Within a two-week span, Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Matt Ryan were traded by their respective teams for a net difference of a dozen draft picks. It was March quarterback madness.
For Bruce Arians, Tom Brady was always the apple of his eye. But if the GOAT was going to remain retired, the Buccaneers were prepared to go all-in on acquiring another starter.
The process, in fact, had already begun for general manager Jason Licht.
“We had started to uncover as many stones as we possibly could,” Arians told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche during an interview at the Annual League Meeting. “We would’ve turned over every stone. … Jason did his calls. We were in the midst of all that stuff when Tom decided to come back and thank God we could say, ‘No thanks, brother. We’re out of it.'”
With Brady, of course, the Bucs couldn’t be more in title contention. The 15-time Pro Bowler is coming off one of his better seasons, finishing second in MVP voting. He’s also surely upset by how his team closed out last season, rallying from 24 points down to the Rams in the NFC Divisional Round only to lose on a field goal at the buzzer.
How Brady played during the season, and how he felt after it, left his coach hopeful that he’d have a change of heart. Forty days after announcing he’d retired, Brady was officially back.
“The way he played last year, it might have been his best year ever,” Arians said. “There’s no drop off — Week 16, playoffs, he was on fire. And there won’t be any drop off this year. Coming after the season I said, ‘Tom, how do you feel?’ He said, ‘This is the best physically I’ve felt in years after a season.’ So I say, ‘OK, we’ll keep that light on for sure, brother.'”
While many within the league never believed Brady was truly done, rumors surfaced that a rift had emerged between him and Arians, including reports that the 44-year-old was looking to play elsewhere in 2022. The mere mention of it all makes Arians laugh .
“I have no clue where it comes from,” he said. “Somebody’s got to write a story every day about something. Tom and I have a great relationship. Even during the retirement: ‘Where you at?’ ‘I’m in Italy.’ ‘How’s it going?’ ‘Got the kids over here.’ You know, just checking on him. I can’t get him back on the golf course because he’s traveling too much, so I can’t win enough money off of him.”
In actuality, Brady’s return to Tampa Bay prompted those of cornerback Carlton Davis and center Ryan Jensen, and influenced the addition of wideout Russell Gage, guard Shaq Mason and defensive back Logan Ryan. With their seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in tow, the Bucs again have just one objective for the upcoming season.
“They know what Tom brings and we got a shot for another ring. And that’s it. That’s bottom line,” Arians said. “It’s all about the ring again. Not reloading, not seeing who’s going to do this, who’s going to do that, how we are we going to fit this guy in. Everybody knows their role again right now. …
“The smile really hasn’t come off my face. I’m drinking too much, but other than that it’s been a constant celebration. It was huge for us to have Tom back.”