LeBron who? The NFL stars who had success in another sport

by Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

A week or so ago, it emerged that basketball legend LeBron James, a three-time NBA champion, once considered playing for the Dallas Cowboys.

During the 2011 lockout, James started to train as a football player. Of course, he ultimately stayed with basketball but not before Jerry Jones, the owner of his favourite team, had sent him a contract. James went on to win consecutive NBA championships with Miami Heat in the next two seasons and obviously, it’s all gone swimmingly from then on.

We’ll never know how the 6’9” forward for the LA Lakers would have worked out in cleats and helmet. But it’s fun imagining a successful pro from another sport switching codes to play football, or vice versa.

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Some NFL stars could have had promising careers in another sport if they’d chosen to pursue that option. Take baseball, for instance. Many of you will know that Arizona QB Kyler Murray was drafted first overall by the Cardinals in the 2018 NFL Draft, but also ninth in the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics, making him the only player to be drafted in the first rounds of both sports. (The A’s still hold his licence, should he decide to chuck in the whole football thing.)

He wasn’t alone in being drafted by MLB teams and, due to their ability to throw with speed and accuracy, most have been quarterbacks: John Elway, Dan Marino, Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel, Matt Moore and Jameis Winston were all drafted in both sports. Russell Wilson was drafted by two MLB teams and even TB12 himself, Tom Brady, was selected by the Montreal Expos.

To a man, they opted for football and the rest, as they say, is history. But what about those players that did switch to or from the NFL, and hit the heights in both fields? There aren’t many but there are certainly a few worthy of mention.


TONI FRITSCH – SOCCER


Back in the Sixties, Anton (“Toni”) Fritsch was a soccer player in Austria. He made 123 appearances for Rapid Vienna, winning the Austrian League three times and the Austrian Cup twice. He also represented his country nine times, and scored twice in a 3-2 win against England in 1965, earning himself the nickname “Wembley Toni”.

The nippy striker then went on to be the first Austrian to play in the NFL. He was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 1971, even though he’d never played the game in his life, and trained to be a kicker – soccer-style kicking was all the rage at the time. His debut season couldn’t have gone any better, with a game-winning kick in his debut against the Cardinals, and the ‘Boys winning Super Bowl VI in early 1972. Given his earlier exploits in his home country, that makes him the only player in history to win professional titles in both association and American football. 

Photo Agency

His 11-year NFL career took in the San Diego Chargers, Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, and his record of kicking a field goal in 13 straight playoff games remained untouched until Adam Vinatieri equalled his feat in 2007.

Fab fact: Fritsch is credited with introducing the “rabona” (where the kicking leg wraps around the back of the standing leg) to the NFL. He used it to take an onside kick in a 1972 Divisional playoff game against the 49ers, helping to seal a historic 30-28 victory.


BO JACKSON – BASEBALL


Vincent “Bo” Jackson is the only athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both baseball and football, arguably making him one of the greatest of all time. And his achievements are all the more impressive when you consider he played both sports pretty much simultaneously.

Having won the Heisman Trophy in 1985 while at Auburn, Bo was drafted as the first overall pick by the Buccaneers in the 1986 NFL Draft. He’d already told the Buccs not to bother; he wouldn’t play for them. And he wasn’t joking: Jackson turned down the five-year, $7 million contract in favour of a shorter, cheaper deal with MLB outfit the Kansas City Royals.

Getty Images via Sporting News.com

He eventually joined the Los Angeles Raiders as a running back a year later, having agreed with owner Al Davis that he could report in once the baseball season was over. He made it to LA by Week 8 in his rookie campaign, playing in seven games and scoring six touchdowns, three of which came against the Seahawks in Week 12. His 221 rushing yards that night, just a month into his fledgling NFL career, is still a Monday Night Football record.

He managed 10 games in 1988 (580 yards, 3 TDs), 11 in 1989 (950 yards, 4 TDs) and, despite a curtailed 1990 campaign, Jackson was selected to the Pro Bowl. All the while, Jackson turned out for the Royals, as well as the Chicago White Sox and the California Angels, hitting 141 home runs over eight seasons and earning All-Star status in 1989.

A hip injury ended his football career in 1991, after just 38 games, but after a hip replacement, he managed to prolong his baseball career until 1994. 

Fab fact: Jackson’s Nike endorsements included the “Bo Knows” campaign for the first Nike Air trainer, in which he plays a range of different sports.


WILLIE GAULT – ATHLETICS


NFL fans of a certain age, myself included, may (just about) remember Willie Gault as a wide receiver and kick returner for the Bears (1983–87) and Raiders (1988–93). Gault, picked #18 in the 1983 NFL Draft, was a member of the Chicago team that defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in 1985. In his 11 NFL seasons, he claimed 6,635 yards, made 9 punt returns and 45 kick-off returns, and scored 45 touchdowns.

Bleacher Report

One of the NFL’s fastest-ever (his personal best for the 100 metres stands at a blistering 10.10 seconds), it should be no surprise that Gault qualified as a member of the U.S. Olympic track team. Alas, it was in 1980 when the United States – among others – boycotted the Moscow Games. Nonetheless, he went on to form part of a world record-setting 4×100 metre relay team (along with Emmit King, Calvin Smith and the legendary Carl Lewis) at the 1983 World Championships.

Fab fact: Gault has also set several world records in veteran categories, including the 100 metres (10.88 seconds) for the 50–54 age group in 2011.


HERSHEL WALKER – BOBSLEIGH


Walker earned a wealth of accolades, including the Heisman Trophy, while at the University of Georgia, and is widely regarded as the greatest college running back of all time. He then began his professional football career with the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL), before going on to the Cowboys, Vikings, Eagles and Giants.

In 12 NFL seasons, Walker scored 84 touchdowns and gained 8,225 rushing yards, 4,859 receiving yards and 5,084 kick-off -return yards, making him the only player to gain 4,000 yards three different ways. He’s also the only NFL player with a 90+ yard reception, 90+ yard run and a 90+ yard kick-off return in one season (1994) and once scored two 84+ yard touchdowns – one rushing, one receiving – in the same game! 

USA TODAY Sports, AP Photo

But why is Walker worthy of our attention here? Because he joined the US bobsleigh program and competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, as a member of the national team while with the Vikings. Running backs – 200-pound blokes with strong legs and a low centre of gravity – are well suited to being push men, apparently. And competing as the push/brake man in the two-man bob, Walker and his driver Brian Shimer were placed seventh, 0.3 of a second off a medal.

