So it has come to pass. The Buccaneers will be the first in National Football League history to compete for the title at home. They booked a ticket to the final game of the season via a gutsy stand over the Packers, their third playoff win and second straight against favored opponents. And given their record of futility dating back to their 2007 campaign, their progression has been nothing short of remarkable. Forget head coach Bruce Arians’ insistence that it’s the championship or bust for them. Regardless of how they do against the Chiefs a week and a half from now, they will have exceeded expectations.
To be sure, having Tom Brady under center does enable the Buccaneers to dream big. The winningest quarterback in the annals of the sport simply knows how to, well, win, and his mere presence has energized those around him to exceed themselves and, more importantly, make up a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Never mind that he’s all of 43 and occasionally looking his age. In the conference championship, for instance, he offset a transcendent first half with an atrocious second; he threw picks in three consecutive drives to allow the Packers to mount a comeback.
A win is a win, though, and there can be no going around the fact that Brady is making his record 10th Super Bowl appearance — which is to say he has done so in more than half his campaigns as a starter. To underscore just how mind-boggling his achievement is, fans need only note that no other player has more than five. It’s why the Buccaneers have managed to repeatedly claim best-case scenarios. And for all the stats he has accumulated to make 2020 a bounceback season for him, he earns his keep off the field as well. As Arians argued, he “gave everybody in the organization [the belief] that it could be done. It only took one man.”
Perhaps there’s no small measure of hyperbole to the statement. After all, Brady has been decidedly mortal at times, his vastly expanded array of targets on offense notwithstanding. And against both the Saints and the Packers, he needed the Buccaneers’ sterling defense to save him. Nonetheless, the numbers don’t lie, and they highlight his invaluable contributions to creating a culture of success. He brings with him a singular skill set that includes intangibles that instill unshakable confidence. He oozes experience; he has been there and done that, and he gives off an unmistakable vibe that nothing can faze him.
On Feb. 8, the Buccaneers will be decided underdogs against the Chiefs, who aren’t defending champions for nothing. They will not be parading the best quarterback at Raymond James Stadium; the distinction belongs to heir apparent Patrick Mahomes. Then again, Arians and Company couldn’t care less. They have Brady, and, as far as they’re concerned, it’s what matters most.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.