The Buccaneers, offensively, seem to have lost their way.
The 18 points scored in Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh stands as proof. An even stronger piece of evidence appeared when Tom Brady scolded the group tasked with protecting him during the Week 6 game.
After a series in which Brady was sacked and stripped of the ball by Steelers edge rusher Alex Highsmith (Tampa Bay recovered) just before the end of the half, Brady walked over to his offensive linemen and tore into them, letting loose an expletive-laden tirade centered around their disappointing performance.
“You are so much better than the way you’re f—ing playing!” Brady shouted at his teammates with 0:46 left in the second quarter.
Some might see the rant as disrespectful, but when it comes from a quarterback with seven Super Bowl rings to his name and a guaranteed first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame selection awaiting him, it’s typically taken to heart.
“Everyone can call it what they want, but I want nothing else from a quarterback than that — than the guy who’s wanting to tell us what we need to do and step up,” Bucs center Robert Hainsey said on Wednesday, via ESPN. “If he was just sitting over there and not get us going and not try to help us — he wouldn’t be who he is today.
“I love that from him. I know we all love that from him. It might look weird on TV, but that’s football. That’s what you want from great teammates and great leaders, and he’s the best there is.”
The respect that comes with Brady’s achievements provides him with a buffer that allows the quarterback to be brutally honest with his teammates when necessary. Right now, it’s undoubtedly necessary for a Buccaneers team that stands at 3-3 and can’t escape the mud in which its offense is mired.
Speaking Monday on his Let’s Go! podcast with Larry Fitzgerald and Jim Gray, Brady explained his outburst, which came from a place of rightful frustration.
“If I don’t feel like we’re living up to the expectations and playing up to the expectations that we’re capable of, then that’s my job,” Brady said. “I’m a quarterback. I’m not expecting the right tackle to do it. I’m not expecting the running back to do it. I’m not expecting the receiver to do it. I’m expecting myself to do it. I’m the one out there speaking in the huddle, calling the plays.
“That’s what my job is. To try to get us going and to try to rally us. And there’s a lot of ways to do it. And sometimes it’s some positive encouragement, which you do a lot.
“Sometimes it’s, you know, getting on people and trying to raise the level, the sense of urgency, and raising my voice and trying to create a different vibration for the whole offense. And that’s (ultimately) what you’re trying to do.”
Through six weeks, Tampa Bay looks nothing like the team that won Super Bowl LV and was a legitimate contender in the battle to reach Super Bowl LVI. After finishing seventh in total offense in 2020 and second in 2021 — averaging 30.1 points per game in the latter season — the Buccaneers rank 21st in total offense, 32nd in rushing, 18th in passing and 20th in scoring. Perhaps worst of all is their lack of explosiveness: Tampa Bay stands 28th in big plays.
“It’s up to us as coaches to make that happen and design plays to make that happen,” head coach Todd Bowles told reporters on Wednesday. “The players have to play better, but we have to coach it better. We understand we’re different and we’re making the adjustments — we’ll be fine as a staff making those adjustments going forward. It’s really not anybody’s idea or thing that we’re not doing, we just have to come together and understand who we are and that we’re not [the team we were] last year because of the people being different.
“We have to find different way to get explosive [plays] — that’s a coaching thing and then that’s a playing thing. I think we’re working in the right direction and we’ll be OK with it.”
Bowles will hope the direction in which his team is headed produces bigger plays sooner rather than later. Otherwise, Brady’s mood likely won’t improve. At 45 years old, he probably doesn’t have much patience left in him.