Walker is also a black belt at taekwando and undefeated as an MMA fighter. OK, he only had two fights but still, you wouldn’t wanna mess with the fella!

Fab fact: In 1989, the Cowboys traded Walker to the Vikings for five current players and six future draft picks, making the HWT (Herschel Walker trade) the largest trade in league history. 


MARQUISE GOODWIN – ATHLETICS


Some of us know Mr Goodwin as the wide receiver and kick returner who was recently traded to the Eagles from the 49ers. He was initially drafted in the third round of the 2013 Draft by the Bills and to date, Goodwin has recorded 2,323 yards receiving, 468 return yards and a further 89 rushing, and notched 13 TDs. Some of his early seasons in Buffalo were blighted by injury, and he was also crocked in the second half of last year, which meant he missed San Francisco’s trip to the Super Bowl. 

49ers.com

Goodwin’s track and field career is a similar tale of “close but no cigar”. In his specialty, the long jump, he won two national college championships, and represented the United States in Junior, University and World Championships, as well as the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where he finished 10th.

After a three-year hiatus, he marked his return to athletics with a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games, but finished a disappointing seventh at the Olympic Trials a year later – so no trip to Rio for Marquise.

In his time, he has also competed in the 60, 100 and 200 metres, and the triple jump.

Fab fact: Goodwin’s career-best long jump of 8 metres 45 centimetres would have been good enough to beat Greg Rutherford and win Olympic gold in London.


DEION SANDERS – BASEBALL


With “Prime Time”, now an analyst for CBS and the NFL Network, we may have saved the best till last. Sanders was successful at football, athletics and baseball at Florida State University, before being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft. He played primarily at cornerback, but also as a kick returner, punt returner and wide receiver.

During his 14-year career, he was named to eight Pro Bowls and made consecutive Super Bowl appearances: Super Bowl XXIX with the 49ers, when they beat the San Diego Chargers, and XXX with the Dallas Cowboys, who saw off the Steelers. He also turned out for the Redskins and Ravens before retiring in 2005. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011 and named in the NFL 100th Anniversary All-time Team.

Bleacher Report

“Neon Deion” also had a solid nine-season baseball career, playing as an outfielder for the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. He lost his one World Series appearance in 1992, when the Braves lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, but nonetheless, Sanders is still the only person ever to appear in both a World Series and a Super Bowl.

Fab fact: On 11 October 1992, Sanders played for the Falcons against the Dolphins in Miami, then flew to Pittsburgh to join the Atlanta Braves for their National League Championship Series game against the Pirates later the same day. Alas, he didn’t make it out on to the diamond, which rather ruins the story, but I guess his manager wasn’t chuffed with him having played an hour of gridiron as preparation for their big game.

Comeback Players in 2020

By Kieran Patterson (@DCCYTFootball)

Ben Roethlisberger – QB, Pittsburgh Steelers


After missing almost the whole 2019 season due to injury Ben Roethlisberger is poised for a big comeback.

Don't Give Up On Ben Roethlisberger Just Yet | FiveThirtyEight
Joe Sargent / Getty

While I’m not a fan of this man, he’s undeniably a great player and given the problems the Steelers had with their quarterback situation last year, I’m sure most Steelers fans want to see him back. Even though Duck Hodges is undeniably one of the best personalities in the sport, his play isn’t quite up to scratch.

I’m a betting man so my money is on Big Ben winning the comeback player of the year with the weapons around him.


Todd Gurley – RB, Atlanta Falcons


Atlanta Falcons landed the former first round running back, giving him a one year deal worth $5.5 Million.

Now this is more of a risky pick given Gurley’s history with injuries, but provided he can stay healthy, Gurley will want to prove what a mistake the Rams made by dropping him the way they did.

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The Atlanta Falcons have a ton of weapons going into this season, so look for Gurley to be a big part of this offence and, health permitting, make a big comeback.


Baker Mayfield – QB, Cleveland Browns


Baker Mayfield was, to put it bluntly, a complete shambles last year. After a record-breaking rookie season Mayfield was poised to come in and bring the Browns their first winning season in years. He sadly flopped. You knew by midseason that hacks like Colin Cowherd were foaming at the mouth watching the Browns struggle to put it together come game time, despite their stacked roster.

Ravens defense 'holds' attention of Browns' Baker Mayfield ahead ...
Ben Margot / AP

The biggest reason for the Browns underperformance was having a first time head coach trying to manage a team full of talent and strong personalities. Oh, and instead of getting an extra piece for their offensive line, they just added OBJ and gave up a first round pick. Never change, Cleveland. Never change.

Mayfield has the talent to be a top tier quarterback in the league, and provided he gets the right attention in camp and stays away from filming so many endorsement deals, I see Mayfield being a serious contender for comeback player of the year in 2020.


Mathew Stafford – QB, Detroit Lions


Until his unfortunate injury last season, Matthew Stafford was looking like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He ranked 8th amongst quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus grading from week 1 to week 9; no small feat.

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Now factor in all the weapons this offence has. TJ Hockenson, Kenny Golliday, Danny Amendola and now D’Andre Swift (Top receiving running back in the draft) among others.

If Stafford can start the season strong, and even string together some decent wins for the Lions, there’s no reason we can’t see Stafford take this award home for a second time. Honestly, Stafford has a good a chance as any.


J.J. Watt – DE, Houston Texans


It’s a shame that a man like J.J. Watt has been so unlucky with injuries. One of the best defensive players in the league and, before Aaron Donald came along, probably the best pass rusher, it’s fitting that the only person that can slow down J.J. Watt is J.J. Watt.

Texans' J.J. Watt unsure of how much he will play vs. Chiefs
Bob Levey / Getty

Provided he can stay healthy next year as the Texans push for another run at the playoffs, he’s going to be a force. It would be really great to see the former Walter Peyton man of the year award winner add a comeback player of the year award to his collection.

At 31, Watt’s days in the NFL may soon come to a close, so a return to form would be a fitting conclusion to a storied career. Watch for J.J. to leave it all on the field this year if he can stay healthy.

How it feels to be a Student in a Covid world.

Hello! Brief intro before moving onto the heavy stuff. My name is Michael Lavery, I’m 21 years old and I live in the North of Ireland. All my life I’ve wanted to be a sports journalist or a TV presenter and I’m working towards that right now. The following is somewhat of a drunken word vomit; thoughts and feelings fuelled by a couple beers that I felt would be better in a word doc than in my head. I enjoy writing, it gives me a sense of accomplishment and a joy that I don’t find elsewhere. You can find much shorter versions of these ramblings over on twitter if you wanna follow me @Michaellavery98


I spent 14 years in school. In that time I did all I could. I studied, I was kind, I made friends and I was even Head Boy. Elected as the leading student representative of a school of 1800+ pupils, I was giving speeches to hundreds of students each week and meeting with school governors on the regular (cheese boards and meeting minutes taken – super formal for an 18 year old). I was living an exemplary lifestyle. I had it all right there in front of me, my future, waiting for me to grab it, and then, the exams came.

I failed just about every test I took, missed out on the chance of university and was seemingly back to square one. 14 years down the drain. The schools poster boy had failed all his exams and all eyes were on him, I didn’t know what to do and in a somewhat frenzied state I decided that sticking with my part time job, and moving to full time hours was the answer that I needed.


Two years go by and I’ve started to spend some time in the “real world”. At 19, I was the manager of a new multi-million pound retail convenience store (Fancy wording for a high-tech, modern filling station). A position I achieved through experience alone. I was responsible for everything from rotas to finances, staffing problems to my own 50+ hour week. Skip forward a few months and I’d been on stress/anxiety related sick leave for two months and I’d eventually left my post as manager.

Shortly after, I landed an 8-5, Monday to Friday office job. In the beginning I thought this was bliss. I’d finally found some sort of routine and I was absolutely loving it (My last job had me finishing at 11pm at night and starting again at 5.30am the next morning). But as time went on, and the walls of the office grew smaller, I missed the outside world. I didn’t have a window and the only voice I heard was that of the local radio DJ. The walls became suffocating and I knew I was doing something I didn’t love.

Again, I left my job (snowflake, right?) and spent a while doing literally nothing. I was seeing a lifeline counsellor who was helping me deal with the hardships of the past two years because although the tone of my text may not dictate so, I really had reached the lowest of lows. I gave up all sport, all friendships, all hope. I was in a very bad place.

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I don’t want to dwell on that period of my life for too long but thankfully I’ve moved on. To cut a long story short I went back to college, got the grades I needed and come September time I will be moving to Derby in England to study sports journalism. But as is typical with the story of life, nothing is ever easy. Covid has taken centre stage in our lives and everything has ground to a halt. As prep for my uni course, I’ve been writing articles as much as I can. Talking about the NFL and occasionally the XFL and my love for the sport of American Football. The platforms I have been given to produce these articles have been my daily reminder and number one driving force to succeed in this industry. I want to produce high quality, reliable and intriguing content for people to read.


As I speak now I stand face to face with the biggest problem I’ve had to date. How do I practice my trade as a sports journalist when there are no live sports to report on? The answer? Well, it’s tough. I, like many others are feeding off the scraps left to us by the real world and our production is coming mostly through our means of imagination. Many of you will relate when I say that the most fun I (we) have during lockdown is after a few beer and a night spent on the PlayStation with the lads.

The process of writing an article is both time consuming and rewarding, but I love it. I love writing stories which are newly developing or other subjects of which I feel passionate about and I know will resonate with other people.  I see myself now as being far past the worst of my darkest days, and now healthily striving on the other side. I’m stretching my legs in a place where I feel comfortable. Not a filling station or an office, but behind my laptop, reporting on the stories I know you want to hear.

When the world as we know it resumes to some sense of normality, I will have to fight for my place again and prove I’m capable of producing high quality content for a worthy platform, and truth be told? I can’t wait. This is everything I have been waiting for since those failed exams in college, so here I am. Ready for the challenge ahead.

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I have used this article as a venting method. With the future currently looking so bleak in regards to my profession it’s hard to judge exactly how I should attack it. But with true faith, determination and practice, I know this lockdown won’t have gone to waste. I will have bettered myself compared to those who are entering the same field as me. It is my dream to make a living reporting for the NFL and I will stop at nothing to make sure I get there.


So, what do I do now? Well, I keep writing, I keep producing in the hope that someone sees my work and it takes off to the next level. It’s tough, I know but I am willing to put in the hours and learn my trade so that one day I can become the best at what I do. I am of the heavy assumption that is what everybody at this level strives for? It most certainly is what keeps me going.

From the bottom of my heart, can I just say thank you to everyone who has supported me to this point. Your backing will go further than you ever know and I thank you for that. Thank you for listening to my drunken ramblings and I hope to hear from you all very soon.

Keep safe and thank you,

Michael

The “Generational” RB – Are there any from the 2020 draft?

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

First things first, the term “generational player” seems to get some people’s backs up. If you take the term at it’s literal meaning, then sure, it’s extremely rare to find one, and, almost impossible to predict one to have a hall of fame career. But, if you accept that this overused term is used to describe a player that could end up being in the top tier of elite talents for the majority of their careers, then we can explore the possibility of seeing a potential “generational” player from this years’ draft.


Over the last few decades, we’ve seen many running backs progress through the collegiate ranks and create a buzz within the NFL community when the draft rolls round. Some players have lived up to the hype, Emmitt Smith, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson and Saquon Barkley to name just a few, and some have developed into upper echelon elite backs when not so hyped coming out of college – Le’veon Bell and Frank Gore come to mind. But, of course there have been those that have failed to progress to the pro-level and have proved complete busts, please stand up Trent Richardson, Ki-Jana Carter and Darren McFadden, with an honourable mention to Leonard Fournette who “some” considered a “generational” talent.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lennox McLendon

What constitutes a “generational running back” label?

NFL analysts/journalists/reporters or whatever title you want to give someone that discusses this sport with an audience generally speak about their opinion which in most cases is backed up with some kind of statistical data. To me, that’s how a player with this label comes about. It’s a blend of stats from their collegiate careers mixed with what NFL scouts and professional analysts portray their talent level’s to be.

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For me, I think that to be considered “generational”, the player must have a productive college career. I put that number at 1,000 rushing yards season average, and in more recent times, some proven receiving ability. I know that’s not a water-tight system, but when you look at “generational talents” that have had elite-level careers, they all had this level of productiveness at the collegiate level.

It’s only very recent that the new breed of “generational running back” ‘must’ be productive in the passing game as well as on the ground.


Previous “generational” running backs

So by using that logic, I’ve devised a list of former players since the year 2000 that have seen that level of collegiate productiveness, hyped by the media as generational talents, and drafted within the top 50 (indicating NFL scouts also believe in the talent). Productiveness is seen here by using the players’ rush yards, receiving yards and touchdowns per season averages whilst at college.

These 11 players drafted over the last 20 years have had the “generational player” tag linked with them coming out of college football. Judging by the season average stats, you get a good indication of what’s required in order to be projected a great future.


Current potential “generational” running backs

From this year’s prospects, it’s apparent to see that one player fulfills the criteria of being a “generational talent”; Jonathan Taylor. In fact, his rushing yards and TDs per season average are miles ahead of any other running back out of college in the last 20 years.

J.K Dobbins isn’t far behind statistically although he doesn’t meet my particular criteria as he was drafted outside of the top 50. Statistically though, Dobbins too could be considered a generational level player.

D’Andre Swift comes in third and not a million miles away from hitting the criteria having been the most productive in the receiving game out of these selected players.

Cam Akers needed to be more productive in the ground game, whereas ironically, the first RB off the board in this years’ draft Clyde Edwards-Helaire is someway off what I would deem as a “generational” player.

Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting their futures

Of course now these players have been drafted into the NFL, lot’s of new variables come into play to determine whether or not they can translate their college production into a pro-level. What’s their new offensive line like? Are they a part of a committee? Do they have proven veterans ahead of them? Are they a part of a run-friendly scheme? Does their new Head Coach like to run the ball frequently? Are they playing in a similar scheme to what they did in college?

You’d like to think the NFL teams and their scouts have done their homework before drafting the players onto their rosters in order to get the best out of their high-capital picks, but some times that doesn’t always work out.

Let’s look at those previously mentioned players and how their NFL careers progressed (some of course are still active) and whether their “generational player” tag rang true in their pro-careers.

It’s been quite a mix bag of success. From the HOF careers of LT and Adrian Peterson to the bust and near bust careers of Ron Dayne and T-Rich.


In Conclusion

Predicting just how the careers of the Class of 2020 is almost impossible, but judging by historical data and recency bias, these prospects will unlikely be busts in their careers.

It’s hard not to love Jonathan Taylor after seeing what he’s done in his college career and ending up behind one of the best offensive lines currently in the NFL with Indianapolis.

D’Andre Swift could potentially see a path to a majority backfield after the Lions clearly signaled that Kerryon Johnson by himself is not the answer, and J.K Dobbins is in a ripe running spot with a run-first team in Baltimore. However, Dobbins may have to wait for Mark Ingram to move on before claiming the backfield for himself.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire has landed on a team coached by a run-favouring HC in Andy Reid and is the most talented RB on that roster, and despite Cam Akers running behind an ageing o-line, Todd Gurley had a very successful rookie contract for the Rams when he was healthy.


Final Opinion and Career projection

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts – A “Generational talent” who is in the right spot to produce elite numbers over his career

J.K Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens – Borderline “Generational talent” who is on a team that could lead him to produce elite numbers over his career

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions – Elite college talent that could be elite in the NFL if the right team is built around him and he’s used as a swiss army knife.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams – Elite college talent but is likely to put up average numbers unless drastic changes in the future help him progress to the next level.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs – Good college talent helped by one outstanding season. Is in the right spot to be very productive, but will likely only return good, not elite production.

Important Mini Camps

The news that mini camps could happen at some point in June was a welcome boost to a sports fan craving any crumb of positivity in this COVID-19 world that we are currently living in. As the world gradually gets back onto its feet sports teams are going to have to find ways to adapt to any new restrictions placed upon them. It’s hard to imagine how the NFL will look with social distancing measures potentially in place, particularly in the trenches.

The off season usually provides crucial learning time for squads, a chance for newbies to blend in and chemistry to develop amongst positional groups. It may look different this time around but let’s take a look at 3 teams that really need this off season more than others in my opinion.

Carolina Panthers

There are obvious challenges for any new head coach in a “regular” off season. Having anything but a “regular” off season could not have come at a worse time for the Carolina Panthers. If you look in the dictionary for the definition of a rebuild, then this is well and truly it. Not just a new head coach, but a new quarterback, new systems to implement on both sides of the ball, and the first ever rookie draft class in NFL history exclusively on the defensive side of the ball to blend in.

He didn't flinch': Panthers coach Matt Rhule needed to show David ...

The defense was horrible last year surrendering 52 total touchdowns. This was only outdone by the Miami Dolphins who gave up 54 but showed fight and improvement down the stretch. An area of particular weakness was in the run game where they surrendered a league high 5.16 yards per carry and a whopping 31 touchdowns! It’s understandable with statistics like that they chose Derrick Brown with the 7th overall pick to shore up the middle of the defensive line.

Teddy Bridgewater is the man chosen to replace Cam Newton following his 6 game cameo for the Saints last year. In those 6 games he threw for an average of just 228 yards per game but crucially limited turnovers with just 2 INT’s from his 205 throws. Having seen Kyle Allen melt down into a turnover machine after a promising start to life in 2019 this should be a welcome relief for Panthers fans. Bridgewater did of course have Michael Thomas as a true #1 receiver in New Orleans. This generated a target rate of over 31% during Teddy’s run at the controls. Iit will be interesting to see where the football is distributed in an offence that saw fewer catches from its top 2 wideouts combined last year compared to what Thomas put up.

Luke Kuechley was in on 143 tackles last season and has been the leader of the defence for some time, but he has sadly retired. Greg Olsen may not be the force that he once was but he has moved on to Seattle. The trend? Leadership presence has left the building for one reason or another. The Panthers are a young team, with a young head coach and possibly needed this off season more than most. It will be a tough road ahead for Matt Rhule and company to field a successful product in 2020. At least they have Christian McCaffery!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He may well be the greatest of all time but even Tom Brady surely needs some time to acclimatise to a new environment. For the 1st time in 20 years TB12 will not have Bill Belichick on the practice field when training camp roles around. I still find that quite weird to type but it will very quickly become reality so I best get used to it. It probably feels like repeating the narrative, but surely father time will have his say at some point?

Brady had a down year last year dropping a full 5% off of his 2018 completion percentage. For a man renowned for his accuracy, that’s a worrying drop. Outside of James White and Julian Edleman he struggled last year to make any connections. In fact when looking at the target breakdown of said duo it’s quite startling just how much he relied on them.

