DAN BICKLEY

Bucs’ Tom Brady has already won divorce with Bill Belichick, Patriots

Jan 24, 2021, 6:45 PM

(AP Photo/Matt Ludtke, AP Photo/David J. Phillip)...

(AP Photo/Matt Ludtke, AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/Matt Ludtke, AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Super Bowl is almost two weeks away. Some things have already been decided:

Tom Brady > Bill Belichick

This is our new reality following Championship Sunday in the NFL. Brady is back in the Super Bowl, in his first season unchained from the venerable Patriots head coach.

It’s a powerful statement from Brady, whose tenure in Tampa began when he accidentally walked into the wrong house. It was a risky maneuver for a 43-year-old quarterback, joining a new team and sharing a division with the Saints. Especially when happy endings and aging stars rarely go together in the NFL.

But Brady rose to the occasion on Sunday, leading the Buccaneers to victory at Lambeau Field. His poise and his leadership remain off the charts, and a Super Bowl title puts his legacy into orbit.

Meanwhile, Belichick is watching from home.

Bruce Arians > Steve Keim

Arians is back on the biggest stage in sports, three years after a mutual parting and no-hassle divorce from the Cardinals. The 68-year-old head coach is somewhat diminished, hidden behind a face shield, which covers the mask he wears under his nose. He is no longer a fashionista for men in their mid-60’s and cool uncles everywhere. But his offense is still great fun to watch; he made this alliance with Brady work out in the end; and he will add welcome content to the Super Bowl.

After taking an ill-fitted job in the broadcast booth, Arians returned to the sidelines with roughly the same coaching staff he had in Arizona. He’s 21-14 in two seasons with Tampa. Obviously, Brady makes a huge difference. But Arians just won three road games to earn the first legitimate home-field Super Bowl in NFL history. He deserves this moment.

In his wake, the Cardinals are 16-31 with zero playoff appearances, with Keim ranking among the worst of his peers in the NFL draft.

Going for it on 4th down > Punting

The Packers joined the list of teams that shriveled in key moments, punting away their season by choosing to give up the ball on fourth down, effectively banking on a series of events that never transpired.

Kliff Kingsbury started this trend in Week 17 against the Rams, and ever since, head coaches that have gone soft in pressure situations have paid a big price, a list that includes Mike Tomlin, Pete Carroll, Mike Vrabel and Matt LaFleur.

Tampa > Phoenix

As sports towns, the Valley shares a connection with Tampa–St. Petersburg. We’re almost like identical twins. The Diamondbacks and Rays are expansion partners, entering Major League Baseball at the same time. Both cities are hotbeds for elderly fans, sun-baked tourists, golfers and spring training baseball. But that’s where the comparisons end in 2021.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Rays won 40 of 60 games in a shortened season, reaching the World Series for the second time in franchise history; the Lightning won the Stanley Cup; and now the Buccaneers are playing for their second Super Bowl title.

There are the best of times for Tampa, our professional sibling. And it makes you wonder when Valley fans will ever catch a break.

Fans > Empty stadiums

Not sure it’s safe. Not sure it’s smart. But you could feel the presence of limited fans during Sunday’s games in Green Bay and Kansas City, reminding us of all we’ve lost and what’s just around the corner.

Dan Bickley

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Bucs’ Tom Brady has already won divorce with Bill Belichick, Patriots