QB Whisperer speaks loudly to Tom Brady

Ron Borges

Bruce Arians wrote a book several years ago called “The Quarterback Whisperer.’’ One week into this odd Covid-19 season he forgot to whisper. Time will tell if that matters or not, but Arians, unlike his new quarterback Tom Brady, was at least consistent.

Last Sunday was Brady’s first game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer after 19 seasons spent running the dynasty that became the New England Patriots. He led them to nine Super Bowls and won six. He was the most successful quarterback of his generation. So naturally every eye was on him and Arians last Sunday to see how a change of scenery at 43 worked for Brady.

Many of those observers had already declared the previously nondescript Bucs a Super Bowl contender the minute Brady jumped onto their ship, which amused Arians no end and he said so. Brady’s play last Sunday did not. Arians also said so because The Quarterback Whisperer is also a truth teller when asked a question most of the time.

This is unusual in a coach and hence unsettling to typists who write about pro football these days but the truth is Brady did not play well and Arians’ reaction was not to whisper in his ear but rather to do what he’s always done, which was to tell the reporters who asked what happened that Tom wasn’t very good last Sunday. Which he was not.

How bad was he? Well he threw two interceptions, including a pick six that was just a terrible throw of an out route that was also a terrible decision. That throw was all too familiar to Bucs’ fans, who watched in horror last season as former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston did that seven times, although only six counted because one pick six was nullified by a penalty.

Perhaps Arians’ public rebuke of Brady’s play can be explained as a result of Jameis Winston Flashback Syndrome but in reality it was just Arians being Arians. All he needs is for the 43 year old Brady to be Brady being Brady this weekend and this mini controversy, if such a thing can exist in today’s overheated (anti)social media climate, can come to a rapid conclusion because if there is one thing Arians understands it is how to coach and cater to a quarterback.

In his book, Arians admitted to sometimes becoming too close to his quarterbacks, using his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger as a prime example. He said it caused some problems for him in Pittsburgh when he was the Steelers’ quarterback coach and is something he has to be aware of.

Yet he also freely admitted he often has his quarterbacks out to his lake house in Georgia, has said they tend to become “my sons,’’ plays golf with them and, upon occasion, criticizes them in public when they don’t perform well. In other words, he treats them like both men and employees. If Brady doesn’t like that, well, that’s on him…as was his poor play last Sunday.

Accountability is something Arians claimed in his book is important for a quarterback and his coach if they are going to be leaders. This was no secret to anyone long before Brady showed up in Tampa, so the guy Arians’ is whispering to these days should have known what he was getting himself into when he bolted New England for Florida’s Left Coast and one of the NFL’s struggling outposts.

"He gets cussed out like everybody else," Arians said of Brady after doing just that to him during training camp. "He likes to throw the ball in walk-throughs, and we don't throw the ball in walk-throughs."

That time Brady responded on Twitter that: "I'm used to it!" and added a laughing emoji. He wasn’t laughing Sunday night after Arians hung him out to dry nor on Monday after Arians walked back one of his comments, saying Brady’s first interception was receiver Mike Evans’ fault not Brady’s, as the coach originally thought.

Immediately this turned into a passion play in the media. Brett Favre criticized Arians for criticizing Brady, others questioned if a rift was developing, a few up in Boston claimed Arians was setting up a narrative designed to throw Brady under the bus if things didn’t work out. This all seemed a bit over the top considering that the Bucs were playing the best team in their division, the New Orleans Saints, and were being led by someone who was in his first game in a new system with teammates he barely knew.

That is the world Brady and The Quarterback Whisperer live in. Every success is fantasized about and every loss is magnified into a Greek tragedy. But Arians’ decision a week into the season to treat Brady the same way he’s treated all his previous quarterbacks was actually the wise choice. He is who he is. Why change now, whether he’s got a GOAT for a quarterback or just an old goat at quarterback?

"Tom and I are fine,’’ Arians calmly said on Wednesday. “I don't really care what other people think. So it's just what he and I think. We left the stadium fine. We showed up today fine. There ain't nothin' to talk about."

That’s the only thing Arians was wrong about. In today’s climate there’s always something to talk about…even when there isn’t.

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