Tom Brady joining Bruce Arians headlines tremendous NFL offseason
There is a rush to label everything in sports. To present microwaved titles without real context.
But this truly might be the greatest offseason in history, and the NFL draft is still weeks away.
It couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Cardinals are early winners. They strengthened their defense and added one of the best wide receivers in the game. They found a homecoming for Devon Kennard and a linebacker who can cover tight ends in space (De’Vondre Campbell). We are also the benefactors of the most lopsided trade of the century, a twist of fortune you don’t expect in Arizona.
When Todd Gurley was released by the Rams on Thursday, it further amplified the great Houston heist.
Gurley is 25 years old with 42 touchdowns in the past three seasons. David Johnson is 28 years old with nine touchdowns in the past three seasons. Gurley has knee issues but rushed for 142 more yards than Johnson had rushing and receiving combined in 2019.
Yet Gurley was untradeable. And somehow Steve Keim turned his diminished, semi-retired, overpaid running back into DeAndre Hopkins.
At a time when sports fans are clinging to their jobs in fear, Gurley laughed off his dismissal on Twitter. That can’t bode well for what’s happening in Los Angeles.
Philip Rivers has switched teams. Teddy Bridgewater replaced Cam Newton. Devonta Freeman and Melvin Gordon remain unemployed, furthering the descent of the Great American Running Back. And these headlines aren’t even close to touching the biggest story of the offseason.
That belongs to Bruce Arians, the Quarterback Whisperer who just landed the biggest fish in free agency, saddling up with the greatest quarterback of all time. How improbable?
Tom Brady attends the Met Gala. The city of Tampa wears polyester.
Brady has six Super Bowl rings. The Buccaneers have six playoff wins.
Brady is married to a supermodel and famously threw a yacht-to-yacht pass while cruising in Monaco. The Buccaneers have a fake pirate ship inside their stadium that doesn’t even float. They have fans who wear white socks with black shoes.
The NFL has seen many awkward endings to iconic careers, from Joe Montana to Brett Favre to Emmitt Smith. The league does not churn out happy endings. Brady is merely the latest to try his luck, to end a great career on his terms.
On the scale of unbecoming endings, this might top them all. This could be worse than Michael Jordan in a Wizards uniform.
Tampa is a soulless place fueled by strip clubs, causeways, partygoers and Cuban cigars. As a NFL franchise, the Bucs have rarely met Brady’s standards. A team that looks always better on paper than it does on the field. And in the end, the unlikely marriage is a tribute to Arians.
Clearly, Brady didn’t have a surplus of options in free agency. Aging greatness rarely does. Tennessee was just a smokescreen. New England was not an option. Belichick was clearly moving on, and Robert Kraft had already saved Brady once, forcing his head coach to trade Jimmy Garoppolo. It wasn’t going to happen again.
In the end, Brady chose Tampa based on the tone and demeanor of the head coach. Because Arians is everything that Belichick is not.
Arians wants a cocktail in his hand by sunset. Belichick chants, “No Days Off!” at a Super Bowl victory parade.
Arians coaches hard and hugs them later. Belichick coaches them hard and hugs them never.
The separation of Belichick-Brady is the greatest grudge match since Ali-Frazier, at the top of the NFL marquee. It’s like the rivalry that followed the separation of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Who can write the greatest song without the other?
You only hope it all plays out on schedule in 2020, before Brady gets any older. When the season commences, Brady must square off against Drew Brees (twice), Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. He’ll play a road game in his least favorite stadium (Denver).
Even better, Brady is now aligned with the loose-lipped, shoot-from-the-hip, Cool Uncle Bruce. There are rumors that other players suddenly want in on Brady’s Vengeance Tour, just to be part of the energy. It will be anything but the No Fun League in Tampa, where Arians might create more of a stir with the Buccaneers than he ever did in the Valley.
And that’s saying something.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.