The coronavirus pandemic seems to have delayed Tom Brady’s renaissance. He was mediocre in his first game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, throwing two interceptions and looking generally out-of-synch in a 34-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Brady will be OK, though. He, Bruce Arians and the teams’ pass-catchers will almost certainly figure something out. It’s just that we’re probably not going to see Brady immediately tearing up defenses as if they were old pictures of him and Bill Belichick.

There originally was the sense that — with all that firepower in Tampa — Brady would have a season comparable to what Peyton Manning did in 2013 — when he threw for a career-high 5,477 yards in his second season with the Denver Broncos.

Visions of a similarly brilliant second-act for Brady weren’t hard to conjure heading into the season: He would be throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy and more. Even if it wasn’t on par with Manning in 2013, then maybe it might rival Manning in 2012, his first year in Denver (4,659 passing yards on 68.6 completion percentage, the best of his career). That kind of production would be one of Brady’s best seasons ever, which would come at a mature age of 43 (compared to Manning at 36).

But that’s not happening. Not right away and probably not ever.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Week 1 loss to the Saints reaffirmed that Brady needs to develop rapport with his teammates. He needs perfect timing to make accurate throws (something he has not done well in recent years, compiling a Completion Percentage Over Expectation of -3.1 last season, eighth-worst among eligible QBs.).

Brady is exacting — he has to be at this stage of his career — and accustomed to having his way. His obsessive nature about when and where a receiver should place his foot in a break on a slant route was often too much for both veterans and rookies in New England. But when he clicked with someone, that pass-catcher was a made member of the Patriots family. That took time, though. A lot of time. These Buccaneers receivers had an abbreviated period to build rapport with Brady, a process that typically takes months (and sometimes years, in the case of a player like Julian Edelman). None of these players had ever played with Brady with the exception of Gronk, who had been out of football for a year and definitely played like it.

So it made perfect sense Brady and Mike Evans, who was nursing a hamstring injury, were all out of sorts. It made sense that a slot receiver named Scotty Miller — who? — looked like Brady’s best friend. And it made sense that the Buccaneers offense, for the most part, was not good.

On Brady’s first interception, the quarterback thought the receiver was going to do something different than what he did. (And, yes, Bruce Arian at first blamed Brady but ultimately realized the fault was on Evans.) After that throw, Brady and Evans didn’t link up again until the final minutes of the game for a garbage-time touchdown. It was a revealing case study of the offense.

This offense badly needed time and reps this offseason. Because of COVID-19, these players got far less time together than they should have. So Brady is going to struggle to start the season. It may be ugly for a while, and you can count on Arians to point out how ugly it is, like he’s done Sunday and Monday. Brady will be fine with the public humiliation. Like he said on Twitter, he’s used to the criticism under Bill Belichick.

The Buccaneers should still make the playoffs. Brady should still put together a respectable season. And they’ll get their act together in time for the playoffs when they might just get a third crack at the Saints in the NFC championship. But it may not be until midseason — or maybe even the postseason — when Brady really gets going with his Buccaneers teammates.

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