From the Bleachers: Brady Bucs On

by Baily Deeter | 3/31/20 2:00am

In my February 24 column, I complained about the lack of exciting sporting events this time of year as I pondered hobbies to pass the time. Little did I know that March was about to take that one step further. 

March 2020 — one of those rare months in history that seems to last an entire decade — has dramatically changed everyone’s lives in ways that we couldn’t have seen coming. 

My goal in writing these columns is to cover sports in a lighthearted manner, and I’ll continue to work toward that standard. But before I try to take your minds off this mess, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my condolences to those who have lost a loved one during this difficult time. It may be a minor inconvenience to have no live basketball to watch, but it’s nothing compared to the severe disruption that so many have gone through as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It’s a stressful time to be alive; there’s no way around it. But sometimes a distraction is necessary to provide an escape from the onslaught of tragic news.  

In times like these, my natural inclination is to turn to sports. However, it wasn’t long before essentially every major sporting event scheduled to take place in the near future was suspended. It started with the likes of the Ivy League tournament and spring seasons going under, and quickly expanded to March Madness and the NBA and MLB seasons. 

But one crucial series of events wasn’t canceled: NFL free agency. In a January column, after the embarrassment of having my two Super Bowl teams lose in the first round, I changed the subject by babbling on about how exciting this NFL offseason would be. The playoffs were dumb anyways. The Patriots and Saints should have made the Super Bowl.  

I can’t say I saw it playing out the way it did, but it certainly provided some big news and some helpful distractions. In that column, I discussed the absurd possibility of Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots, which I never saw coming. Brady is tailor-made for New England’s system, and I wasn’t sure if the soon-to-be 43-year-old was bold enough to leave the only team he’s ever played for.

Suddenly, Brady announced that he would be leaving Foxborough. I was shocked. 

Alright, so Brady left New England. But surely he would ink a deal with a relevant team.

The Los Angeles Chargers, perhaps? His TB12 business would have thrived with the Hollywood attention. Maybe he would have stepped in under center for America’s team? The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl in 24 years, giving Brady a perfect opportunity to serve asbe the franchise’s savior.  

Then, it was rumored that the Brady sweepstakes would boil down to the Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I was sure he would choose California, otherwise known as the best Golden State. I must have sent the text message, “Gisele would never live in Tampa Bay lol” to 200 people. I didn’t care about the football aspect of the decision (which is probably where I went wrong). Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just didn’t compute. 

It turns out I should stop predicting events that have anything to do with the New England Patriots. Or maybe even with football in general.  

If I had ranked all 32 teams in order of likelihood of Brady signing with them, Tampa Bay might have been in my bottom five. They haven’t been good enough to be relevant since their 2002 Super Bowl championship, but they haven’t been bad enough to be relentlessly mocked Cleveland Browns-style. They’ve literally been the most irrelevant team of the last 15 years. Yet here they are, trotting out the biggest name in football as their new starting quarterback. 

Now, from a football perspective, the move makes perfect sense. But in my defense, who would have thought that would matter to Brady? Everyone? Alright, fair play. 

Brady spent his entire career with a coaching legend by his side in Bill Belichick. Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians isn’t quite as accomplished, but he’s no slouch himself. He’s worked alongside Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, and he’s known for captaining high-octane offenses. 

Last season, Brady’s receiving corps left a lot to be desired. Tampa Bay, however, has two of the best receivers in football in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Other than the Randy Moss/Wes Welker tandem that Brady enjoyed in 2007 and 2009, this is the best receiving duo that number 12 has ever had. 

Tampa Bay went 7-9 last season, largely due to the incompetence of Brady’s predecessor. Jameis Winston is the most enigmatic man in football. He led the NFL in passing yards last season and commanded the league’s third-best scoring offense (tied with New Orleans), but he also threw an absurd 30 interceptions. There were plenty of good moments, but there were plenty more bad ones. 

While Brady’s age may be a concern, it’s hard to imagine the Buccaneers being worse with him under center. They’re well-coached, have plenty of offensive talent and actually have a solid defense. They may have finished 29th in scoring defense, but much of that was due to Winston’s turnovers. They finished 15th in total yardage allowed and should fare better next season due to the upgrade at quarterback. 

Now, I don’t see Tampa Bay as a Super Bowl contender. The New Orleans Saints continue to find ridiculous ways to lose in the playoffs, but they are arguably the best team in football and will be the team to beat in the NFC South. Brady feasted on the woeful AFC East for years, but he doesn’t have the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick or Sam Darnold to bully anymore. The real world isn’t quite as forgiving. 

Additionally, while Arians is a brilliant offensive mind, his success has consistently come from deep passing attacks. The quick game has always been Brady’s style, especially as he has aged. Arians will undoubtedly adapt to Brady’s style of play, but it may not be a match made in heaven. 

To conclude, Tom Brady (and Gisele!) are now members of the retirement home that is Tampa Bay, Florida. Now, if I do the “Florida man” challenge, there’s a chance that my search result will be about Tom Brady, not the Florida man who “called 911 to get out of his fast food shift.” Isn't that something? 

And somehow, in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s one of the least surprising happenings of the past month.