As the rumors and rumblings mounted several months ago that the greatest quarterback in NFL history was about to sign a contract with the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I wrote that, “Putting Tom Brady on the Bucs would be like hanging the Mona Lisa in Room 217 of the Red Roof Inn.”
Who knew then that Brady would instead turn the Red Roof Inn into the ornate main gallery at the Louvre? He has created an atmosphere of class and culture in a franchise where portraits of Velvet Elvis, Dogs Playing Poker and Jameis Winston Groping Female Uber Drivers once hung in the lobby.
“His leadership is beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” Tampa Bay Bucs coach Bruce Arians says.
And his legacy is two victories away from beyond anything we’ve ever seen in any team-sport athlete, including the great Michael Jordan. Brady is already the NFL’s GOAT — Greatest Of All Time — but if he can take the once-moribund Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship, he will be the lion of all GOATs.
It’s certainly not going to be easy because Brady and the Bucs will have to go on the road again this weekend and beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game and then face either the red-hot Buffalo Bills or the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. But let me ask you this: If you had to bet your life on one of the four remaining teams winning the Super Bowl, would you bet against Tom Brady?
If so, I hope to see you on the other side.
This might seem like hyperbole, but winning just one Super Bowl with the Bucs would be equal to the six he won in New England under the iconic Bill Belichick. If the 43-year-old Brady — 40-freaking-3!!! — could come to Tampa Bay and win a Super Bowl in one season with the miserable Bucs, it would be akin to Jordan leaving the Chicago Bulls at age 38 and winning the NBA championship with the hapless Washington Wizards. Except, we know now, Jordan went to the Wizards, never posted a winning record and never made it to the playoffs.
If — and I realize this is a big if — if Brady wins a Super Bowl in his first year in Tampa Bay, it will be the most amazing feat of his career and unprecedented in the modern history of professional football. Never has an NFL quarterback carried two different franchises to Super Bowl victories.
(Wait a minute, Bianchi, you idiot, what about Peyton Manning with the Colts and the Broncos?!)
Don’t call me an idiot!!! You’re not listening. I said never has any quarterback in the NFL carried two different franchises to Super Bowl victories. Yes, the Broncos did win a Super Bowl during Manning’s last season in Denver, but they won it in spite of Manning not because of him. Manning was an old, washed-up, noodle-armed QB when the Broncos won the title. He didn’t carry Denver to the Super Bowl championship; Denver’s defense carried Manning to the Super Bowl championship.
Here’s all you need to know: Manning threw for 2,249 yards in his final season with nine TD passes and 17 interceptions. Meanwhile, Brady, the ageless wonder, is currently having one of his best statistical seasons. He’s thrown for 44 TDs (the most he’s had since 2007 when he led the Patriots to an undefeated regular season) with 12 picks and the third-most passing yards in the league during the regular season.
And it’s not just what he’s done on the field; look what he’s done in the locker room. One simple question: Since Brady lobbied for the Bucs to sign Antonio Brown, have you heard one peep from the troubled, tempestuous wide receiver on social media or otherwise? The fact that Brady has kept Brown out of handcuffs and off the police blotter might be his most impressive accomplishment this season.
Brown, once the best wide receiver in football before he froze his feet and wrecked his reputation in Pittsburgh, Oakland and New England, wanted to come to Tampa Bay to see if Brady could help him resurrect his career. The same with Leonard Fournette, the malcontent running back who was waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then, of course, there’s Rob Gronkowski, the injury-prone superstar tight end who came out of retirement just so he could play with Brady again.
Even Arians, the old quarterback whisperer, has had a renaissance with Brady.
“Consummate leader,” Arians said of his QB, per NBC Sports’ Peter King. “Has been all year. Got the air of confidence that permeates through our team every day. I allow him to be himself. Like, New England didn’t allow him to coach. I allow him to coach. I just sit back sometimes and watch.”
Yes, that was Arians taking a shot at Belichick, but guess what? He’s right. As Brady gets ready to start in his 14th conference championship game this weekend for the right to go to his 10th Super Bowl, Belichick and the Patriots are sitting home after a mundane 7-9 season. The age-old argument about who was more important to the Patriots’ dynasty — Brady or Belichick — has been settled ... at least for now.
If you don’t believe it, just look at the Mona Lisa.
She is smiling bigger than ever.
As is Tom Brady himself.
Why is it, after all these years, neither one of them ever seems to grow old?