There were the comments after losses that caught the attention of everyone wondering how a 68-year-old, outspoken and sometimes cranky head coach would respond to mishaps by a 43-year-old quarterback who throughout his brilliant career was rarely, if ever, publicly criticized by the only NFL head coach he previously ever had.
And, in turn, how would the veteran quarterback react to hearing his mistakes pointed out in such painstaking detail?
Bruce Arians, meet Tom Brady. Tom Brady, here’s Bruce Arians.
“You know me, I don’t think about it, I just answer questions honestly,” Arians said Tuesday. “If someone asks me why he threw an interception I’ll tell ‘em the truth. That is not calling him out. That’s just answering a question honestly. I really don’t know any other way.
“Tom and I have had a great relationship since Day One and it’s just gotten better and better. He wants to be coached hard. Other people do things differently. He knew what he was getting into when he joined this one.”
Yes, Brady knew what he was getting into. Arians in his days as an offensive assistant and coordinator and his four years as the Cardinals head coach pulled no punches and was always hardest on his quarterbacks. No one is more demanding than Bill Belichick, but he keeps his negative comments in-house. For 20 years, Brady operated under that protection.
There were rough moments on the field for Arians, Brady and the Buccaneers, who were 7-5 after back-to-back losses to the Rams and Chiefs. They have not lost a game since late November, though, and as a wild-card NFC playoff entrant won three consecutive road games to get to Super Bowl 2021, where they will get another shot at the Chiefs.
Arians and Brady worked things out.
“I think the biggest thing with Tom is he is just one of the guys,” Arians said. “Until you’re with a guy of his stature you really don’t know his personality on a daily basis. He is just fantastically one of the guys. He does such a great job working with younger and older players, it’s like having another coach on the field and it’s been fantastic.”
When the Bucs back in May pulled off one of the most impactful free-agent signings in league history, Arians admits he instantly thought about getting to and winning a Super Bowl with Brady.
“Yes, I did,” Arians said. “I thought that was the missing piece. Yeah, I thought it was possible and it was our goal. Because I knew how good a football team we had and what we were missing. What we were missing is that belief that we were good enough.”
There were, if not growing pains, certainly getting-to-know-you pains. Arians, reacting to a September loss to the Saints in which Brady tossed an interception that was returned for a touchdown, said “He knew he didn’t play very well. It’s not what he expects from himself nor do we expect.” Arians called a Brady interception against the Rams “just a poor decision. He did not read the coverage properly and threw a poor ball.”
Brady took it all, did not get into a war of words, and now Arians is in his first Super Bowl as a head coach. Brady is in his 10th as a player, his first without Belichick.
Consider Arians a true believer.
“I think the great quarterbacks all have it,” Arians said. “They have the ability to will themselves on other people to make sure everybody has bought into the cause, and the cause is the ring, putting a championship in your trophy case. Tom brings that attitude every single day and it permeates throughout the entire locker room.”