TAMPA, Fla. — In what will go down as one of the most unlikely free-agent signings in NFL history, quarterback Tom Brady, winner of six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, became a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a franchise synonymous with losing for the past decade-plus.
But as far-fetched as it seemed, 10 months later, Brady has led the Bucs to just their fourth 11-win season in franchise history. They’re in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, facing the New Orleans Saints on Sunday (6:40 p.m. ET, Fox).
So much has happened for Brady both professionally and personally in that span, from learning a new route to get to work each day to navigating a new offense under coach Bruce Arians. It wasn’t without hiccups, but there were also triumphant moments and quite a few laughs. Here’s a look back at the events and moments that shaped Brady’s first season with the Bucs.
March 17, 2020: Brady signs with Bucs
Brady signed a two-year contract worth $50 million to play for a Bucs team that hadn’t been to the postseason since 2007. But it was a chance for him to start over, to do something new for the first time in 20 years, and Tampa Bay’s offensive playmakers were appealing. Brady said, “I’m prepared to give them every bit of commitment I’ve had my entire career to be the best I could be, to help this team be the best it could be.”
April 2: Brady moves into Derek Jeter’s house
In an unprecedented move for a former Bostonian, Brady moved into the “St. Jetersburg” home of former New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter on Davis Islands. When asked by Howard Stern what happens when the washing machine breaks, Brady said, “I call and I bitch to him and he gets it fixed,” Brady said. “Everyone thinks they want to own a home, and it’s nice to rent. You get all the benefits with no responsibility, so I’m totally cool with this.”
But it was only for the short term, as Jeter put the home on the market. Brady and his family have since relocated.
April 7: Brady mistakenly enters wrong home
In an attempt to retrieve his playbook from offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and social distance himself, Brady walked into what he thought was Leftwich’s home, but it instead was the house next door. “I’m sitting here, and I see this big shadow come up to my front door … and I hear my doorknob turning … and I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ Like, ‘Who’s coming in my house?'” homeowner David Kramer told TMZ. “He just goes, ‘Am I in the wrong house?!'”
April 21: Brady reunites with Rob Gronkowski after trade
The Patriots traded Gronkowski to the Bucs for a fourth-round pick. The reunion has led to stories — LOTS of stories — over the course of the season, with some hilarious back-and-forths on Zoom and even some epic impersonations. Brady recalled one offseason when Gronk was preparing for a GQ photo shoot and feeling out of shape, so he asked Brady to work out. The two had a throwing session on a baseball field in the rain.
“The ball never hit the ground,” Brady said. “And then he was like (lowers voice in an attempt to sound like Gronkowski), ‘Dude, that was great. That was perfect. That was just what I needed. I feel ripped now.’ And he was ready for his photo shoot because of one day of the two of us working out together.”
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 31, 2020
Gronk responded the following week by mocking Brady’s “struggle face” after he took a shot of Fireball at the Kentucky Derby. “Just seeing his face after, like in disgust, like, ‘I’m putting this alcohol in my body?’ … He’s just like, ‘How am I gonna throw next week?'”
May 24: Brady splits pants after making epic golf shot
In The Match: Champions for Charity golf tournament, one of the few live sporting events on television during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, Brady was paired with Phil Mickelson against Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods. Brady struggled throughout the day and was taunted by announcer Charles Barkley. But then Brady sunk the shot of his life with a birdie on the No. 7 hole, before telling Barkley, “Chuck, shut your mouth.” Brady then suffered an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction, tweeting after, “Pants wanted in on social distancing I guess.”
Sept. 13: Brady suffers first loss as a Buc
In his debut with the Buccaneers at New Orleans, Brady threw two interceptions, including a pick-six to Janoris Jenkins, while left tackle Donovan Smith surrendered two sacks in a 34-23 loss. But what generated even more attention was Arians pointing out Brady’s mistakes publicly afterward.
Arians said, “He looked like Tom Brady in practice all the time, so it’s kind of unusual to see that in a ballgame because they didn’t do things that we didn’t get ready for. Everything they did, we thought we were ready for.” It didn’t sit well with Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre who said of Arians, “I think you’re barking up the wrong tree.” Later on, Brady said he appreciated Arians’ tough coaching.
