There's no denying that sports are in a holding pattern right now. From the NBA to the NCAA to the NHL to MLB, thanks to the novel coronavirus, the close contact that sports necessitate has proven impossible to accommodate.
And yet, with all the restrictions that social distancing has foisted upon daily life, there was still extremely noteworthy news bubbling up out of the sports world the other day.
Namely, as the feeding frenzy that is the NFL's free agency period commenced right on schedule, one item previously thought unthinkable has come to fruition: Tom Brady is no longer a New England Patriot.
I've written about Tom Brady before, in his vaunted success in captaining the Patriots to Super Bowls LII and LIII. And while there I conceded that Brady's greatness is second in its modern totality to none other than perhaps Michael Jordan, I also expressed the sentiment of many average NFL fans: another Patriots Super Bowl, win or lose, is mind-boggling boring.
As I wrote two years ago in anticipation of their championship tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles, "They've made the extraordinary routine, but in doing so they've evaporated a little bit of the magic that goes along with something as momentous as winning the Super Bowl." And I stand by that today. Even as a diehard Patriots fan, you've got to admit that the sixth time is nowhere near as satisfying as the first. Everyone remembers their first, after all.
Now, however, Patriots fans have something else entirely to experience for the first time: a New England team sans Tom Brady.
Signing Friday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady is officially moving to the Sunshine State.
The move itself is both perplexing and completely understandable. Tampa may be a small town, but it packs a punch. In Florida, Brady will team up with two of the NFL's top 15 receivers from last season in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. His expertise will meet a mind that's equally up to the challenge in two-time NFL Coach of the Year in Bruce Arians, a noted quarterback whisperer who's gleaned the best from the waning days of Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, and Carson Palmer.
That being said, it's important to point out that Tom Brady will not solve all of Tampa Bay's woes. While the Buccaneers had one of the best run defenses in football last year, their secondary was absolutely abysmal, ranking 30th in the league in terms of raw yardage. And on top of that, a running game barely ever surfaced, as the team ranked 24th in yardage in that category in 2019. These are sincere problems that need to be addressed to field a competitive team. No matter how splashy the Brady signing, it doesn't address either defense or rushing.
Still, the Buccaneers managed to go 7-9 last season. Third-year back Ronald Jones II provides some hope for the ground game, and, despite his relatively well-liked status in the locker room, Brady is sure to improve upon Jameis Winston's ridiculously high mark of 30 interceptions thrown on the season.
If he does indeed mitigate turnovers and takes advantage of the myriad receiving weapons Tampa Bay has (neither of which is a difficult proposition) it's not hard to see Brady leading the Bucs to their first playoff berth since 2007.
On the other hand, it's also not hard to see the elder Brady getting grievously injured in a nasty sack in the opening salvos of the season and it all going down the tubes. But hey, that's uncertainty, right?
For now, all we have is this moment, and in this moment the reality is that next fall Tom Brady will operate not out of Massachusetts Bay, but rather on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Tom Brady will not sling pigskin to Julian Edelman, Sony Michel, or any of the major Patriot players, but to the likes of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate.
And most of all, Tom Brady will not cross paths with Bill Belichick, the man who he has been tied to since the beginning.
That is, of course, unless they just so happen upon one another in Super Bowl LV. My previous declaration concerning Patriots' Super Bowls notwithstanding, that would be a very juicy matchup indeed.