-record objections from his head coach, who worked with Brown in Pittsburgh and witnessed the trail of toxicity he could leave behind. Despite Brown’s troubling off-field history and still-pending court case. Despite the obvious common-sense morality at play, which Brady seems to have bigfooted by utilizing the help of motivational guru Tony Robbins to shield what looks like an attempt at bolstering his post-Patriots legacy.
So, yes, it’s safe to assume that a portion of America enjoyed watching the quarterback and wide receiver miscommunicate on a route that led to Brady’s second first-half interception, and the muted looks on everyone’s faces as the team trudged into the locker room down 31–0 at halftime. It was the first time in six years a Brady-led offense went without a single first-half point. The Buccaneers have now lost both games to the team that they’re battling against for division, the New Orleans Saints.
The talent on this Bucs roster will eventually break through whatever thin layer of karmic residue kept us all entertained throughout the evening, though. It’s only sensible to prepare for this inevitability, especially after we all piled on Brady after the season-opening loss to the same Saints team. This defense is too well-coached. The offense is too star-studded. The head coach is too experienced and no-nonsense. Before the needless addition of Brown, Tampa Bay was quickly maneuvering its way into becoming a top-five offense in addition to the best defensive team in the league. Once the undeniably talented Brown becomes a functioning cog in the machine, there is a chance that they will begin to resemble the behemoth they appear to be on paper.
But that doesn’t take away from Sunday’s message, that maybe the answer isn’t to keep piling on high-profile veteran talent at the expense of the team’s soul. There is a rhythm to roster construction and to each NFL season that needs to be adhered to. The trouble is that Brady has a warped perception of it all after spending two decades inside the greatest dynasty in NFL history. The Patriots could adopt anything and anyone at a rapid pace during the season and not break stride. The Buccaneers are a different team altogether.
In the past, we’ve talked about what will become of this team once this road show leaves town in 2021. Minus Brady, Brown, Rob Gronkowski and the rest, this is a talented roster that could be built into a sustainable winner. However, Brady’s truncated timeline has created an urgency that legitimizes on-the-fly decisions like the one so many cackled about on Sunday night. The signing of Brown did not directly cost them the game, of course. Brady was pummeled by constant pressure. The offense in general looked completely disjointed and punchless. Brown’s presence on the field (for a pedestrian three catches and 31 yards) was one small drop in the bucket.
There’s a good chance Brady could see through this period of ugliness, even as he escaped pressure and sky hooked a third interception to the relentless Saints defense on Sunday night, making it his first three-interception game since 2011. Would you really bet against them figuring it all out? But for one quick moment in prime time, we all got to see the universe holding up a sign in bright lights, asking him: Is this all really going to be worth it?