We’re wired to be binary with fantasy and life analysis. Zero-sum game. Winners and losers. Something goes up, something comes down.
But in some instances, everybody benefits. A win-win can be attainable. Heck, sometimes we get that rare win-win-win.
On my ledger, the Tom Brady news qualifies as a universal win. There’s something for everybody.
Patriots and Buccaneers have different standards and goals
For two decades, the Patriots have been the NFL’s most enduring dynasty. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers haven’t seen the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a playoff game since Super Bowl 37.
So the goals in each organization are different. New England’s coming off a divisional title and a first-round playoff loss — and that’s a disappointment, a stained season, a “What went wrong?” year.
If Tampa gets that far in 2020, the city might throw a parade. It’s been 13 years since the Bucs savored a playoff appearance. Tampa’s franchise is screaming to be relevant again.
New England no longer has the offensive infrastructure to support a quarterback heading into his age-43 season. Oh, the Pats tried in 2019, they threw so many darts — and everything missed. N’Keal Harry was a first-round bust amidst a year of juicy first-round breakouts. Antonio Brown lasted one game, Josh Gordon got through six. Mohamed Sanu was an expensive acquisition, quickly injured. The tight end position was a mess.
Only Julian Edelman, at age 33, was a reliable downfield option.
The Patriots also had an uneven year on the offensive line, and after the season, OL coaching wizard Dante Scarnecchia (perhaps the best offensive line coach in history) retired. And New England doesn’t hold the type of resources needed to significantly revamp this offense.
So you can’t blame the Patriots for moving on from Brady before his age-43 season. They need to find their quarterback of the future, perhaps in the 2020 or 2021 draft, maybe on the pro market. They need to circle the wagons, rebuild, see if Bill Belichick can assemble one more dynamic championship contender. Even if Brady had returned to Foxboro, the Patriots at best were a medium longshot in the loaded AFC. Their roster can’t match up with Baltimore or Kansas City, and several other teams are in New England’s neighborhood.
Tampa’s skill players can elevate an aging Brady
The Bucs don’t have a perfect roster by any means, but their offensive skill players jump off the page. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are undeniable stars. O.J. Howard has been an inconsistent tight end, but he’s still loaded with raw skill and pedigree. Cameron Brate is a useful player. Breshad Perriman, if retained, is a splash play waiting to happen.
Brady knows he’s back in the toy department.
The 2019 Buccaneers put the fun in dysfunctional. Jameis Winston led the league in passing yards — and interceptions. Tampa had plenty of chunk plays, but too many negative ones. Brady can certainly help in that latter area; his best remaining skill is his ability to avoid turnovers and mistakes.
Maybe Brady can’t throw the deep ball anymore, but it will be fun to see him try. Bruce Arians loves an open passing game. Evans and Godwin can win against any defender or coverage.
No horse in the race? Embrace the weirdness
From a general NFL standpoint, the Brady move adds fresh intrigue. For one, new matchups. Brady gets two dates with Drew Brees in 2020, two draws against Matt Ryan. He’ll also play Aaron Rodgers in 2020, and Patrick Mahomes is on the schedule. And if you want the New England rematch, that will come in 2021.
No one is going to miss Tom Brady playing six AFC East games. We got that for two decades.
Will Brady look strange in the Buccaneers uniform? Of course. And that’s a great thing. Weird, ironic uniforms are to be celebrated. Maybe Brady will immediately smash like Peyton Manning did in Denver; perhaps he’ll be very good but not great like Joe Montana was in Kansas City; maybe this will be a messy final scene, like Joe Namath in Los Angeles or Jerry Rice in Seattle. Maybe he’ll have a Brett Favre/Minnesota ending; electric for a year, horrendous after that. It’s doesn’t really matter. It’s new, it’s different, it’s unusual, and no matter your rooting interests, you want to watch.
As a lifetime Patriots fan, I’m ready to move on. As an unabashed Brady fan, I’m excited for the next scene. And as an NFL writer and historian, I’ve got my popcorn ready.