Tom Brady lays out challenge of working with rookie WRs

/ by Darren Hartwell
Presented By Nissan

Tom Brady is exceptional at making those around him better, but he's had his ups and downs with first-year wide receivers.

New England Patriots fans can attest to that, as rookie wideouts like Chad Jackson, Aaron Dobson and most recently N'Keal Harry failed to get on the same page with Brady.

But Brady is getting another change to work with another young receiver in Tampa Bay Buccaneers fourth-round draft pick Jaelon Darden, and the 44-year-old quarterback is diving headfirst into the challenge.

"He is such an unbelievable coach to younger players," Bucs head coach Bruce Arians told NBC Sports' Peter King of Brady. "Not just on the field, but off the field, with TB12 and some of the things that he does to teach young players how to do it the right way."

Related: Brady jokes about difference between Vrabel as coach and player

According to Brady, there's plenty of teaching involved when it comes to rookie pass-catchers.

"It’s really hard for a rookie receiver in the NFL," Brady told King. "Everything is new. You have a play, then I change the play, then I look at you and I change the route, then I see a defense that we didn’t necessarily talk about. Every play I’m like, hey this is what I’m thinking. And you gotta have someone who can take the critique."

Brady also stressed the importance of quarterback and wide receiver having a close relationship built on trust.

"No one can fix it except the quarterback and receiver. Doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I’m throwing the ball. You’re catching it. We gotta literally have a bond, a connection between us. You gotta think what I’m thinking all the time. The more you talk and the more you do it, the better it is. The longer I play with guys, the better it is.


"... But after a year or two, there’s still things. There’s so many variables that you gotta get right. We’re playing a chess game."

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Brady has been working closely with Darden, who said the seven-time Super Bowl champion made an effort to build that QB-WR bond right away.

"The first time I met him after the draft, I was star-struck," Darden told King. "He said, ‘Hey Jaelon. Happy to have you on the team. I studied your film.’ What an honor. Then he took time to teach me how to win against coverages. Like, 'When the corner plays you here, I’m gonna have the ball at this exact spot.' "

Arians has given Brady full autonomy to act as a de facto coach for younger players, and if Darden can find success this season where past Patriots rookies couldn't, the Bucs' system deserves some credit in helping Brady maximize the talent around him.