Sometime after 4:25 Sunday afternoon, 43-year-old Tom Brady will trot off the sideline at the Superdome, and tremors will be felt in the Tampa Bay area and as far away as Foxborough, Mass., and all across New England.
Hearts will be racing in Tampa, because Brady’s mere presence has filled to the brim a long-suffering franchise with hope and Super Bowl ambition.
Welcome to TOMpa Bay.
Where for the first time this century, Tom Brady wears No. 12 for someone other than the Patriots, for someone other than Bill Belichick.
First GOAT to a seventh Super Bowl championship wins.
When Brady enters his new huddle, Belichick may have finished his postgame press conference. He is certain to be asked what it was like to have as his quarterback Cam Newton, and not Brady, for the first time since Week 2 of the 2001 season, when Mo Lewis knocked Drew Bledsoe to the hospital then to the bench for good.
Belichick might be asked if he intends to watch Brady against the Saints, and you can safely assume that he would rather wear a green and white “Take Flight Jets” hoodie than take a stab at that one.
Is there more pressure on Brady or on Belichick?
Troy Aikman will be calling Brady versus Drew Brees for Fox.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure on either one of them,” Aikman said. “I think when you’ve been to Super Bowls, I think that kind of goes out the window. I’ve always asked the question, ‘Who’s benefitted more from the other?’ Did Belichick benefit more from Brady or did Brady benefit more from Belichick? And I can make an argument for both sides. But I do know — and I had this when I played for Jimmy [Johnson] — is [that] for 20 years, and I say this with all due respect, all Tom had to do was show up in your building, and concentrate on playing football and being a great teammate and leader. … So what’s left for each of those guys is probably more for themselves to prove that they can win without the other.”
Brady wanted to be a free agent. Belichick didn’t stop him.
Brady carries such a massive chip on his shoulder that he has ruled out pregame sex with supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen.
“You know Tom Brady does not want to leave New England and have everybody say that Bill Belichick was the reason they won,” NFL Network’s Kurt Warner said.
Is there more pressure on Brady or on Belichick?
“I think it’s Brady,” NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms said. “Belichick’s not gonna the next day wake up and go, ‘OK we won, let me see how Tampa did.’ It’s just not the way they operate. They self-motivate up in New England. Brady’s awesome, there’s no doubt about that, but I think there’s more of a stigma of, ‘Can Brady do it without Belichick?’ than the other way around.”
SiriusXM’s Charlie Weis was Brady’s first offensive coordinator.
“Here’s how I think this is gonna go down,” Weis said. “As long as things are going well in New England, all the people in New England will be saying, ‘We all miss Tommy, we have Cam now.’ As long as things go well, it’ll be a kumbaya in New England, everything is wonderful. I promise ya, the first time they blow a game, that’ll be the first time everyone will say, ‘If Tommy were here.’ You can hear it now.
“The people in New England are good people. They’re pulling for Tommy. If Tommy comes out and plays great, they’ll say, ‘I’m glad he’s doing well, I hope we get to play in the Super Bowl.’ But if Tommy has a bad game, privately, they’ll be saying, ‘See? He was done. Belichick knew what he was doing. He had fallen off the cliff and it was time to let him go.’ I can hear it now!”
Simms played 19 games at quarterback in Tampa Bay.
“They always wanted this franchise-type quarterback, so it’s awesome to see them finally get this type of guy,” Simms said, “I think it’s really gonna put a spark in that city, and I do believe that with the team, too. ”
Serby Says asked recently signed veteran running back LeSean McCoy (11,071 career rushing yards, 503 receptions, 89 combined TDs) over the phone if he didn’t know that Brady was 43, how old would he think he was?
“About 28, 29,” McCoy said.
Brady changes the complexion of a locker room by his mere presence.
“His approach, his swagger, his winning nature,” McCoy said.
Asked what Brady is like in the huddle, McCoy said, “Just like a general.”
Simms has questions whether this will be a marriage made in pewter heaven.
“Brady still has a big-time arm,” Simms said. “He’s still gonna be able to push the ball down the field and do those things that a Bruce Arians asks of him, but my biggest concern is his willingness to throw the ball down the field. He kind of became a Checkdown Charlie last year.”
Of course, Brady has an array of weapons immeasurably superior to his cast a year ago, including comebacking tight end Rob Gronkowski, though wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) is doubtful to play.
“I think that if he didn’t have any gas under his tank, he wouldn’t be playing,” Weis said. “I think he’s gonna have a really good year.”
Both Weis and Aikman believe Brady makes the Bucs a Super Bowl contender.
“I think at this point in time in his career, he doesn’t have to be the guy who carries the offense,” Aikman said, “and he can get the ball to the playmakers, and he’s as good as anybody at doing that, and I expect him to have a heckuva season.”
Weis still marvels about one overlooked throw that Brady made on his last-minute Super Bowl XXXVI drive that positioned Adam Vinatieri for the 48-yard field goal on the final play to upset the Rams.
“I think about the play three plays before the field goal,” Weis said. “Tommy is supposed to throw a sight adjust to the single receiver running a slant. He saw the blitz, and so did the wide receiver. But instead of throwing him the ball, he rolled out a little bit to the right and threw the ball away. That play was brilliant by him, because if he would have completed that pass, we would have had to go and clock it, in all likelihood, and we might not have ever gotten in field goal position in regulation to kick the field goal.”
It was the night The Legend of Tom Brady began, at the Superdome. TB12, hellbent on writing a final chapter that won’t end as sadly as it did for John Unitas in San Diego. If anyone can do it, it’s him.