Steven Senne/Associated Press
Do you know what the team once nicknamed the Tampa Bay Yuccaneers just became?
A legitimate Super Bowl contender.
This isn’t a hot take. This isn’t tomfoolery. This is about a team with the NFL’s second-longest active playoff drought agreeing to sign Tom Brady, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington first reported. That’s how good Brady is, even at the age of 42.
Don’t let that number fool you. There is still a championship or two left in Brady’s magical arm. In fact, Brady might have increased the odds that he gets another by joining a team that may be better than the one he just left.
“It wasn’t just the division that changed overnight; the whole NFL did,” one NFC head coach said. “He’s going to be a nightmare for everyone he plays.
“I’m guessing he’ll want to prove that the Patriots won because of him. That’s a dangerous thing for the rest of us.”
No, the Buccaneers aren’t the Patriots, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the makings of a great team.
Tampa Bay’s talent didn’t always show in its 7-9 record last season. But look more closely. The Bucs lost six of those games by single digits. And in those six losses, quarterback Jameis Winston turned the ball over an astounding 12 times. Last season, Winston became the first player in league history with 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
Brady had 29 interceptions the past four yearstotal.
Last year, Julian Edelman was the only Patriots wide receiver who had more than 400 receiving yards. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have possibly the NFL’s best receiver duo in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, who finished with 2,490 combined receiving yards.
In football, it isn’t always about schemes or play calls. Many times, it’s about whether my guy can beat your guy, and the Bucs have at least two of those beat-your-ass guys. Combine that with Brady’s accuracy, and the offense could be devastating.
Having an underrated offensive genius in head coach Bruce Arians, a good front office and a defense that is far better than people realize will help, too.
So should the change in NFL scenery.
Simply put, the NFC does not have the heavyweights Brady faced in the AFC. The 49ers and Saints are excellent, but come playoff time, he won’t be confronted with the prospect of having to get through Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson every year.
But none of those factors carry as much potential as Brady himself, even at his advanced football age.
Even at the age of 42, Tom Brady’s competitiveness should elevate a Buccaneers team that lost six games last season by less than 10 points.Elise Amendola/Associated Press/Associated Press
His will is as potent as his arm and mind. It’s his greatest weapon and is perhaps the biggest reason why the Patriots, like the Buccaneers, might be in for a whiplash-inducing turnaround.
True, there’s a long way to go from mid-March to next February, but getting there should be a lot of fun.
The schedule is full of huge namesbattles with Drew Brees and the Saints, Mahomes and the Chiefs, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Brady’s move is an astounding moment involving an incredible player who just left a franchise he helped build into a mega-champion.
Sure, Brady isn’t perfect, but he remains as close to a perfect football player as we’ve ever seen.
And even if he isn’t that anymore, he still is good enough to turn a team as non-threatening as the Buccaneersthe damn Buccaneers!into a Super Bowl team.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
Steven Senne/Associated Press