A collision between hope and reality in Brady's debut with the Bucs
For a good portion of the past 20 years, the world has measured Tom Brady against history's greatest quarterbacks. And now, one game into his Buccaneers career, his reputation has briefly — we hope — been dragged down to the level of Tampa Bay quarterback lore. So, was Sunday's performance more Vinny Testaverde, or was it a Trent Dilfer? There definitely were some echoes of Jameis Winston in there.

My goodness, that 34-23 loss to the Saints was ugly. And a little too familiar. Did you see the pick-six Brady threw to open the third quarter? If you didn't, go back and watch one of Winston's from last year because they were almost identical. How many times do the Bucs have to invite cornerbacks to jump those sideline outlet passes before that page is finally ripped out of Tampa Bay's playbook?

Good heavens, Brady even infringed on a Winston copyright by recklessly throwing a pass into the hands of a New Orleans linebacker — who graciously dropped the ball — to avoid a sack.

Weren't these supposed to be problems of the past? Wasn't this exactly why Brady was brought to Tampa Bay? The Bucs don't need Brady to replicate Winston's 5,109 passing yards from 2019, but they do need him to avoid negative-impact plays.

So what did Bucs coach Bruce Arians think of Brady's first interception? “Tom just overthrew it,” he said. And the second? “Bad decision.”

Those are not descriptions normally associated with Brady. Do you realize the last time he threw two interceptions in a season opener was during George W. Bush's presidency? That was Bush's first term, by the way.

His is a reputation more subtle than most. You don't look at his accumulation of numbers as much as his mastery of the position. He's the guy who doesn't throw a lot of interceptions. He's the guy who comes up big in the fourth quarter. He's the guy who wins more than anybody.

And yet none of that was evident on Sunday. “It's sports, you can't predict what's going to happen,” Brady said. “When you don't play your best, and you play good teams, you obviously get beat. And we played far from our best.”

There are some extenuating circumstances here. While the entire NFL had to skip preseason games during the pandemic, it's reasonable to assume the Bucs were affected more than most because they were changing quarterbacks. And there were clearly communication problems, including the first interception where receiver Mike Evans and Brady were not on the same page.

And Brady had moments where he looked just as deft as he ever did in New England, lofting a perfect pass to Scotty Miller on a deep route early in the game and dropping another over Chris Godwin's shoulder for a 23-yard gain in a short-yardage situation. And, it shouldn't be ignored that New Orleans has a team capable of reaching the Super Bowl.

Still, you rarely got the sense that Brady was either comfortable or in command. He raced downfield at one point screaming at the back judge when a pass interference penalty wasn't called. He stood on the sidelines with his arms outstretched and palms up while addressing a handful of receivers, almost as if he was asking them what the heck was going on.

John Romano, Tampa Bay Times, published 14 September 2020