@Steve: With TMax, which has a very long straight line portion to its characteristic curve and almost no shoulder, all exposure does is slide the density range up or down that straight line portion. My epiphany was in realizing that no matter where I put that image's density range on the curve, the paper I print on can't hold anywhere near the density range that the film can. What development does is lengthen or shorten that density range. In my experience, two separate parameters. Yes, you can expose a negative so much that you lose control in development and vice versa, but we're never that extreme.
But now you've got me reexamining my working methods, because almost all of my negatives of late will only print at about Grade 2-1/2 (G3 Azo with water bath). I will try backing off on exposure a little and expanding development a little to see if I can't come closer to a Grade 2 standard.
BTW, the last time I visited the photographer you mentioned I saw some of his new work and it was jaw dropping. I'd never seen finer prints. I asked him what his new secret was, because something had definitely changed and he said "thinner negatives". He was forced to slide the density range of his negatives down the curve and expand development a little because his film is so fogged. (Base fog around density .5). While his density range is the same as it has always been, the overall density is lower.