<5 yards of line of scrimmage 52% of all targets

6-10 yards of line of scrimmage 48% of all targets

11-20 yards of line of scrimmage 59% of all targets

>21 yards of line of scrimmage 38% of all targets

That chemistry has been built up over a period of time and will not be immediately replaced. You can certainly point to the fact that Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are better receivers but practice makes perfect and the Bucs will hope to be able to get plenty of it in for this superstar offence to gel. The signing of Rob Gronkowski after a 12 month “retirement” as much as anything offers Tom a comfort blanket.

The Bucs were in lots of close games last year so you feel the obvious likely regression in turnovers may be enough on its own to make the difference between 7-9 and the playoffs. The gunslinger mentality of Jameis Winston has been replaced with effectively the polar opposite. Brady has thrown less INT’s since 2016 than Jameis did last season alone, in fact his career INT rate of 2.8% is exactly half of the man he is replacing over nearly 4 times as many passing attempts.

Brady obviously wins from the pocket so affording him time will be key. Being able to snag Tristan Wirfs in the draft was an ideal scenario for the Bucs. Moving up to get him shows the Bucs are all in for the next 2 years and for that reason alone they can’t afford to have any time wasted.

EA Madden NFL Has Already Placed Tom Brady In A Bucs Uniform

Los Angeles Rams

High scoring, explosive, entertaining and innovative, ladies and gents the 2018 LA Rams. As for 2019, erm not quite so much. A franchise that suffered the superbowl hangover fate the same as many have done before will be looking to rebound in 2020. Sean McVay has rang the changes at the coordinator positions with Kevin O’Connell and Brandon Staley being brought in. Will this be the key to unlock some of that McVay magic that was all of the rage in the 2019 off season?

Player wise the rams are a different team to the one that went so close to superbowl glory just 15 months ago. This off season, Brandin Cooks has been traded (again), Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews have been released. There is the impending talk of a Jalen Ramsey holdout which will add further headaches although, it’s not as though character issues weren’t apparent before the trade however. But enough about who has and who might be going, let’s look at the players that will be suiting up.

Backfield by committee, Daryl Henderson and rookie Cam Akers. Steady if not spectacular, although I have heard many people say they think Akers could become special. Out wide Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Again steady, not 2 names that jump into top 5 wide receiver conversation but certainly a nice pairing. At tight end Tyler Higbee emerged over the last 5 weeks of 2019 averaging 104.4 yards per game over that stretch. So the rams do have some pieces to work with, but of course it’s all eyes on Jared Goff.

The off season started for Goff with a restructure of his contract which actually makes it more difficult for the Rams to move on from him down the line. So that’s obviously the good news, the bad news however is that he is regressing. His touchdowns were down to 22 from 30 the year before and his interceptions were up to 16 from 12 the year before. There have been rumblings of discontent from the fanbase and the pressure will be cranked up more with a shiny new building to play in.

Defensively the Rams have lots of money tied up in both Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey so will be looking to their superstars to carry a defence without the stewardship of Wade Phillips. Nickel Robey-Coleman is a loss as the 3rd corner but for a unit that generated 50 sacks last year ranked 4th in the league, they will look for Terrel Lewis out of Alabama to stay injury free and add his unique blend of size and athleticism to add playmaking ability in the front 7. A big year ahead in LA can’t start soon enough.

Aqib Talib: Jared Goff will be good 'as long as he stays where he is'

That’s 3 teams from my perspective but who have I glaringly missed off the list? Do you think Brady will fit in just fine? Let us know @full10yards

Cincinnati Bengals Draft Class expectations

By Liam Lodge (@Liam66NFL)

Some NFL teams have more picks than others heading into a draft.  As the event progresses, a team can gain or lose its draft capital through trade deals.  The formula for the Cincinnati Bengals this year was simple – seven selections, one placed at the beginning of each of the seven rounds.

The Bengals war room stuck at every one of their picks during the three days; made no deals and put together a very good draft class to take into the 2020 season.  Here is what Cincinnati fans should expect from the players that make up this year’s draft class.


Round 1 (#1) – Joe Burrow (QB), LSU


With the first overall pick, the Bengals made Joe Burrow their new signal-caller.  A year ago, Burrow would have owned a mid-round grade at best from most observers, but an incredible National Championship winning season full of record-breaking numbers during his final year with LSU, propelled Burrow up to being the consensus QB1 in the draft. 

Joe Burrow drafted by Cincinnati Bengals with No. 1 pick in NFL draft
Chris Graythen /Getty

He excels in the leadership and mental aspects of the game, with an ability to read defenses quickly and react to pressure. Give Burrow time and he shows great poise and pocket movement to use just a step or two to extend a play.  He is an accurate thrower and I really like the way he leads receivers when completing a pass.  

It certainly does feel like time for a quarterback change in Cincinnati and Burrow arrives with the experience of winning plenty of big games as the head of one of the most potent offenses in college football history.  

If he continues the sort of growth seen during last season, the Bengals have a strong new leader capable of bringing success.


Round 2 (#33) – Tee Higgins (WR), Clemson


Pairing Burrow with the man who was the number one receiver at Clemson for the last couple of years is a very nice way to build the passing game in your offense. 

Higgins’ draft stock dipped during the process owing to questions about his athleticism, which actually is not that bad, and the Bengals took advantage to select him at the top of the second round.  The production that Higgins put up at Clemson was impressive, he works best lined up on the outside and likes to use his frame against close coverage – give him the chance to challenge a defense physically and he will be effective. 

The next A.J. Green? Experts compared Tee Higgins to Bengals star
Ken Ruinard / The Greenville News

This is a great landing spot for Higgins, as he will have the opportunity to be paired with Cincinnati’s all-pro wideout A.J. Green, which should help his development. 

The Bengals will enjoy having a new big WR on the team, who can potentially take over from Green as “the guy” in the future.


Round 3 (#65) – Logan Wilson (LB), Wyoming


I loved seeing Logan Wilson go at the start of round three.  One of my favourite linebackers in the entire draft, he will be a good addition to a Bengals defense in need of some help in the middle of the field. 

Player Profile: Logan Wilson, Linebacker, Wyoming – | Have an ...
Charlie Neibergall / AP

I was happy to see his high level of play over the last few seasons backed up with a great workout at the NFL combine.  Wilson is solid as an outside linebacker – a smart player who reads and reacts to what the offense shows in front of him and gets to the ball at speed. 

There are some good highlights showing that when asked to drop into coverage, his athletic ability gets him up into passing lanes like a defensive back to break up a play or get an interception. 

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Wilson suits the classic linebacker leader role with the versatility to be tried inside the defensive formation, and if he can get to grips with pro schemes quickly, the Bengals have a guy who will see a lot of playing time during his rookie year.


Round 4 (#107) – Akeem Davis-Gaither (LB), Appalachian State


Why draft one linebacker with huge potential, when you can draft two!  Cincinnati followed the Wilson pick by selecting the up-tempo Davis-Gaither to kick off the last day. 

2020 NFL draft: Akeem Davis-Gaither scouting report
Brian Blanco /AP

He is a slim, athletic linebacker who is not going to win with strength, instead was able to make a lot of plays using great burst and body control.  Appalachian State liked to use Davis-Gaither on the outside, close to the line of scrimmage where he could blitz at speed and also disrupt the run game.  His skill-set compliments Wilson’s very well and I can see them working at each end of the LB core. 

Davis-Gaither would have been further up big boards (including mine) if he played more coverage and bulked up – the lack of weight aids his acceleration, but he will need to add more size to be effective in the NFL. 

For this reason, he will likely start on special teams, but his relentless playing style means he could turn into a real fan favourite in 2-3 years.


Round 5 (#147) – Khalid Kareem (DE), Notre Dame


Kareem is a nice addition to the Bengals’ defensive end depth chart, and the fifth round seems good value too.  The defender out of Notre Dame wins his battles in the trenches with strength above anything else; he appears difficult to move around once he is engaged. 

Bengals Select Khalid Kareem: Instant Grade and Analysis
Joe Robbins / Getty

Kareem currently projects as a better run defender, as trying to go all-power off the edge when pass rushing at the next level will result in him being nullified by the top offensive linemen he faces.  Kareem needs to add more variety to his technique when fighting through contact, if he is able to do so soon, he will see playing time in his rookie season. 

For now, he will be a backup in Cincinnati.


Round 6 (#180) – Hakeem Adeniji (OT), Kansas


Having found Joe Burrow a new target in receiver Tee Higgins, Cincinnati decided to begin adding extra protection for their new QB in the form of Adeniji in round six. 

Brian Bahr / Getty

The offensive line was a weak point for the Bengals last season and Adeniji will have the chance to compete for a place at the offensive tackle position.  There was talk pre-draft that teams may try him at guard too, so the coaches will like that versatility. 

He does look undersized to play OT, and his strength as a blocker lies in his movement, which showed up during his athletic combine, rather than power and technique. 

Adeniji needs to develop in those areas in order to be a regular NFL starter.

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Round 7 (#215) – Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue


To end their 2020 draft, the Bengals went back to building at the linebacker positions. Bailey feels like great value in the seventh, although he did fall due to injury concerns. 

2020 NFL Draft: Markus Bailey is ready to hit the ground running
Joe Robbins / Getty

When healthy, he was a playmaker at Purdue with strong tackling skills and the ability to finish very well.  He worked best against the run, so projects as a middle linebacker in the NFL that can attack plays in front of him. 

Bailey will begin life in the pros on special teams but has enough upside to work his way into the defensive lineup.  After the selections of Wilson and Davis-Gaither, picking up Bailey here mean the Bengals have a whole new set of high ceiling linebackers to play with. 

I like the possibility of seeing all three of them playing together in Cincinnati across the defense.


From top to bottom this looks like a strong draft for Cincinnati Bengals fans to get excited about.  The team addressed needs and appeared to find good value players throughout the rounds.  Burrow will be the highlight of the class – every NFL team is under pressure to find a franchise quarterback to build their future around and the Bengals may well now have that box ticked.  With the qualities these players bring, over the next few seasons this could be seen as the draft that the Bengals faithful look back on as the start of some progression for the team.

Celebrating the life of Don Shula (1930 – 2020)

By Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND

I happened to be flicking through a 2000 NFL Record and Fact Book the other day, and as the league looked forward to a new century of statistical achievements I stumbled upon a table that listed head coaches with over 100 career wins. 

Picture credit: Hoylosangeles.com

Atop the table was the former Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula with an all-time leading 328 regular season victories and 347 overall, including playoffs. 

As the league headed into a new millennium Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had just 36 wins, just over 10% of Shula’s total wins. 

Fast forward 20 years, and as we hopefully enter the 2020 NFL season in September, I took another look at the all-time wins for an NFL head coach. 

Whilst Bill Belichick has now moved into third all-time with 273 wins, the man he still trails by 55 games remains Don Shula. If Belichick wins 11 games a season for the next five years, which is going to be a fascinating watch without Tom Brady at the helm, then he will tie Shula’s record at the end of the 2024 regular season. That’s how impressive Shula’s coaching record is in NFL history. 

Picture credit: CREDIT AL DIAZ/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Shula sadly passed away in May 2020, aged 90, with a resume that may be light in Super Bowl trophies, but is undeniably outstanding; 

  • Two Super Bowl wins with the Miami Dolphins (VII and VIII) 
  • An NFL Championship in 1968 with the Baltimore Colts (prior to the NFL/AFL merger) 
  • Four time NFL Coach of the Year (1964, 67, 68 and 72)
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year 1993 
  • A place on the NFL 100th Anniversary all-time team
  • The only coach to go an entire season (plus playoffs) undefeated (1972)
  • 33 seasons coaching in the NFL – 31 of those ending as winning seasons
  • And most importantly the most wins by a coach in NFL history 

The raw numbers say one thing, but it was the man behind the victories that made Don Shula such a remarkable person.

Shula was roaming the Dolphins side-line in 1988 when I attended my first ever NFL game at Wembley Stadium. The Shula led Dolphins won the game against the 49ers thanks in huge part to a single coaching call, a David Woodley bootleg touchdown run in the final period sealing the win. 

By the late 80s Shula had been coaching the Miami Dolphins for 18 full seasons, after moving from the Baltimore Colts in 1970. 


Shula as an NFL player

You have to go back almost a further 20 years to 1951 to mark the occasion that Shula and the NFL first came together. 

Picture caption: morning journal.com

Following a successful college career as a running-back at John Carroll University, a private Jesuit school in Cleveland, Shula got the attention of NFL scouts.

