Like Ricky Bobby’s dad once said in the movie Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got Tom Brady, the greatest NFL quarterback of all time.
The Bucs finished first in the Brady Sweepstakes.
Not New England, which won six Super Bowls with Brady at the helm over the past 20 years.
Patriots QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images
Not Los Angeles, where the Chargers made a big-time push to land Brady and lure him and his TB12 brand to Hollywood with a contract around $30 million – similar to what the Bucs offered.
Tampa Bay won.
Little ol’ Tampa beat big L.A.
Kudos to the Glazers for being willing to open up the checkbook, and to general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians for making the sales pitch of their lives to land the NFL’s biggest free agent since Peyton Manning hit free agency years ago.
The Bucs are in “win-now” mode, in case you haven’t noticed.
The writing was on the wall that the Patriots were ready to turn the page on Brady. New England’s aging roster was exposed in a Week 17 home loss to Miami, followed by a devastating home playoff loss to Tennessee.
Head coach Bill Belichick knew he needed a rebuild the roster with a youth movement, and that wouldn’t happen with a 43-year old quarterback – even if he was the greatest QB of all-time.
The thing is, Belichick didn’t want to be the guy who fired Brady.
So he gobbled up a lot of the team’s precious cap space with deals for defensive back Devin McCourty, Pro Bowl special teams ace Matthew Slater and using the franchise tag for guard Joe Thuney.
I can imagine Belichick recently telling Brady: “Sorry, Tom. We can only offer about $20 million, and we won’t have a lot of money left over to get you weapons, so …”
That way, Brady leaves New England – rather than Belichick giving Brady the boot.
With the Patriots out of the way, the Bucs looked like front-runners to land TB12, until those pesky Chargers got all charged up and made Brady a very competitive offer.
Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
But the 4-12 Chargers with an even worse offensive line than the Bucs have, and a pair of 1,000-yard wide receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams that are good, but not in the class of Pro Bowlers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin?
Sorry L.A., advantage Tampa Bay.
For a second, it looked like the Bucs might get the silver medal and be the runner-up again, but what’s new?
It’s happened before in Tampa Bay.
Heisman Trophy-winning running back Bo Jackson chose baseball over the Bucs after being the top pick of the 1986 NFL Draft.
Four NFL Hall of Famers were drafted in the first five picks of the 1989 NFL Draft – quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Barry Sanders, edge rusher Derrick Thomas and cornerback Deion “Prime Time” Sanders – while the Bucs drafted sixth overall that year. Tampa Bay was stuck with outside linebacker Broderick Thomas, who was nicknamed “The Sandman.”
Us old-timers remember legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells leaving the Bucs at the altar not once, but twice – in 1992 and 2002. Parcells even jilted two Tampa Bay owners in Hugh Culverhouse and Malcolm Glazer, and to Bucs teams with two different looks – the old orange creamsicles in the 1990s, and the red and pewter pirate flag-adorned Buccaneers in the 2000s.
The Bucs were a midnight phone call away from getting the legendary Brett Favre in a trade with Green Bay before those pesky Jets got interested in 2008 and broke Jon Gruden’s heart.
Close, but no cigar.
Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
Would Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen, choose L.A. over Tampa Bay? Brady has about two or three years left before he retires and becomes a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He and his wife are thinking about the TB12 brand and life after football. I get that little ol’ small market Tampa Bay can’t offer what L.A. can in that arena.
Yet the Bradys will make even more money playing in Florida where there is zero state income tax, as opposed to having to pay 12.3 percent in income tax in a grossly mismanaged, bankrupt state, having to navigate around a growing homeless and drug-riddled community out in California.
Sorry, as someone who has now lived in Florida for more than half my life I consider myself a Floridian and had to get that off my chest. Now I feel better.
The Bradys will get an extra $3.69 million each year that Brady would play in Florida over California due to the state income tax relief – and they get to stay on the East Coast and in the Eastern time zone. Turns out there were a lot of pluses in Tampa Bay’s favor – in addition to having Todd Bowles defense on the sidelines waiting to help out.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images
It seems like about half of the Bucs fan base wanted Brady – or anyone other than Jameis Winston – and the other half wanted Winston or a different quarterback. Someone not about to be 43 and in the obvious twilight of his career.
Well in the end, it’s going to be Brady and not Winston.
Crazy to think that the Bucs will still be the only NFL franchise not to have signed a quarterback they drafted to a second contract. That’s a wild stat, as Winston moves on elsewhere – likely for a backup role after a 5,109-yard, 33-touchdown season.
It’s nice to see that the Bucs can have nice things for a change.
For a franchise and a fan base that hasn’t been to the postseason since Jon Gruden was the head coach in 2007 – that’s five head coaches ago – why not sign the all-time winningest quarterback in NFL regular season and playoff history?
The Brady effect won’t just be throwing far fewer interceptions than Winston did. Winston led the league with 30 INTs last year while Brady only threw eight in 2019 – and has just 29 over the last four seasons combined.
The Brady effect will be showing a young, talented football team how to win. The only thing the Bucs know how to do well is beat themselves, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay’s defense has a pair of Super Bowl winners in the recently re-signed bookend edge rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. Brady now gives the Bucs’ offensive huddle a true superstar with gravitas, clout and plenty of playoff experience.
It’s been a while since the Bucs really had some star power. Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp brought it in the the 1990s, while Simeon Rice, Keyshawn Johnson and Gruden brought it in the early 2000s.
Brady’s star will shine even brighter in Tampa Bay because of his national appeal. Watch the Bucs become a national team in 2020 with several nationally televised games, and play in a sold out Raymond James Stadium, while we wait to see if Brady can pull a Manning and win a Super Bowl with a second team.
Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images
Oh, by the way, the Super Bowl was supposed to be in Los Angeles this year before it moved to Tampa Bay.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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