Make no mistake. Tom Brady’s exercise of his free agency rights had everything to do with him underscoring his worth. His first choice was to stay with the Patriots, but he had a compensation package in mind, and he no longer wanted to compromise as he routinely did since he turned professional in 2000. With owner Robert Kraft letting head coach Bill Belichick make the final decision, however, the Patriot Way took precedence, thereby making the remuneration he sought untenable in light of his advancing age and seemingly declining skills. For the franchise, sense and sensibility ruled over sentiment and sentimentality.
Needless to say, Brady’s departure became cast in stone as soon as he found a place to land. He took his set of demands to potential suitors, and, by all indications, two proved willing to check all the boxes he wanted. With his minimum requirements met, he then took into account the opportunities for success his options presented. And, all other things being equal, the Buccaneers appeared to have the most valued assets in hand to help him achieve mutually beneficial targets. Theirs may be fairly categorized as a marriage of convenience, but it’s likewise one with the best risk-return ratio.
For the Buccaneers, really, Brady’s inclusion is a no-brainer. They went at him hard for a good number of reasons, not least of which had been their inability to escape mediocrity in recent memory. They last made the playoffs in 2007, with their 9-7 slate good for a wild-card stint that they promptly lost. In the interim, they had two winning records and missed the postseason throughout. Which meant that they needed to do something — anything — to prop up their fortunes and engage an increasingly disappointed fan base. And it didn’t help that erstwhile quarterback Jameis Winston was a feast-or-famine type who put up sterling passing lines along with historically abhorrent interception rates.
Under the circumstances, Brady’s arrival makes the Buccaneers better — much, much better. His style doesn’t seem to mesh with head coach Bruce Arians’ predilection for the long ball, but their smarts and willingness to meet halfway should have them steadily improving over time. And who knows? With no small measure of good fortune, they may yet crowd the Saints for the top spot in the National Football Conference South Division. They have marked weaknesses, and will require some offseason lineup tinkering to improve their talent base. On the other hand, he covers up a lot of shortcomings with his unique blend of skill and experience.
Can the Buccaneers contend for the Super Bowl? Absolutely. Will they? That’s the bigger query with an answer that depends largely on Brady’s continued capacity to defy Father Time. Motivation will not be a problem. He’s bent on proving he can go places without Belichick by his side. His legacy is secure, but he’ll certainly add to its luster if he manages to show all and sundry that he makes partnerships work no matter the hurdles, and that he put in more than his fair share in the most productive one in National Football League history.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.