WAS IT THE SAME TEAM?
Saints News Network's guest writer, Jameis1of1's author, gives an editorial on the narrative that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady won Super Bowl LV with the same team Saints quarterback Jameis Winston had in 2019.
ESPN reporter Diana Russini recently tweeted:
The Bucs are the same “talented team” that managed to go 7-9 last year. Added Tom Brady and are in the Super Bowl.
Fox Sports’ Undisputed co-host Skip Bayless also recently tweeted:
DO PEOPLE REALIZE HOW IMPOSSIBLE IT WAS FOR TOM BRADY TO TAKE A 7-9 TEAM WITH NO PRESEASON GAMES THROUGH WASHINGTON’S NO. 2 D, THROUGH DREW BREES AND AARON RODGERS TO A SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIP IN HIS FIRST YEAR AWAY FROM NEW ENGLAND AT AGE 43?
And, on nearly every sports talk show across the nation on Monday morning following the Super Bowl, sports media talking heads could be heard parroting such talking points and feeding the exact same narrative to their audiences coast to coast.
However, the question remains, is such a narrative true, or is it merely being accepted by the sporting public as true, simply because popular talking heads say it’s true?
Now, of course, everyone knows that Brady didn’t take the exact same team that Jameis Winston led to a 7-9 record in the 2019 season, to a Super Bowl victory in the 2020 season, as even the most casual football fans know that every team experiences at least a little bit of turnover each season. However, is the narrative being parroted coast to coast even “mostly true”?
THE NEW PLAYERS
To answer this question, let’s simply look at the following, irrefutable statistical facts.
Firstly, in the Buccaneers Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buccaneers scored 31 points. Do you know how many of those 31 points were scored by players that were on the 2019 Buccaneers team when Jameis Winston was its quarterback? ZERO! That’s right, zero, as in zilch, nada, nil, none.
New star tight end and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski scored 12 points. New kicker Ryan Succop - who replaced Tampa Bay’s 2019 5th round draft pick (yes, Bucs General Manager Jason Licht actually drafted two kickers during the Jameis Winston era in Tampa, both of whom were cut by the team before their second season even began) Matt Gay - scored seven points.
New star wide receiver and future Hall of Famer Antonio Brown scored six points. And, the former #4 overall pick in the 2017 draft, running back Leonard Fournette - now known as Playoff Lenny - scored the remaining six points.
Not one single player who played with Jameis Winston in 2019 scored one single point in the Super Bowl. And, it wasn’t just in the points tally where the impact of truly new Buccaneers could be felt.
Tristan Wirfs, the star rookie right tackle who was PFF’s third highest-graded offensive player in a Super Bowl in the past 15 years - tied with Russell Wilson the year he won Super Bowl MVP - protected Tom Brady marvelously. And, Antoine Winfield Jr., the star rookie and starting safety for the Buccaneers came up with a huge interception of the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes during the game as well!
In fact, even when one looks at total offensive touches and total yards, one can easily see the 2020 Bucs offense was carried in the Super Bowl by their new skill position additions, rather than by anyone Jameis Winston played with over the previous five seasons in Tampa. In the Super Bowl, the Bucs’ skill players who were on the 2019 team accounted for just 19 touches and 124 total yards, and again, zero points scored. The new skill position additions to the 2020 team accounted for a whopping 31 touches, 224 total yards, and all 31 points scored!
In short, the Super Bowl was actually a perfect example of why the current popular narrative being pushed by mainstream sports media outlets is laughably false.
However, I imagine many readers will think to themselves, “Okay sure, the Super Bowl was dominated by players Jameis Winston never played a single game with, but the season itself was different.” Such readers would be wrong.
THE TWO TEAMS
The 2020 Bucs team amassed 6,145 total yards of offense, with 2,148 of those yards - a huge 35% - coming from brand new skill position players that Jameis Winston never played a single down of football with. Likewise, the 2020 Bucs team scored 492 points, with 256 of those points - an enormous 52% - being scored by brand new teammates of Tom Brady that Jameis Winston never played a single down of football with in his five years in Tampa.
On the defensive side of the ball, star rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was a major addition to the 2020 team, as not only did he intercept Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl, he starred for the Buccaneers all year long. Winfield Jr. was 3rd on the team in tackles, passes defended, and forced fumbles and had head coach Bruce Arians saying at the end of the season that he should have won the rookie of the year award over Washington’s star defensive end Chase Young.
Then there is the matter of the kicker. In the Buccaneers’ 2019 season, Jameis Winston’s kicker was the just drafted and soon to be cut rookie Matt Gay. Gay finished the season 24th in field goal percentage, left 29 points on the board with his missed kicks on the season, and was roundly blamed by Bucs fans everywhere for stealing defeat from the jaws of victory in at least two games during the 7-9 2019 season.
On the other hand, Tom Brady’s kicker in 2020 was 12th-year veteran Ryan Succop, a kicker who had been to the playoffs three times in his career and made every single one of his 13 playoff kicks. Succop finished the 2020 season 11th in the entire NFL in field goal percentage and left just 14 points on the board with missed kicks all season long, and certainly never managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the way Matt Gay had done multiple times the season prior.
All of the above said, it should be abundantly clear to any unbiased reader, that the current narrative being pushed by sports media outlets and individuals alike, namely that Tom Brady won a Super Bowl with the same team Jameis Winston went 7-9 in 2020, is patently false.
Now, in regards to how Jameis Winston’s 2019 season with the Buccaneers compares to Tom Brady’s 2020 season with the Buccaneers, allow me to unveil for the first time the infographic to top all infographics, at least as far as this 2019 Jameis Winston vs. 2020 Tom Brady discussion is concerned:
The above infographic speaks for itself and tells a great many stories, all of which the media could cover, but won’t, as many of the obvious stories the above irrefutable statistics tell, don’t mesh well with the prevailing false media narrative that Jameis Winston was “the problem” in Tampa in 2019 and that Tom Brady took the same team Winston went 7-9 with, to an 11-5 record and a Super Bowl victory.
Finally, it feels necessary to make two more points.
Firstly, casual football fans should be aware that the great Peyton Manning, the very year after he left the Tennessee Volunteers - a team which he never even led to a victory over the rival Florida Gators, let alone to an NCAA title - to enter the NFL Draft, the team replaced him with Tee Martin and immediately had a perfect season and won the NCAA Title.
However, I’m sure everyone is aware that the mainstream sports media never spun the narrative that Peyton Manning had held the Volunteers back and that Tee Martin was the upgrade they needed all along.
Secondly, casual football fans should also be aware that the great Drew Brees, the very year after he was kicked to the curb by the San Diego Chargers - a team he had led to a 9-7 record in the 2005 season - was replaced by Philip Rivers who immediately led the Chargers to a 14-2 record in the 2006 season.
Yet here we are, 15 years later and Philip Rivers has recently retired, with Drew Brees retirement expected any day now, and it’s Brees, not Rivers, who’s considered the sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer and a top 10 all-time NFL QB.
So, while this may be a strange lesson to try and teach in an article being published by Saints News Network on Sports Illustrated, it really is true that you can’t always buy the narratives the media is selling, even those being sold by mainstream sports media.
*The "Did Tom Brady Really Win the Super Bowl with the Same Team Jameis Winston went 7-9?" op-ed article was written by Jameis1of1, author of "Jameis Winston Derangement Syndrome: How Media Bias Causes Us to Overlook the Start of a Hall of Fame NFL Career." His editorial and opinions are independent of the Saints News Network and Sports Illustrated.