One of my favorite things to do is go by Fisherman’s Wharf and buy crab for dinner from the workers that cook, clean and crack the treat on the promenade in front of Grotto #9. Buying crab there is an event, as opposed to simply purchasing it at the local market. As much as the quality of the crab, the trip to the wharf allows the pleasure of watching the skilled workers execute in harmony the preparation before handing over the wrapped packages.
It is like that with any skill, people that do something well with an experienced hand working with their partners is a joy to watch. It is certainly like that with a football team. No position on the field needs more coordination than the ballet the offensive line performs each game to protect their quarterback and open holes for runners.
The timing and execution of a quarterback and his receivers is a thing of beauty. The art of a clean handoff is often overlooked until you see it done poorly and result in a fumble.
This season, we have seen the coordination of Tampa Bay Quarterback Tom Brady and his offensive weapons improve as the season has progressed. Their familiarity with each other enhanced by the experience of working together. On opening day, with his new team, Brady looked out of sync with his offensive teammates and it resulted in a double-digit road loss to the New Orleans Saints, 34-23.
After five weeks of working together in game action the Bucs had three wins and two losses, but the repetition of the Tampa Bay team working together started to pay dividends with a Week Six lopsided win over the Green Bay Packers, 38-10. In November, the Bucs bunched three losses while still finding their full stride.
Brady and his Buccaneers seem to have it now.
Since their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on November 29th, Tampa Bay has won seven straight games which has them just one win away from Brady collecting his seventh Super Bowl Trophy.
Still, no matter what they have accomplished this season, Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians and Brady are working their first season together. History shows us that Super Bowls most often, by a 30-18 margin, go to the team that has a coach and quarterback who have worked together the longest. Six times the quarterbacks and head coaches had an equal amount of experience, and against the point spread, the advantage for the more experienced coach/quarterback combination swells to 32-15-1.
While Arians and Brady are in their first year together, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are completing their fourth season of working on behalf of the Chiefs.
Now, before we use that as an absolute, it is worth noting what quarterback/coach combinations did overcome the experience factor. Four head coaches working the first time with their starting quarterback have won the Super Bowl, six have lost it. Twice we had matchups of two teams with first year combinations. Trent Dilfer and Brian Billick went up against Kerry Collins and Jim Fassel to complete the 2000 season, and the defense dominated Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV behind Dilfer.
In his first stint with the Raiders, Jon Gruden coached Oakland for four seasons beginning in 1998. In his first season with the Buccaneers, he met the Raiders and their first-year head coach Bill Callahan in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Bucs won big, 48-21.
In 1970, Don McCafferty replaced Don Shula as the Baltimore Colts head coach, and with Johnny Unitas as his quarterback beat the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. The Cowboys starting quarterback in that game was Craig Morton, who was working with Tom Landry for a sixth season. While McCafferty won the Super Bowl in his first season as head coach, he had been on the Colts staff since 1959 and worked with Unitas during most of his career with the Colts.
In 2015, Gary Kubiak joined his longtime friend and current general manager of the Denver Broncos, John Elway, to serve as head coach with a team that had Peyton Manning at quarterback. In their first season together, the Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers while the losers had Ron Rivera and Cam Newton working together for a fifth season.
Three years ago, Brady and Bill Belichick went up against Doug Peterson and Nick Foles. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was playing his first season in the City of Brotherly Love, and got the better of a New England combination working their 18th year together.
In other words, Brady lost against this stat that should have favored his long term relationship with Belichick.
Now, Brady is up against trying to beat the quarterback/coach experience factor in his fist season with the Buccaneers. Which begs this question, if Unitias and Manning can overcome the odds can’t Brady do it too?
But do you want to bet on it?