By: Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida – Bucs Beat Writer
Driven by the challenge to succeed and a passion for the game, free agent Tom Brady has signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beginning with the 2020 season. This marks the end of an era and a 20-year run with the New England Patriots; an era where he led the Patriots to nine AFC Championships and Super Bowl appearances, and six Super Bowl wins.
For someone who holds the NFL record for the longest time playing quarterback for a single franchise, one wonders why he would not just hang up the cleats and ride his success into a comfortable retirement.
The answer became clear this week during the Buccaneers introductory conference call, with Brady explaining, “I think life continues to change for all of us and having the opportunity to continue to play football and lead a team, I love doing it, I still love doing it today.” It is not just an opportunity for him to play football, but an opportunity to stay mentally sharp, work on his craft, and step up to a new challenge.
During the call, Brady strategically dodged questions about what would have made him stay with the Patriots and how he came to the final decision to join the Buccaneers, instead sticking to a theme of his desire and excitement to take on a new challenge in front of him.
It is no secret someone who has had his level of success would be highly sought after by most teams in the NFL. Brady brings a long list of experience and skills to the table – and in this case, onto the field. He did not have to go looking for this opportunity – the Buccaneers made it clear, if Brady became available, they were going to jump on it.
According to Coach Arians, the team “looked at everyone who might be available in the quarterback position, really never dreaming Tom would be available but if he was he would be number one; he can do everything we need him to do, but really he has that leadership ability.”
The challenge will be how Brady translates those technical skills in a new setting, with different players, coaches, owners and fans. For one of the oldest quarterbacks in the league, this will be one of his greatest tests to date.
Even Coach Arians’ no risk it, no biscuit mentality will be a test. Brady recognizes “everyone has different styles and philosophies how they call things.” He added his goal is “to get the ball to the guys who are open and can do something with it. There are some really talented players on this offense with unique skill sets.”
To accomplish this, Brady plans to have a busy off season, engulfing himself in the new program at Tampa Bay and learning their way of doing things. He recognizes there are tactical aspects he needs to get up to speed on, including learning new terminology and the body language of the players.
Brady described, “that’s where all my time and energy is going to be focused on, and learning my teammates like Mike [Evans], Chris [Godwin], O.J. [Howard] and Cam [Brate] . . . the offensive line, very talented group.”
His task also includes learning the players and teams outside of the Buccaneers organization. Brady has only played in NFC South division once every four years, which means he also needs to learn the players and teams he faces every Sunday this fall. There is a lot of ground for him to make up, and he is excited to get started.
Situationally, one thing that has made the process more difficult is the current pandemic. Brady explained, “logistical things are happening for everyone. Everyone is going through life in a different way right now; everyone seems to be in different locations, but the important thing is everyone is trying to find a way to make it work, to adjust and adapt to what is happening.”
While aspects of their off season may have changed, that has not stopped the Bucs new quarterback from figuring out what he needs to learn, staying in contact with the team, and using technology to get to know each other.
On a personal level, Brady relates to many of us when having to move to a new city and start a new job. “I’m not 25 years old where you can pack a suitcase and go.” He has a family with three kids and is uprooting his entire life. “But that’s life, it’s what you do when you have that opportunity, I’m no different than what so many people have gone through.”
While it might not be just about joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady’s decision to sign on for two more years is about stepping up to the challenge of repeating the success he proved year after year on the field with the Patriots.
For anyone who nears the end of a career, it is hard to walk away. That is no less true for a legendary NFL quarterback. To leave behind the possibility of one more win, one more championship, and one more run at the Super Bowl, retirement is not yet an option. Brady recognizes that he still loves everything about the game and is not ready to give it up.
And for now, with the new opportunity in front of him to prove to us why he is the greatest of all time, he is excited to get to work. As Tom Brady puts it, “the only way to start is to start doing it.”