Tom Brady, because he is the GOAT, albeit a GOAT who will be 43 when NFL games begin again, will create the kind of buzz in Tampa that only Jon Gruden could bring during the Bucs’ Super Bowl 37 season. Brady and colorful quote machine Bruce Arians will be compelling theater and must-watch television.
He will love playing for the bold and brash Arians, a mad scientist, because every quarterback does, as well as for offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. He will feel liberated being away from Belichick. Derek Jeter, who owns a 32,000-square-foot English-style waterfront manor in Tampa’s Davis Islands, can help him and Gisele Bundchen shop for a mansion.
Brady will enjoy throwing to Mike Evans, who might remind him a bit of Randy Moss, and the emerging Chris Godwin, and a pair of tight ends he wishes he had last season once Rob Gronkowski retired. And if the Bucs can sign running back Melvin Gordon to be Brady’s James White, all the better.
He will show his new teammates what a commitment to excellence looks like, how a champion professional goes about his business.
He will lift the franchise.
But just how high can he lift it?
Can’t you just imagine Brady exulting as he hoists an unprecedented seventh Lombardi Trophy after becoming the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl in his home stadium? One last fairy-tale vignette in a fairy-tale career.
Of course you can. Especially those of you rooting for Brady to stick it to Bill Belichick and prove to his doubters that he can win one without the GOAT coach.
No Supe for you, Tom.
Hear me out:
We know that Brady is not your everyday 43-year-old quarterback. But he will be a 43-year-old quarterback on Aug. 3. Brady became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl when he beat the Rams in Super Bowl 52. No 43-year-old quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl.
The Road to Super Bowl 55 is littered with potholes and land mines. With the Chargers, Brady would have had to navigate past Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs twice a year. But the NFC is filled with more contenders than the AFC: the 49ers, the Seahawks, the Saints, the Rams, the Packers, the Vikings, the Eagles and the Cowboys.
And Brady’s home schedule at Raymond James Stadium is forbidding: Packers, Chiefs, Chargers, Rams, Vikings, Saints. With the Panthers rebuilding and the Falcons a mess, the NFC South as a whole isn’t necessarily better than the AFC East that Brady and Bill Belichick relentlessly ran roughshod over, but he never had to overcome a threat as formidable as the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Saints. Better beat the Giants on the road, no?
For all the talk about Brady’s shiny new toys, the Bucs’ offensive line is average at both tackle positions. This is not ideal for a system that will require Brady to hold the ball longer to launch an Arians nuclear downfield attack.
The Bucs finished 7-9 last season and do not have a winning culture. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2007. Gruden won their lone Super Bowl. The 0-14 expansion Bucs are a team that lives in infamy. When head coach John McKay was asked at some point after another disaster during the so-called Yucks era what he thought of his team’s execution, he said: “I’m in favor of it.” Brady brings with him the Patriots Way. He will be asked to change the Bucs Way overnight.
On the flip side, Todd Bowles’ defense should be encouraging to Brady. Sack champion Shaq Barrett (19.5) and Jason Pierre-Paul are back, and the Bucs fielded the 11th-best run defense of the last four decades. “The growth in the secondary gives me so much hope because our Front 7 was so solid all year,” Arians said when the season ended. Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions didn’t exactly keep the defense fresh. Brady has thrown 29 INTs over the last four seasons combined.
“I’m instantly thinking we’re going to be a contender,” Barrett told the Tampa Bay Times. “We’re going to be a playoff contender. And that’s all I wanted, was to play winning football again and try to get a championship. So that’s a step in the right direction.”
No argument there. And the addition of a seventh playoff team in each conference per the new CBA will absolutely enhance the Bucs’ chances of ending their playoff drought.
But the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 will complicate matters for rookie head coaches such as Joe Judge, and for a 43-year-old quarterback needing to acclimate himself to his new coaches and teammates. Brady has been there, done that, but not for the Bucs and not for Arians.
Peyton Manning got to the Super Bowl in his second year as a Bronco but lost. He won his second Super Bowl in his fourth season in Denver and rode triumphantly off into the sunset at age 39. Joe Montana as a Chief? Almost. Brett Favre as a Viking? Almost. Kurt Warner as a Cardinal? Almost. Never mind about John Unitas in San Diego and Joe Namath in Los Angeles.
Arians came out of a brief retirement last season for One Last Hurrah. He has had three separate cancer health scares. He turns 68 in October. He would become the oldest coach, two years older than Belichick when he beat the Rams, to win a Super Bowl. If Brady and Belichick were the Odd Couple, Brady and Arians are The Old Couple. They are certain to be sentimental favorites. They’ll make the playoffs together. But the Bucs stop there.