Neutral zone infraction on fourth down. A 33-yard pass interference. A fumbled kickoff because two teammates tried to catch a short kick.
Since quarterback Tom Brady decided to follow his own path to Tampa Bay, people want to debate who was more responsible for the New England Patriots’ success over the past 20 years – Brady or Bill Belichick? And they believe team results will determine that competition.
What logic does that make? Players play, and coaches coach. It’s not accurate to compare whatever success Brady and Belichick have separately and conclude who deserves more credit for the franchise’s 20 years of dominance.
Brady does only so much. He doesn’t coach Tampa Bay’s defense. He has no input on what happens with special teams. Whatever success or shortcomings Brady has with the Buccaneers, his influence is merely fractional.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers need more time with each other
So if the Buccaneers lack discipline and turn out to be a disappointment, it won’t be just Brady’s fault.
Yes, Brady threw two interceptions that directly led to touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints, including a pick-6. Head coach Bruce Arians publicly blamed both interceptions on Brady, though later in the week Arians changed his evaluation.
But it wasn’t Brady who was flagged for a 33-yard pass interference penalty that put the ball on the six yard line, leading to a Saints touchdown. Nor was it Brady with a neutral zone infraction on fourth down. That error extended the Saints’ drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal.
In all the Buccaneers were flagged nine times for 103 yards, and some were very costly.
Penalties are mental errors. They can be avoided. Teams that rack up hankies oftentimes are bad teams because they are undisciplined. Tampa Bay’s mistakes on Sunday shouldn’t have been so many.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Last year Tampa Bay was flagged 133 times for 1,111 yards. It was the third season in a row an Arians-coached team increased their penalties. Three of those seasons Arians’ teams eclipsed 100 penalties.
Small sample size? Yes. It’s three of six seasons with more than 100 penalties.
In comparison, in the last 20 years, the Belichick-Brady Patriots exceeded 100 penalties five times. In the last 10 seasons, it happened just in 2014.
Pass interference happens. But how often has a Belichick-coached defense jumped offsides on a fourth down? That’s a penalty lap during training camp. Laugh if you want, but it drives the lesson home. Bad habits and mistakes are coached during camp and practice so they don’t make it to actual games.
And when’s the last time you saw Patriots teammates botch a kickoff return because they both went for the ball? Belichick preaches “Do Your Job.” If someone is assigned to block, then block. Trust your teammate to catch the ball.
Do understand that Tampa Bay isn’t a lost cause. It’s just one game. They have plenty of time to learn from their mistakes and correct them. Brady will get better, as he and his teammates improve their chemistry.
Just know that there is no Brady vs. Belichick. We can’t compare the two. But if we could, how the Buccaneers perform in all three phases would help or hurt Brady’s case.
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