Shula was drafted by the Browns in the 9th round of the 1951 draft, joining a Cleveland team that was the reigning NFL champion and featured Hall of Fame players Otto Graham and Marion Motley. Shula was one of only two rookies the Browns drafted that year to make the Week 1 roster. 

In the NFL Shula was moved to the position of defensive back, and as a rookie had four picks in 12 games. The Browns lost the NFL championship in Shula’s first season, giving him a very early taste for finals.

Despite some military service time in 1952 Shula returned to the Browns, and lost in a second NFL championship game. 

The following season Shula got traded as part of a behemoth 15-player trade with the Baltimore Colts. 1953 also saw Shula complete a Master’s Degree in PE. 

Shula suffered four consecutive losing seasons with the Colts, from 1953-56, which included an eventful 1955 season when Shula had five interceptions and one broken jaw. 

After being released before the start of the 1957 season by the Colts Shula was picked up by the Washington Redskins, where he played his final season as a DB. 


Shula as a head coach

Johnny Unitas and Coach Shula – Picture credit: touchdownactu.com

Shula began his coaching career between 1958 and 1959 with two one-year stints at college teams. He was DB coach at the University of Virginia and then the same job at the University of Kentucky. His college career saw him on teams that won just five games in two seasons. 

In 1960 Detroit Lions head coach George Wilson welcomed Shula back into the NFL family, recruiting him as a defensive backs coach. In three seasons with the Lions (1960-62) Shula was part of a Detroit team that had winning records, somewhat aided by a legendary defensive line called the ‘Fearsome Foursome’.  

1963 saw Shula return to the Baltimore Colts, but this time in his first role as an NFL head coach. Colts owner at the time Carroll Rosenbloom made the bold move to hire Shula, who was aged just 33, and the youngest head coach ever. 

The 1963 Colts went 8-6 under Shula’s leadership on the side-line and Johnny Unitas on the field. The Colts followed with a four game improvement to finish 12-2 in 1964, but they suffered a heart-breaking 27-0 loss to the underdog Cleveland Browns in the NFL championship game. Shula did gain some redemption as he was given the Coach of the Year moniker.

In 1965 the Colts again did well, finishing 10-3-1 but again failed to cap off the season with any silverware after a defeat to the Packers in a playoff contest prior to the NFL Championship. In 1966 the Colts went 9-5, and improved to 11-1-2 in 1967 but failed to gain a playoff berth. Shula won a second Coach of the Year award although he did not reach the final. 

Finally the Colts managed to gain revenge on the Browns and in 1968 they dismantled them in the NFL Championship game before reaching the third ever Super Bowl. 

Shula’s Colts, a heavy favourite against the upstart New York Jets from the AFL, again failed to pick up all the marbles as Joe ‘Willy’ Namath ‘guaranteed’ victory and delivered on his proclamation with a 16-7 win that shook the professional sports world to its core. 

Shula saw out the 1960s with the Colts, with 8 wins in 1969, and a total of 71 wins in seven seasons, averaging over 10 wins a year. 


Shula and the Dolphins

As the 60s faded into the sunset and the 70s rose, like a crocus in the dawning of a new spring, Shula got snapped up by the Miami Dolphins, to become just their second ever head coach. 

What you may not know was the decision by Dolphins owner Joe Robbie to recruit Shula cost his team a first round draft pick. As negotiations occurred before and after the NFLs merger with the AFL it was seen as tampering. 

Shula valued a dominant running game and an intimidating defensive line as the foundations of his winning recipe and those ingredients helped him and the Dolphins to nine winning seasons in the 1970s, along with five AFC East division titles. 

In 1970 Shula led the Dolphins to 10 wins but Miami got dumped out of the playoffs in the divisional round by the Oakland Raiders. For you history buffs the first touchdown scored in the Shula Dolphins era was a 5-yard scramble by QB Bob Griese 

Miami repeated 10 wins in 1971 and won two playoff games before Shula suffered a fifth finals defeat as a player and coach in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI. 

Super Bowl VII – Picture credit: i.imgur.com

Having accrued enough bridesmaid dresses to start a small boutique in a leafy part of Surrey, Shula finally lifted a Super Bowl trophy at the end of the 1972 season, with a team that remains the only one to ever complete an entire NFL season and playoffs without a loss. The 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII cemented Shula’s legacy as a great head coach.

Not to rest on his laurels Shula showed the rest of the NFL that his Dolphins were not in any way lucky, as Miami went 12-2 and won their second Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 24-7 win against the Minnesota Vikings. 

Looking to three-peat  in 1974 the Raiders again proved to be the Dolphins nemesis in the playoffs, and to somewhat of a surprise the Dolphins failed to win a playoff game for the rest of the decade, despite four of their last five seasons of the 1970s culminating in 10 or more regular season wins. 

In the 21st century it’s doubtful Shula would have kept his job going into the next decade, but back in the 80s Shula was seen as untouchable in Miami. 

An inauspicious start to the decade, an 8-8 dud, was followed by five consecutive division wins, and 11 playoff games between 1981 and 1985. 

More heartbreak followed for Shula as his Dolphins lost not one, but two Super Bowls (XVII to the Redskins in 1982 and XIX to the 49ers in 1984). 

It’s not often that you lose a Super Bowl and then the following Spring draft your starting quarterback for the next 17 seasons, but canny Shula snagged Dan Marino at pick 27 in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft. 

Much like the 70s Shula only had one losing season in the entire 1980s, reaching three AFC Championship games. Between 1986 and 1989 the Dolphins ownership stuck with Shula despite no playoffs and no more than eight wins. 

Picture credit: si.com

The 1990s saw Shula game-planning in his fourth decade as an NFL head coach, and in his final six seasons Don won two more division titles, three more playoff games and had one trip to a Conference championship in 1992, where they were outclassed by Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills. 

Shula’s final NFL game was another playoff loss to the Bills, this time in the wild-card round. The Dolphins were 27-0 down after three quarters before scoring 22 in the final period. The final points scored in the Shula era was a Dan Marino two-point conversion to WR O.J. McDuffie.   


Shula legacy

Shula’s 328 regular season victories stand as a record that at the start of the 21st century seemed impossible to ever be beaten, but Patriots Dark Lord Belichick has a chance to eclipse this by the end of the 2020s, but it will be one almighty challenge. 

Picture caption newsday.com

For me I spent over 20 seasons watching Don Shula on tv, adding to his leather faced tan in the Florida sunshine, and I even went to one of his steak houses on a trip to Miami around 10 years ago. I was simply not brave enough to try his 48oz steak challenge, but I clearly recall the menu being painted on an authentic NFL ball. I also remember being served the best French onion soup I have ever eaten. 