Oct. 4: Brady leads comeback from 17-point deficit
Brady overcame a first-half pick-six to lead the Bucs to a 38-31 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the second-largest comeback in franchise history, and Brady’s biggest comeback since his 28-3 comeback in Super Bowl LI. “How can you not believe in him?” wide receiver Scotty Miller said. “He’s the greatest to ever do it.”
At age 43, Brady became the oldest player in NFL history to record five passing touchdowns in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It also signified the start of a culture shift in Tampa Bay. “I can honestly say, had this been last year, we would have gotten our ass beat by 20,” coach Bruce Arians said. “[With] Tom — he’s never behind in his mind, so we can always make plays to win games.”
Oct. 9: Brady forgets it’s fourth down
In Brady’s first primetime game with the Bucs and down by 20-19 with 38 seconds to go, he failed to connect with tight end Cam Brate on fourth-and-6. After the pass was ruled incomplete, TV cameras zoomed in to Brady flashing four fingers, appearing puzzled. Brady said after the game he was focused more on yardage and not on the down. Brady did, however, manage to poke fun at himself a few days later. In congratulating the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James for winning his fourth NBA title, Brady tweeted a superimposed image of James on his body, holding up four fingers.
— Tom Brady (@TomBrady) October 12, 2020
Oct. 18: Brady gets first signature win with Bucs
After being down 10-0 in the first quarter to the Packers, Brady threw two touchdown passes — including one to Gronkowski for his first as a Buccaneer — with Ronald Jones tacking on two more for arguably the Bucs’ biggest win of the season. It was all ignited by an interception returned for a touchdown from cornerback Jamel Dean in the second quarter. It was also just the second time in franchise history that the Bucs had zero penalties in a game, which came after a tongue-lashing from Brady in their loss to the Bears. Prior to Brady’s arrival, the Bucs had been the most-penalized team in the league with 133 penalties in 2019. They finished 2020 with 84 penalties this season — 11th fewest in the league.
Oct. 27: Brady persuades Bucs to get Antonio Brown
Despite Brown’s well-documented off-the-field struggles and Arians initially saying Brown “wasn’t a fit” for the Bucs’ locker room, Brady, who had been pushing for the Bucs to sign Brown for months, finally got his wish. Brady said he didn’t believe he was risking his own reputation by taking Brown under his wing and letting him stay at his home.
“A lot of people weren’t born with the same advantages that I’ve had growing up, they weren’t born with the same background or support systems that I had,” Brady said. “I think a lot of joy in my experience comes from seeing other people be their best and seeing people succeed in ways that can set their family up. I think that’s a really important aspect of football for me.”
Nov. 11: Brady loses dock, jet skis in Tropical Storm Eta
Experiencing his first tropical storm as a Florida resident, Brady attempted to secure his jet skis by tying them to his dock. Except the dock broke. “They were about 300 yards away at someone else’s house, and I got a bunch of messages from people that were like, ‘Hey, man, are [those] your jet skis?” Brady said. “They got fixed. We dragged ’em back.”
Nov. 8: Brady suffers worst Bucs loss in sweep by Saints
Without left guard Ali Marpet, who missed the game with a concussion, Brady was pressured on 46% of his dropbacks, among the highest in his career. He threw no touchdowns and three interceptions in the 38-3 defeat — the worst loss of his career.
“They kicked our ass in every phase,” Arians said.
“That was rock bottom,” Brate said. “Nothing worked [and] everyone played terribly.”
It was their third poor showing on prime-time TV this season. (They would lose once more in prime time to the Rams.)
“We need to perform better at every time,” Brady said. “One o’clock, 4 o’clock, 8 o’clock, Monday night, Sunday night. Doesn’t matter. … “As players we got to prepare harder, we got to execute better, there’s no excuses for what it is. It’s a poor performance by a team that’s got a lot ahead of it.”
Dec. 13, 2020-Jan. 3, 2021: Brady goes on tear to end regular season
After back-to-back three-point losses to the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs in a span of nine days, Brady and the Bucs exploded out of the bye week. The won four straight, with Brady throwing 12 touchdowns and one interception in the best four-game stretch of his career. That included a 17-point comeback at the Falcons, which marked a turning point for the offense. “The second half of the [Falcons] game — it’s been on fire since then,” Arians said.
