Why Tom Brady Shouldn't Throw for 5,000 Yards in 2020
Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the league's top passing offense, totaling 5109 yards through the air behind a potent blend of scheme and personnel. Many of the ingredients remain for Tom Brady to hit the same mark in 2020.
But would a 5,000-yard season actually a good thing for Brady and the Bucs?
On the surface, it may be hard to argue with the Bucs' 2019 offensive production in the pass game. Jameis Winston became Tampa Bay's leading career and single-season passer, and is the only Bucs quarterback to throw for over 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards, and combined for 17 touchdowns. Breshad Perriman resurrected his career with a three-game stretch in which he caught 17 passes for 349 yards and four scores.
However, despite these impressive figures, the Bucs finished with a 7-9 record.
Obviously, 5,109 pass yards is not why the Bucs' 2019 season sputtered, but it might help explain why. How do such potent offenses fall short? The answer may lie behind the potency itself.
An NFL quarterback has thrown for at least 5,000 yards just 12 times in NFL history. Five of those times, the team missed the playoffs. All but two missed the Super Bowl, and none actually came away with the Lombardi Trophy, including Brady in 2011.
Take the case of Drew Brees. No quarterback in NFL history can touch some of his individual achievements, notably in this case his five 5,000-yard seasons. Yet, three of those seasons ended without winning records. The other two ended in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Was New Orleans' defense to blame? Did Brees throw many picks? Was the run game any good?
All three likely contributed, but what it comes down to is efficiency. Simply, throwing for 5,000 yards is often a by-product of an inefficient offense, or a nonexistent defense.
In the three non-winning seasons where Brees threw for over 5,000 yards, there were underlying problems. In 2012, Brees led the NFL in interceptions, and was tied for the eighth-worst interception rate.
In 2016, the Saints had one of the worst pass defenses in the league, allowing 454 points to be scored, second-worst in the league that season. Brees' 2008 team had similar defensive issues.
Brees' 2013 season was interesting in that his 5,162 pass yards did not translate into points, as the Saints scored just 454 points on offense, 10th-highest in the league.
Most significantly, only two of Brees' 5,000-yard seasons ranked in the top half of his most efficient seasons by adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A), and neither of those seasons rank among his top five most efficient years.
In the Bucs' case, the high-flying pass offense was hamstrung by Jameis Winston's league-high 30 interceptions. The numerous short fields and NFL record-setting seven pick-sixes, along with an ineffective ground game, forced the Bucs to pick up as much yardage as possible through the air.
Tom Brady is one of the few quarterbacks to lead his team to a Super Bowl after throwing for over 5,000 yards. In 2011, he led a nigh unstoppable Patriots offense that introduced Rob Gronkowski as a sheer force of nature behind his 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.
However, the Bucs may prefer for their offense to resemble New England's 2007 squad, which may have been the greatest offense the NFL has ever seen. Brady threw for 4,807 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Brady is better known for his relentless efficiency than gaudy stats, but rarely has he had the depth of talent at the skill positions around him like he will have in Tampa Bay.
There is a chance he will break 5,000 yards for a second time, if simply as a function of the offensive production. However, chances are just as good that if he does, it's because there is something else deeply wrong with the Bucs.