TAMPA, Fla. – We don’t need to tabulate the mail-in ballots. We don’t need a recount. We are ready to declare Tom Brady and the Buccaneers a Super Bowl contender. They’re 6-2 at the midway point of the season and are going into a bona fide playoff-implications showdown on Sunday night against Drew Brees and the Saints. It’s all in front of Brady and the Bucs, potentially there for the taking, a chance to put Tampa back on the map as Titletown after the Rays dropped the ball.
You know how we know the Bucs are ready to contend? No, it’s not Brady and the Bucs offense. It’s not the Bucs defense, ranked third in the NFL. No, the most obvious sign is that Brady and his family have started taking in boarders.
I wonder if Antonio Brown is going to take out the garbage, or just make some more.
Brown, the talented but trouble wideout, has not just landed with the Bucs, signing an incentive-laden contract. No, it’s better than that. Brown is living in Brady’s Davis Islands mansion, which actually belongs to Derek Jeter. I wonder if Tom lost his deposit. Meanwhile, Gisele is making pancakes for everybody.
The Brady Bunch.
This will be a story for the ages if Brady and his housemate Sherpa guide the Bucs to the mountaintop. It’s hard not to start thinking in those terms. Yes, the Bucs have been a hot-cold commodity – a bad loss at Chicago, a tremendous win over Green Bay, a nail-biter at the awful Giants
But here they are, poised to play in the kind of game that a Bucs team hasn’t played in forever. Understand that the Bucs have been 6-2 at only two other points in franchise history, in 1979, when they made everyone forget 0-26 and eventually reached the NFC title game, and 2002, when they went all the way.
The Brady Bunch has that feel. The stockpiling of talent has been incessant, as if Brady and Bucs coach Bruce Arians had the munchies and were stalking the grocery aisles. Rob Gronkowski, check. Leonard Fournette, check. LeSean McCoy, check.
Who haven’t the Bucs picked up? Who hasn’t Brady pointed at and said, “I want one of those.”?
The arrival of Brown, a veritable headache machine, pushes it to the limit. This is a guy who threatened to retire when the Raiders and the league wouldn’t let him wear his old helmet, who called his general manger a “cracker,” and who, by the way, was accused of sexual misconduct, earning a half-season suspension which is now at an end, just in time for the Saints game.
Do the Bucs really need this problem child?
Brown said, “I’m just super grateful for this opportunity, excited to be around the guys and everyone here. And I’m excited to fit in here and do what’s best for us to win – whatever that entails.”
He added, “Tom is my boy.” He’s encouraging, always inspiring, he brings out the best in people around him.”
This is the acid test.
Let’s remember that Brady wanted Brown in New England, where Brown lasted exactly one game.
Arians, who has a fine record as a forward thinker (female coaches), took a bigger leap in expressing confidence in Brown.
“I think when you judge people – is it an allegation? There’s no conviction of anything. I think for people that want to doubt the decision – I defend my record on all those type of things. I don’t have a problem with it and it’s not all just about winning.”
Uh, yes, it is.
Antonio Brown has problems. He can also turn a two-yard catch into a 50-yard gain. From 2010 through 2018, Brown caught the most footballs in the NFL.
That’s who the Bucs hope they are getting. They are rolling the dice. They are taking a chance. They are going for it.
Besides, that’s what Tom wants.
“I’ve seen him as a player and I’ve gotten to know him as a person,” Brady said of Brown.
Hey, man, it’s your house, and it’s a big house. Maybe Brown will keep to the east wing. The guess here is that he is now part of the family. I think he’s doing school pick-up this week. He’s part of the Brady Bunch. They’re out to bring another championship to Tampa. They’re all business. But they’ll squeeze in some fun. Maybe a team outing. They could go to the zoo.
Wait. They’re already at the zoo. The Bucs Zoo.
This better be worth the price of admission.