Jan. 9: Brady delivers Bucs’ first playoff win since ’02 season
All week long, Washington second-overall draft pick Chase Young said, “Tom Brady, I’m coming.” But instead of sacking Brady, he came up to Brady after the game to offer his congratulations, with Brady promising to send him a jersey.
Brady threw two touchdowns, with left tackle Donovan Smith having arguably one of his best NFL games. “That’s the boy,” running back Leonard Fournette said. “We’ve got faith in him. We’re gonna protect our butts off for him to make sure he gets that throw.”
Sunday: Brady and Drew Brees set to make history
To commemorate Sunday’s historic matchup featuring the first time two quarterbacks over the age of 40 will face off, Brady tweeted a meme of him and Brees using age progression software and slapped a History Channel logo on it. Brady also had a bit of a “senior moment,” when asked about it, forgetting whether Brees was, in fact, younger or older than him (Brady is, in fact, older).
“He’s a lot younger than me,” Brady joked. “He’s 18 months older than me…18 months younger. Well, 18 months ago I felt pretty good, so I’ve got a little advanced age on him and experience.
“Just, think so much of him as a person, as a player,” Brady said. “I know what it takes to do what he’s doing. He knows what it takes to do what I’m doing. And I just think there’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Jokes and memes aside, Brees said it came as no surprise that they’re facing each other for a third time this season in the playoffs.
“When Tom Brady signed with the Bucs and I knew that he was coming to our division, I envisioned this game,” Brees said.
Son of former Green Bay Packers DT Ron Kostelnik loses dad’s Super Bowl II ring
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The son of a former Green Bay Packer says he is heartbroken after losing his father’s Super Bowl II ring, and he is offering a $5,000 reward for its return.
Mike Kostelnik told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that he believes he lost the ring that belonged to his dad, former Packers defensive tackle Ron Kostelnik, last weekend when he and his family went to visit his daughter at Indiana University and take another daughter to tour Miami University in Ohio.
He said he had been wearing the ring but took it off and stored it in the car’s console.
Kostelnik said he made only one stop along the way, at a BP gas station in Greensburg, Indiana. When he was at Miami and discovered the ring was no longer in the console, the family went back to the gas station to look for it and to report it missing to police. It’s possible the ring ended up on the floor of the car and was kicked outside the vehicle, he said.
“All I can do now is sit back and wait,” Kostelnik said. “Maybe another idea will pop up, and I will follow all pursuits. Right now, I’m just waiting.”
Ron Kostelnik played for the Packers for eight seasons from 1961 to 1968 and helped the team win five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. He finished his career playing one season for the Baltimore Colts in 1969 and was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1989. He died of a heart attack in 1993 at age 53.
“It’s the ring my father wore,” he said. “A lot of things he went through in life after football were in that ring. It’s a ring that I wore during the times I was building my business. So, it’s all of the energy and the issues that appear that are in that ring. I felt like it gave me a lot of strength in some very trying times.”
Troubled receiver Josh Gordon joins Johnny Manziel on team in Atlanta-based startup league, owner says
Former NFL wide receiver Josh Gordon will return to the sport in the startup Fan Controlled Football league, as a member of the Zappers, team owner Bob Menery told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.
Gordon will join former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel on that team’s roster.
The league, which began play this month, features 7-on-7 games where fans set rosters, call plays and interact in a blend of traditional and esports environments.
Gordon’s on-again, off-again NFL career ran into another roadblock last month as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, when he was suspended indefinitely after the league rescinded his conditional reinstatement.
An NFL spokesperson told ESPN at the time that the decision stemmed from Gordon, 29, violating terms of his conditional reinstatement under the league’s substance-abuse policy. No other details were provided from the league.
The league suspended Gordon indefinitely in December 2019 for violations of its policies on substances of abuse and performance-enhancing substances. That was Gordon’s sixth suspension since the 2013 season and his fifth for some form of substance abuse, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Gordon was conditionally reinstated by the NFL in December and was set to practice with the Seahawks in the final two weeks of the regular season. Coach Pete Carroll said at the time that he had a chance to play Week 16 against the Los Angeles Rams. But that same week, the NFL placed him on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Gordon signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks before last season began. In 63 NFL games, he has 247 receptions, 4.252 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 2012 NFL supplemental draft, after playing at Utah and Baylor.
