The most interesting team in the NFL in 2020 is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and it's not particularly close. Millions will watch closely at how Tom Brady looks outside of New England, if Bruce Arians can alter his offense to fit a quarterback who isn't usually his type, and if the Bucs can battle their way out of a stacked NFC South. This grand experiment could fail spectacularly, but it will, at minimum, be a fun ride. How could it not with Arians' sound bites and Brady throwing to a group of receivers arguably more talented as a whole than his record-breaking 2007 squad?
They'll be the talk of the NFL town all season, just as they were all offseason. Mike Greenberg kicked off the discourse for the 2020 season today when he said Arians should try and channel the 2015 Denver Broncos when it comes to dealing with 43-year-old Brady under center.
Greenberg's overall point holds water in that Arians' "no risk it, no biscuit" philosophy is made for younger, stronger-armed quarterbacks than Brady. Quarterbacks under Arians have traditionally been hit more often than their peers, and while Brady seems immune to the physical ailments that hamper mere mortals, getting sacked 47 times like Jameis Winston was last year feels like it's pushing the envelope on a body that has gone through 20 NFL seasons to date. Brady's deep ball efficiency has also plummeted in recent years. That is partially the result of the personnel he had at his disposal as a Patriot, but one does not need to be a physical therapist to understand Brady cannot throw the ball as far as he could when he was still in his 30s.
However, if Arians attempts to emulate that 2015 Broncos squad, he will both fail in spectacular fashion and probably make Brady an unhappy camper. The Bucs have a decent defense, bringing back last year's sack leader in Shaq Barrett and a secondary that was a bit better than it appeared on the surface. Lavonte David remains one of the elite linebackers in the NFL. But they do not have players of the same caliber as Von Miller or DeMarcus Ware or Chris Harris or Aqib Talib. That Broncos defense was one of the best in NFL history, stacked with an obscene level of talent and coached to perfection. Todd Bowles is a great defensive coordinator but not exactly Wade Phillips and he just doesn't have the talent Phillips did at his disposal.
Brady's talents have not deteriorated anywhere near the level Peyton Manning's did in that season, either. That's not a guarantee quite yet. A possibility remains that Brady could walk onto the field and be unable to throw anything further than a 15-yard out to the near sideline like Manning in 2015. But while Brady wasn't nearly as good as we've come to expect last season, nothing about his play would suggest his skill level will plummet so drastically in the same way Manning's did. Arians needs to make sure Brady isn't getting hit every other snap and adjust his scheme accordingly, but he would have to completely change his offense to coddle Brady like Denver was forced to with Manning. And Brady would likely be very unhappy with that. He has more weapons than he's had in a decade. He'll want to utilize them.
The comparisons between those two teams will be natural because there are similarities. But until we see proof that Brady's arm strength has completely fallen off a steep cliff, Arians will have to stick to what he knows, because his defense alone isn't good enough to win games.