TB, say hello to TB.
Tom Brady, the only NFL quarterback with six Super Bowl rings, is headed to Tampa Bay.
The longtime New England Patriots superstar has agreed in principle to a deal with the Buccaneers, ending months of speculation Tuesday with a final flurry of activity.
In the morning, he posted statements on social media saying it was time to start a new career chapter, that his time in New England was over, and thanking the organization and its fans.
By the afternoon, amid chatter the Chargers still might be in play, it was clear he was headed for Tampa. Multiple sources confirmed to The Times that’s where he will sign today, when the free-agency period begins at 1 p.m. PDT.
In an Instagram post, Brady, 42, thanked his teammates, coach Bill Belichick and assistants, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft and family.
“I want to say thank you for the past 20 years of my life and the daily commitment to winning and creating a winning culture built on great values,” wrote Brady. “I am grateful for all you have taught me.”
A sixth-round selection in the 2000 draft, Brady is the first quarterback and fourth player overall to play 20 seasons with one franchise. An 18-year captain, he led the Patriots to the playoffs 17 times, including a record nine Super Bowl appearances. In addition to his six rings, he was named Super Bowl MVP four times.
Brady is heading to Tampa to play for coach Bruce Arians, who has both quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and offensive consultant Tom Moore on his staff. All three have coached future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who similarly changed franchises late in his career — from Indianapolis to Denver — and reached two Super Bowls with the Broncos, winning one.
By all accounts and his past behavior, Brady’s decision did not hinge on money. The indications are he wanted to be as close as possible to his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and family in New York, and wanted the chance to win.
Even with Drew Brees lurking in New Orleans, the NFC South is more winnable for the Buccaneers than the AFC West is for the Chargers, who were winless in their division last season. Tampa Bay finished 7-9 last season, with quarterback Jameis Winston compiling 33 touchdown passes and an NFL-high 30 interceptions.
As for the offensive line, Tampa Bay is decent, with its only pressing need at right tackle. The Buccaneers have the 14th pick in this year’s draft and enough salary-cap space to maneuver, even after signing Brady. They need a pass-catching running back, which they can pick up in the draft or free agency. The receiving tandem of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin far exceeds anything Brady has had in New England, dating to the Randy Moss era.
Tampa Bay has a star-studded defense that doesn’t always play up to its capabilities but has the potential to be consistently outstanding.
It might have been enticing to Brady that the freewheeling Arians is the antithesis of Belichick, who is wound tighter than a pinpoint spiral.
The Buccaneers have gone 12 years without making the playoffs, but Brady could be the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl on his home field, as the game will be in Tampa next February.
The Chargers and Raiders were both in the Brady derby at one point and, coincidentally, the Buccaneers will play both teams this season. They will face the Chargers in Tampa, and Raiders in Las Vegas — a game that will pit the offensive wits of Brady and Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Those two occupy a place in NFL history on either side of the “Tuck Rule” game, a bitter playoff defeat by Gruden’s Raiders and a seminal moment in the rise of the Patriots’ dynasty. (Gruden also coached the Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl victory.)
Some Tampa Bay fans won’t exhale until the Brady deal is signed, sealed and delivered. No franchise has been left at the altar by stars more than the Buccaneers.
That goes for both coaches and players who came oh-so-close to donning the throwback orange and white before their resolve melted like a Creamsicle in the sun.
Bo Jackson was drafted No. 1 overall by the Buccaneers in 1986 but refused to play for them after a flight to their headquarters cost him his college baseball eligibility. Green Bay came so close to trading Brett Favre there, it led to one of those embarrassing “Dewey Defeats Truman” headlines in a Florida paper that was sure the Packers great was on the way.
Steve Spurrier almost coached Tampa Bay. So did Jimmy Johnson, Steve Mariucci, Chip Kelly, and Bill Parcells — twice.
So for ardent and seasoned Buccaneers backers, while others got caught up in the Brady hysteria, their enthusiasm was tempered by history. It’s not done until it’s done.