Tom Brady retired and then un-retired this summer operating under the assumption that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be legit Super Bowl contenders in 2022.
Thus far, they haven’t played like it.
Although the 5-5 Bucs still sit atop the NFC South, their position speaks more to the general awfulness of their divisional foes than their own accomplishments.
A big reason why Tampa Bay has been bad this year is because of a six-game stretch where they went 1-5. Just a few weeks ago, they were 3-5 after starting their 2022-23 campaign 2-0.
During that stretch, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich caught a lot of flak.
In a recent conversation with NFL insider Ira Kaufman, ex-Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said that the criticism of Leftwich was unwarranted. He believes Tampa Bay’s early struggles were far more the byproduct of Brady playing poorly.
“I don’t think it was fair to Byron,” Arians said.
“Nobody is going to say that Brady was playing bad, but he was playing bad. We also had growing pains on a young offensive front and we weren’t running well. There comes a time as a play-caller when you’re losing yards running the ball and you say, ‘Forget this, I’m putting the ball in Tom’s hands.’”
In any case, it is hard to argue with Arians’ general sentiment. Brady was bad for large swaths of this year. He was noticeably miserable at various Bucs events and it was clear that his marriage dissolving was really doing a number on him mentally.
The fact that his now ex-wife already has a new boyfriend speaks to how bad things must have been between them at the end.
Not that Brady’s Bucs teammates cared much. They were openly mocking his woes at one point.
Chargers fans are coping with the loss in their own special way. https://t.co/68BhkruIru
— Game 7 (@game7__) November 17, 2022
On paper, Tampa Bay has enough talent to compete for a championship. That coupled with Brady finally being free of the albatross that was his marriage and how awful the NFC South is should make the latter half of this season much easier.
Will the Bucs be able to build on this two-game winning streak and make a legit Super Bowl run over the next few months?
Time will tell.