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Cassel: Brady finding that learning an Arians offense isn't so easy

/ by Matt Cassel
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There’s a fundamental difference between the Patriots’ and Buccaneers’ approaches on offense.

There’s no doubt about that. 

The main part of New England's passing game is in that 5-to-15-yard area. They're always really good and efficient with intermediate routes. Bruce Arians historically has been known for the vertical passing game. So, that's an adjustment.

I know from talking with Carson Palmer that Arians' offense is tough to adjust to. In his first season with the Arizona Cardinals under Arians, he threw 24 touchdown passes, but he also threw 22 interceptions, which was a career high for him.

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Carson said it takes time to get used to Arians' system and understand it in its entirety. I know that Tom Brady is working his butt off to understand the offense and I’m sure there are lots of conversations with him and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. But when you've been in the same offensive structure for 20 years, there will need to be adjustments.

The biggest adjustment Carson had to make was in the “hot” game: Which pass-catchers have hot routes and when do they turn "hot?" There are all of these subtleties for each individual player based on where they are and how they run their hot route, if it’s built into the call or not, who they’re "hot" off of and how that affects protection schemes. There's a lot that goes into it.

 

It's different in New England. We took care of our hot route issues by calling out new protections at the line. We'd re-identify certain people, so if we were able to see pre-snap that certain guys were blitzing, we’d re-identify the protection and push everybody to that side so the quarterback didn’t have to throw “hot.”

That's a fundamental difference from a lot of places I’ve been where they say, “If they blitz, throw the hot route.” New England will say, “Let’s make this subtle adjustment. Let’s re-identify a certain linebacker so we push the line in the right direction, and by doing so, we don’t have to throw hot." 

That can often lead to big plays, because the defense vacates a zone or is down one defender, and then you're able to get into the depth of the defense a little easier and pick up big yardage.

In Arians’ offense, the system is less protection-based and more understanding where your "hots" are, trying to get your hot target the ball as quickly as possible and seeing if he can break a tackle.

Arians and Leftwich will need to have a discussion with Brady about what the best approach on offense is and where they're having the most success. You want to play to your player’s strengths. Not to say Tom can’t throw the ball down the field, but they haven’t had a ton of success there.

Deep trouble?

Brady's TD/INT ratio on passes of 20+ yards in 2019
2.3
Brady's TD/INT ratio on passes of 20+ yards in 2020
1.0

So then it’s a question of, do we continue trying to throw the ball down the field and make plays, or do we make subtle adjustments to our scheme that reflect what our quarterback is good at right now?

At the end of the day, Arians is going to take shots. That’s what his offenses do, and it sounds like he’s putting the onus on Tom to make that adjustment.

There probably has to be frustration on both sides. Arians is an open book, and he's not hiding anything when he says, “We need to hit those plays."

That said, Tom Brady is one of the most mentally callous people I’ve ever been around. So all of this discussion about, “He can’t do this or that" -- he just looks at that as a challenge.

He'll work at making the necessary adjustments and do everything in his power to be more productive next week.