FCF teams are playing a six-week schedule, with games live-streamed on Twitch from a league-leased facility in Atlanta. The games last about an hour, and the field is 50-by-35 yards with 10-yard end zones.
Players have backgrounds from the FBS and FCS college levels, along with the CFL, XFL and the Indoor Football League, Manziel among them.
Before FCF, Manziel, 28, last played football in April 2019 for the Alliance of American Football and also has played in The Spring League and the CFL since the Browns released him in 2015. Manziel and Gordon were teammates in Cleveland.
Jake Fromm, Matt Barkley or both? Bills have decision to make at backup QB – Buffalo Bills Blog
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Among myriad difficult decisions the Buffalo Bills must make this offseason, their situation at quarterback flies under the radar.
Backup quarterback, that is.
Since arriving in Buffalo as a free agent in October 2018, veteran Matt Barkley has served as Josh Allen‘s backup. In those three seasons, Barkley has completed 53 of 97 passes for 788 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions, making one spot start in 2018. He is a free agent once again in 2021, and the decision to bring him back is complicated, thanks to the presence of 2020 fifth-round pick Jake Fromm.
The Georgia product, like every other rookie in last year’s class, did not have a normal offseason because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fromm’s year was even more unique, considering he dealt with an offseason controversy and the Bills made him the team’s emergency quarterback, which involved him practicing separately from the rest of the team throughout the week and remaining socially distant inside the Bills’ facility.
“Jake Fromm had the most un-normal year a player could ever have, to have to come in here and be the COVID quarantine quarterback,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said. “I thought he handled it greatly. In his exit meeting we just praised him for staying true. He would literally be back there hearing the call in his helmet, and while Josh [Allen] or Barkley are going back [in the pocket], he’s going back just like he’s making the throw from 20 yards back. He stays after and throws with the practice squad.
“Really tough year for him, but … it will help him going into next offseason. He’ll be excited to be able to sit in the quarterback room within six or seven feet of the other guys.”
Based on Beane’s explanation, Fromm will return to the team in 2021, which is obvious for a player at a prime position in the second year of a rookie contract. The real question is whether Buffalo believes Fromm is ready to be Allen’s primary backup, or if he needs another year learning alongside Barkley.
Without any game action — even in the preseason — to evaluate, it’s difficult to gauge Fromm’s progress. His coaches and teammates have praised his work ethic in practice, particularly Allen, who was asked about the rookie late in the 2020 season.
“It’s not an easy ask, to put a guy who’s played his entire career and just kind of say, ‘Go over there and stay away from everybody,'” Allen said. “He’s handled it with a lot of pride. He takes pride in his work, and it’s good to see a guy like that go in there and do his job. He’s been a pleasure to be around, he’s grown a lot since he first got here, and he’s been awesome in the quarterback room.”
Buffalo kept only two quarterbacks on its roster in 2019, Allen and Barkley, before drafting Fromm. The Bills will have to clear some salary-cap space to improve their roster this offseason, but will need a stabilizing presence behind Allen.
On Jan. 26, the Bills signed journeyman Davis Webb, who has spent time on their practice squad, to a futures contract, but it might be worth it to bring Barkley back on a one-year deal. It would provide insurance as they evaluate Fromm throughout training camp. Assuming there’s a normal preseason, if Fromm plays well enough to instill confidence in him, the Bills could cut Barkley before the season.
If not, Barkley would spend his fourth straight season with the Bills; or, Buffalo can go in a different direction.
“Knowing where they are right now, as one of the top Super Bowl contenders … do you need to bring in a veteran quarterback to be a high-end two until you believe Jake Fromm is ready?” Bowen said. “If you don’t think he is right now, then you’re going to have to go out and get someone, in my opinion.”
Either way, any decision that involves not bringing Barkley back will weigh heavily on Beane; Barkley and his wife are beloved within the organization.
“What a selfless guy. Some guys are the backup and they’re itching to play,” Beane said. “Matt’s a competitor, he wants to play, but his first thing every day he walks in this door is to help Josh Allen be the best version of himself. And that’s why it’s been so great to have him.
“Without getting into contracts, we’ll see, but very appreciative of Matt, even his wife, Brittany, does a great job of helping wives connect. It’s big for our team culture. So the Barkleys have been a big blessing to the Buffalo Bills. We’ll see [on] the business side where that ends up.”
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