NFL Tampa lifted Vince Lombardi Trophy last Sunday
For just the second time in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ franchise history, they can claim to be world champions, with Tom Brady having guided them to glory in last Sunday’s Super Bowl win over the Kansas City Chiefs, but just how did Brady help build this title-winning team?
Russell Wilson spoke on Tuesday of his desire to become more involved in the team-building process with the Seattle Seahawks, whilst Deshaun Watson is known to also be unhappy with the decisions made by the Houston Texans’ hierarchy over the last 12 months.
To veterans of the sport that may seem like an alien concept but it’s one which has been present in the NBA for years ,and now with Brady doing something similar in Tampa this could be a sliding doors moment in the NFL.
LeBron James arrived at the Los Angeles Lakers and instantly used his reputation and contact book to set about building a team around him.
It didn’t happen immediately, but eventually stars like Anthony Davis and Danny Green were brought in, and after a championship victory he was then influential in the recruitment of Marc Gasol.
Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t join the Los Angeles Clippers unless they signed Paul George at the same time, which they did.
Brady was allowed a similar privilege upon swapping Boston for Tampa, and he set about building an offense of his dreams.
The first call was to long-time friend Rob Gronkowski, who was the defending 24/7 champion with WWE and was enjoying his retirement after a glorious career with the New England Patriots.
As soon as he heard Brady was moving to a new environment, a somewhat more relaxed one that Bill Belichick’s Death Star in Foxborough, Gronkowski ended his retirement and signed with the Bucs. He ended the season by scoring two touchdowns in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs.
Key defensive pieces were signed prior to Brady‘s arrival, but Ndamukong Suh, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul would prove to be difference makers for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
This defensive stability, which marked the Bucs‘ last success in 2003, allowed Brady to build his offense freely, and what we saw next was the arrival of Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette.
Two players that had been cut adrift by the NFL for different reasons: Brown for his off-field issues and Fournette for his inability to live up to his pre-draft hype with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Brady had briefly recruited Brown to the Patriots in the 2019 season, hoping his struggles would allow him to arrive in New England with a very low salary.
They played one game together before another incident saw the Patriots cut ties with Brown, leaving him a free agent.
Whilst still having an imminent court case hanging over his head, the former Steeler was helped in Tampa. He made him feel at home and we started to see results on the field.
Brown would be only a rotation receiving option behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but again he scored a decisive touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville released Fournette ahead of the 2020 season, and he has been on a one-man mission to prove them wrong ever since.
That determination was shown in his brute force display against Kansas City’s stunned defence, as he too ran in a touchdown in the Super Bowl, completing the Brady hat-trick.
He never had the freedom to build an offense in New England, because Belichick controlled all personnel movement – and with good reason – but Tampa Bay were able to offer him something different.
All of Brady‘s previous successes have come with bit-part offenses with lower draft picks performing above expectation.
He was searching for a new venture where he could shape his own destiny. General manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians gave Brady the freedom to do just that, and he has paid them back with a recruitment drive which showed its full value on Super Bowl Sunday.