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Linsey: Tom Brady is taking a lot of the risk out of Bruce Arians' high-risk, high-reward offense

Paradise, Nevada, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians (left) celebrates with quarterback Tom Brady (12) after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 45-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady’s departure from the New England Patriots was arguably the biggest storyline in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. Much of the intrigue was centered on the situation Brady was leaving — a dynasty built on the back of a dominant quarterback and head coach pairing molded over two decades.

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There was also intrigue surrounding where he was going. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered a significant upgrade at receiver over what Brady dealt with in New England in 2019, but they also profiled as a team that would be a very different offense stylistically to what he had operated throughout his career. 

In the latest Cris Collinsworth Podcast, current San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said of Bruce Arians’ offense, “It’s one of those high risk, high reward offenses. This offense is kind of against [Brady’s] natural instincts, I would say. It’s going against what he would naturally do. I don’t see him throwing into windows where he doesn’t see a guy making a play very often, but in this offense, you kind of have to.”

Every stop he’s been at, Arians has undoubtedly wanted his quarterbacks to take risks and push the ball downfield. 

Average depth of target of Arians’ offenses since 2006
Years Team ADOT (with NFL rank)
2006-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers 9.8 (2nd)
2012 Indianapolis Colts 10.8 (1st)
2013-2017 Arizona Cardinals 10.4 (2nd)
2019-2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10.4 (1st)

It’s not as if Brady was checking the ball down all the time with the Patriots, but many of his first reads were in the short and intermediate range. Those whip routes to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman in the slot come to mind. From 2017 to 2019, Brady’s average depth of target of 9.8 yards downfield on first reads ranked just 27th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks. This year, that number is 12.3 yards downfield — a lower mark than only Kirk Cousins in Minnesota.

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