The Tom Brady Effect: Improving the offensive line

Tristan Wirfs, Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Tristan Wirfs, Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Tom Brady
Tom Brady, Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The answer is a resounding yes.

There’s the more obvious stuff like calling protections at the line, keying incoming blitzers, and changing play calls which help out linemen immensely. The less talked about differences that can help a line are simply the time between the snap and throw, and the way a quarterback moves in the pocket.

TT (Time to Throw) is backed by statistics and the eye test. Brady was 9th in the league with 2.57 TT while Jameis Winston was 2.77 TT in 2019, which this year would have tied Brady for 26th. That’s a big difference even if two-tenths of a second doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s about seven percent faster on average. That little bit faster can often be the difference between a sack, a pressure, or a “clean pocket”. Things like throwing the ball away, and just releasing faster not clutching the ball will make an offensive line appear better than they otherwise would have.

The way a quarterback moves in the pocket has a massive effect on perceived line play as well. Tackles specifically can go from looking like an all-pro to looking replacement level. A perfect example is Patrick Mahomes. His big-play potential and basically every highlight reel throw come with him taking huge 10 to 15-yard dropbacks. This makes sense for him and only him because it allows him to abuse the unfair amount of arm talent he possesses. The problem is that it inadvertently makes his tackles look inept.

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Eric Fisher and Mike Remmers are one of the best tackle duos in the league, but if you don’t step up/move around in the pocket when defensive ends come screaming off the edge, there is no right move. If they push them to the inside they lose all leverage on the rusher and likely get obliterated. If you block “correctly” and get them to the outside suddenly they’re running straight into Mahomes who is 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This was part of the reason (not all obviously) that the backup tackles for Kansas City looked like they were made of balsa wood. Without the talent and athleticism of Fisher there, that’s what Mahomes set them up to look like.

This brings us to Winston and Brady. It was obvious for anyone who was paying attention that while in 2019 the Bucs tackles weren’t as talented on one side as 2020, Winston was running himself into sacks. The boneheaded plays running into the incoming pressure, running out of the pocket prematurely, and being completely unaware of where the rush was caused as many sacks as the tackles gave up on their own. Brady’s biggest talent difference isn’t his football IQ, his arm talent, or his leadership, it’s his pocket feet. He’s the best in the league at understanding and avoiding the rush, and has been for his entire career.

Tom Brady brought a lot of things to Tampa this year that helped FedEx them straight to the Super Bowl in year one. Probably the most underrated was squeezing every last drop of production out of the offensive line.

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