There was a time — February to be precise — when Tom Brady was retiring and decided it was time to anoint the NFL’s next great quarterback. And he chose Lamar Jackson.
Brady posted on Instagram a 2019 photo of himself and the Baltimore Ravens quarterback with the message “You’re Next” on it.
Well, things have changed since February.
Brady is not retired.
Instead of passing the mantle, he’s still busy passing the football.
And “You’re Next” can take on a more literal meaning now that Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens Thursday night.
Tom Brady Shows Lamar Jackson Love
“I just think very highly of him,” Brady said of Jackson Tuesday in explaining the meaning behind his message. “I think he’s got a great future.”
Jackson this week said he saw Brady’s post and, sure, it was flattering.
“Of course, of course,” Jackson said. “From a Hall of Fame quarterback – like I said, the ‘G.O.A.T. [greatest of all time] – of course. It means a lot.
“But I would say, hopefully, I’m next to win the Super Bowl. He’s got seven of them, so, hopefully, that’s what I’m next to – that’s what I was hoping.”
All civilities between them aside, both Brady and Jackson have serious work to handle on Thursday night.
Can Brady Fix The Offense By Thursday?
Brady is currently leading an offense that is tied for 26th in the NFL in scoring at 17.7 points per game. The Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans are the two other teams averaging 17.7 points, so you know things are bad. Only the Rams, Colts, Steelers and Broncos have been worse.
The Buccaneers have scored only one touchdown in the last two games combined. And they have just a couple of days and no full practice time to improve.
So can it improve in time for a Thursday night game?
Long pause by Brady during a press conference after this question:
“I mean, like I said, I hope we go play better and execute well and do our jobs at a high level,” Brady answered. “That’s obviously the expectation for all of us, that’s what we’re working toward this week.”
That was not a “yes.”
That was eyebrow raising.
Lamar Jackson And Ravens Know Blitz Is Coming
Jackson made the point this week he’s not playing against Brady. He’s playing against the Buccaneers defense. So much for the big neon billing.
Anyway, that should concern the Ravens quarterback because the Buccaneers have blitzed 31.9 percent of opponent dropbacks this season and that is fifth-highest in the league.
And the reason that is particularly important for Jackson is the last time the Ravens played on a Thursday night game was Nov. 11 of last year when they lost to the Miami Dolphins, 22-10. In that game, the Dolphins blitzed Jackson into confusion and utter ineffectiveness.
This week, like that fateful week a year ago, Jackson didn’t have the full week to prepare for a defense’s blitz packages.
Jackson Facing Different Blitz Packages This Season
“[It’s] a quick turnaround,” Jackson said. “It’s only probably like two or three days before you’re traveling and doing all the necessary stuff to get to your opponent – and we’re going away again.”
Unlike last season, and earlier this season, the Ravens have been seeing a different brand of blitzing. It’s not been the all-out zero blitz that sends everyone not covering a receiver.
“They’ve been bringing different fire-zone blitzes and stuff like that,” Jackson said. “The big emphasis before was the cover-zero blitzes. Now they’re bringing fire-zone blitzes. So, we’ve just got to be prepared for it and just execute. It’s not hard to do.”
Brady Trying To Avoid Snapping 20-Year-Old Streak
Although Brady and Jackson aren’t directly facing each other, Jackson has an opportunity to play a role in something that last happened exactly 20 years ago. On October 27, 2002, Brady’s Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos. It was the fourth-straight loss for Brady and the team. That was the only three-game losing streak in Brady’s career.
Since then, Brady’s teams are 15-0 following back-to-back losses. For what it’s worth, Lamar Jackson has never lost three straight starts in his young career.
The Brady message of “You’re Next” will definitely have a different meaning on Thursday night.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero