No, the Tennessee Titans‘ 2020 season would not have ended any differently if Tom Brady had been the team’s starting quarterback.
The Titans were rumored to be interested in the six-time Super-Bowl champ when he was a free agent during the offseason, but they settled on giving QB Ryan Tannehill, then also a free agent, a four-year extension.
Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who, thanks in large part to Brady’s contributions, are set to play in the Super Bowl.
To believe that the outcome of the Titans’ 2020 season would have been drastically different with Brady at the helm, though, would be to ignore the success of Tannehill and the defense’s disastrous output.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT TANNEHILL
Which one of you dummies is gonna be first on here with the “Titans would’ve gone to the Super Bowl with Brady” take
— Buck Reising😷 (@BuckReising) January 24, 2021
Tannehill was outstanding for the Titans in 2020. The 32-year-old had the best season of his career, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and accounting for 40 touchdowns.
He led a Titans offense that produced a 2,000-yard rusher and nearly two 1,000-yard receivers while finishing in the top five in terms of both total yards and total points.
Even with Brady at the helm, it would be hard to imagine a better season for the Titans’ offense.
The Titans’ big problem in 2020 was the other side of the ball, on which Brady’s presence would have had little effect.
Sacks and third-down stops were nearly impossible to come by for the Titans’ defense in 2020, leading to the entire unit continually looking to be a step behind opposing offenses.
While things got better for the defense in the Titans’ one playoff game—they held QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to just 20 points—it’s fair to guess that a meeting with any of the AFC’s powerhouses, such as Buffalo or Kansas City, would have been an ugly affair.
STILL ONE AND DONE?
The one fair argument in defense of the “the Titans would have been better off with Brady” premise is that the Titans’ offense scored just 13 points in the team’s playoff loss to Baltimore. It’s not unreasonable to expect that Brady would have been able to do more than that.
However, that argument fails to account for the fact that the Titans’ primary offensive problems against Baltimore had nothing to do with QB play. Rather, a poor gameplan and personnel problems did the team in.
Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who was tremendous throughout the regular season, turned in a dud in the playoffs. He continually rammed RB Derrick Henry into the Ravens’ stone wall of a defensive line, led by Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams.
The problem with Smith’s handling of the game wasn’t that Henry got a lot of carries. He’s the Titans’ best player, and he certainly deserved plenty of opportunities.
But the Titans failed to take advantage in the passing game of the fact that the Ravens were loading the box and selling out to stop Henry—that was the key issue.
Additionally, general manager Jon Robinson’s failure to provide the Titans with quality wide receiver depth really hurt them against the Ravens.
Because of injuries to starters Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, the likes of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Cameron Batson and Kalif Raymond played major roles on offense. Not even Brady could turn those guys into viable options.
On top of all of this, Brady simply is not a fit for the style of offense that made the Titans successful both in 2020 and the second half of 2019.
He doesn’t have the athleticism necessary to effectively run bootlegs and other play-action concepts the require the QB to roll around the edge—plays that are major staples of the Titans’ offense.
The 2020 Titans would have easily been more entertaining and compelling with Brady at quarterback, but the course of the season wouldn’t have been terribly different.
Brady is a truly transformative figure and one of the most impactful athletes to ever play a professional sport anywhere in the world, and he’s had a remarkable first season with Tampa Bay.
But, unless he came as a package deal with a non-horrific defense and some better receivers, the 2020 Titans likely still would have been one-and-done with him under center.
- Brady image: Benny Sieu / USA Today
- Vrabel image: George Walker IV / The Tennessean via pool