The history of the NFL cannot be written without including a jam-packed chapter about Donald Francis Shula, son of Hungarian immigrants, who had to fake his parents signature to play High-School football.

I would normally say rest in peace when an NFL legend passes away, but I hope Shula has a headset on up in heaven and is barking out orders as his team drives down into the red-zone to get good field position for the game-winning field-goal. 

Join me for more blasts from the past @F10YRetro 

Brady, Arians and the system: Match made in heaven or hell?

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

Tom Brady’s decision to move to Tampa Bay and join Bruce Arians had many heads turning when it was announced back in March, as one of the great play-callers in the league was going to get to work with quite possibly the greatest quarterback in the games history.

TB12’s decision to leave his spiritual home in New England and head south to the sweltering heat of Florida, surprised the majority of sports media who had spent a month predicting his imminent arrival in Los Angeles as a Charger.

Now however, with the dust settled, and Brady firmly moved into Derek Jeter’s sprawling mansion, its time to work out whether Arians is going to have to compromise his vertical system for a quarterback creeping towards 45 and a history of papercutting his opponents to death.

In 2019, Brady threw a total of 60 deep pass attempts in the regular season, with a 41.7% completion rate on those passes, which ranks 9th in the league per playerprofiler.com which certainly doesn’t sound like someone who is struggling to dial up the ball deep.

That being said, the season was probably best summed up, in terms of the deep throw, in the New England Patriots home game against the New York Giants in Week 6.

New England Patriots Vs The New York Jets: 15 Key Moments In The ...
Nick Laham – Getty

In that game, Brady made a throw well off the mark down the seam that was picked off at the 13 yard line by Janoris Jenkins less than 10 minutes into the game, only to come back in the 3rd quarter and dial up an almost identical deep ball, this one an absolute dime, over the defence and into the diving hands of Julian Edelman.

The big question is then, has Brady still got the skills to make Arians system tick?


So, what actually is the Bruce Arians system?

Arians offensive system has become known as a sort of air raid. Designed to drive the ball deep over the defence at any opportunity with as many receivers on the field as is possible.

Having spent a lot of his time in the NFL as a QB coach, to some of the best players that the league has to offer like Big Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning, Arians has made his system very stat-friendly to whoever is under centre.

Black and Gold: Don't blame Arians for Steelers' poor offense
Sports Illustrated / Damian Strohmeyer

Known as a “QB-whisperer”, Arians has managed to get the best out of the players he has worked with, and Brady should be no different.

Despite all the benefits to working with Bruce, it does also rely on having someone who can make a five or seven step drop and take constant advantage of man-to-man coverage on the outside with accurately thrown deep-routes.

When Arians took charge in Tampa Bay, everyone could see that he had arguably the best receiving duo in football to run this down-the-field system with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Arians duly took advantage of having such a dynamic combo in his first year, with both players going for over 1100 yards in 2019.

He also loves to have his receivers on the field at any time, in case a deep shot opportunity presents itself, but that means that his guys also have to be ready to block in the running game, something that Evans and Godwin were not shy to do last year.

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They even got Breshad Perriman, former-first rounder and NFL journeyman, to rank fourth in yards per catch last year, as the Buccaneers saw all three of their receivers in the top 13 of that category which clearly shows how Arians is using his weapons to stretch the field as far as possible.

With Jameis Winston at the helm last year, there was no discussion at all whether they could take advantage of those 20+ yard routes with the arm strength, but ultimately, his 30 interceptions bought a close to the Arians and Winston experiment.

Brady will almost certainly be far more reliable with the ball, but whether he has the arm to make the most of Arians system is the real question.


Can Tom still make all the throws?

For Brady, it seems more as though he hasn’t been asked or provided with the weapons to stretch the field vertically since that infamous 2007 season and his time with Randy Moss, rather than his inability to make the throws.

In that unbeaten regular season where Moss average over 93 yards per game, Brady also experienced his first campaign with Wes Welker which led to TB12 registering career highs in almost all passing categories.

Chargers reportedly in hunt for Tom Brady as free-agency frenzy ...
Maddie Meyer / Getty

In that season, with the downfield threat on his side, Brady managed 8.3 yards per attempt, compared to the measly 6.8 that he scored in his final year as a Patriot.

For reference, that ranked sixth lowest in the league in 2019.

Some may say that the numbers come from putting together a “Tom Friendly” system, making use of short routes and throws to a committee of running backs to make up for his lack of physical gifts in the deep passing game.

It seems more likely however, knowing what Bill Belichik is best at, that the team instead chose to go death by a thousand papercuts based on the lack of deep threat that the roster offered last year.

The comings and goings of Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon showed glimpses of what Brady could still give you down the field, but a serious lack of over-the-top weapons hurt any chance the Patriots had of getting back to their own deep-ball system.


Compromising is Key

The answer to making this combination of styles work, is of course going to be some compromising and some progression.

With both Tom Brady and now Rob Gronkowski in Tampa, Arians has all the blueprints to making the most out of Brady’s mental and physical skillsets by including the best that the Patriots system has to offer.

Rob Gronkowski: Tom Brady should 'test out the market' in free agency
Maddie Meyer / Getty

A potential combination of the deadly air attack of Bruce Arians and the suffocating high percentage throws of Tom Brady is rather a terrifying prospect for any defence, and one that will likely catch out many teams this coming year.

And it seems as though these discussions are already in full swing, with the Buccaneers QB coach Clyde Christensen telling the Athletic that: “”I think what we’ll see here (in Tampa Bay) is Bruce’s offense with a Brady influence”

He also went on to say that Brady’s desire to do what is needed to win has already been noticeable.

“We did some good things last year. Tom has been terrific as far as saying, ‘Just tell me what you want to do’.

“He’ll make it better. That’s what the great ones do. He’ll have some great ideas so we’re anxious to get his take on things.”

Clyde Christensen – Buccaneers QB Coach

As fans, all of us are excited to see what the offensive scheme will look like, but the main takeaway should be that Brady can definitely still make all the throws and do so as accurately as any player Bruce Arians has had since he worked with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis when he’s asked to.

However this experiment goes between two of the greats in their respective fields, the marriage between Arians and Brady will be one of the major news stories all year long.

And we can’t wait.