When Tom Brady arrived at One Bucs Place in Tampa, Florida, he arrived at a franchise that accepted losing as the norm, and a fan base that was more excited for the draft than the actual season. Tom had played 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, a franchise where he was a part of a winning culture for his entire career, prior to teaming up with the Buccaneers. In New England, under head coach Bill Belichick, losing was unacceptable and was simply not tolerated. It was not something that was apart of the “Patriot Way”. In all 20 seasons at New England, Brady had never had a losing record, not one. Brady and the Patriots had been to 9 Super Bowls and won 6. Free agents chasing a ring would come to New England, often times accepting less money, for a chance to hoist the Lombardy Trophy. That was the “Patriot Way”. Winning was always more important than individual accolades or awards. That was the “Patriot Way”. It was always team above self and the name on the front of the jersey always came before the name on the back. That was the “Patriot Way”. And if you did not buy into this culture in New England you were out, cut, done. It was the “Patriot Way”. Or was it?
How was Tom Brady able to join a brand-new team and win the Super Bowl in his first try? And do this in a year plagued by COVID-19, which prohibited preseason activities and off-season drills, caused games to be played in empty stadiums, made players opt out and not play due to their concerns of the unknown virus, bye-weeks and games had to be rescheduled and adjusted throughout the season. Did Brady bring the “Patriot Way” with him? Or was it really even the “Patriot Way” in the first place or was it actually something entirely different? Maybe this entire time we were wrong, and this system of winning “created” by the Patriots really had nothing to do with the “Patriot Way” at all. Maybe, just maybe, it was something or someone else? Maybe it was actually the “Brady Way” all along. After all, Tom Brady did win the Super Bowl in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots had their first losing season in 20 years, without him (7-9).
Maybe the “Patriot Way” was as simple as just being the will of Tom Brady to win, and that is all it has been this entire time. Whatever it is or was, Tom Brady brought that “Way” with him when he arrived at One Bucs Place. Brady changed the mindset of 52 other grown men and forced them to believe that they were going to win the Super Bowl. And it worked.
Tom Brady has a sort of aura around him that very few athletes have, and he forces the best abilities out of all those around him. Maybe not right off that bat, but in time he always finds a way to win everyone over. The only other player I can think of with this same aura was Michael Jordan. Just like Jordan, all Brady cares about is winning. They both eat, sleep, and breath winning. You could see throughout the season when each part of the team started to buy into the “Brady Way”. It didn’t all happen instantaneously, but once the first domino fell, the rest soon followed.
The first piece of the puzzle to embrace the “Brady Way” was the offensive line. This happened after their game against the Chicago Bears in week 5. Brady was sacked three times and was hit a total of eight, and he let his offensive line hear about it. But it was when the Buccaneers were called for five offensive penalties that stalled a 10-play drive, with the lead 16-14, where he flat out lost it. Only three of the penalties were accepted and enforced, but that was enough to put the Bucs out of field goal range and ruin their chances to extend the lead. On the way to the sideline Brady was furious and was in guys faces letting them have it (see video below).
But it worked, this was the initial spark to a fire that continued to build throughout the season until it became an uncontrollable blaze that devoured everything in its path. I think it was here when the team, especially the offensive line, realized that Brady wasn’t just here to play football and collect a pay check. The man was here to do one thing and one thing only, WIN.
The next game against Green Bay, the Buccaneers offensive line looked like a completely different animal. Not only did the Buccaneers run all over the Green Bay Packers defense (rushing for 158 yards and 2 TDs), but the offensive line didn’t give up a single sack, all game. The Buccaneers crushed the Packers 38-10. And on top of all that, Ryan Jensen the starting center only had one more penalty the rest of the season. A guy that was notorious for stupid penalties prior to Brady’s arrival, was able to play clean smart football the rest of the season. In the Super Bowl Jensen was even able to draw a penalty against Chris Jones, which even drew a laugh from Brady. I believe in this moment you can see Brady finally relax, because their goal was accomplished, the Bucs were going to be Super Bowl Champions.
The next thing we saw happen was everyone on offense started to accept their roles and put their egos aside. When the team signed Antonio Brown in week 9, not a single WR was mad about it, including Mike Evans, who was one season away from breaking his tie with Randy Moss for having at least 1,000 yards receiving in the first 6 seasons to start their careers. Evans was chasing his seventh 1,000 yard season, and when Brown joined the Bucs, Evans only had 373 receiving yards on the season. With only eight games to go to get to 1,000, most would have expected a frustrated Mike Evans. But, Evans didn’t seem to care, because he was bought into the “Brady Way”. And as the WR corps continued to buy into the “Brady Way”, they all benefited statistically as well. Evans was even able to break the record in the last game of the season, something that Brady made sure to happen.
The Buccaneers signed Leonard Fournette on a contract paying him less money than he could have received elsewhere, and most expected him to be the day one starter. But he wasn’t, and he was used mostly as a complementary back to Ronald Jones. Fournette was used to always being the man in Jacksonville, where the entire offense revolved around him, and that wasn’t the case in Tampa. That was a humbling experience for Fournette, who seemed to be disgruntled about his role midway through the season, but Brady and Bruce Arians were able to keep him focused by telling him to be patient and his time would come. And when his time came, Fournette stepped up big time. He dominated throughout the playoffs and was crowned the nicknamed “Playoff Lenny”, all because he bought into the “Brady Way”.
And it was after the week 12 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs when the entire team bought into the “Brady Way”. After the game Brady guaranteed that the Bucs were not going to lose another game.
“Everybody knows Tom,” Lavonte David said. “Tom came and said, ‘I’m glad we got this out of the way. Trust me. We’re going to get this right, you guys are going to keep playing good, and we’re not going to lose another game,’ and that was it.”
Then the best thing to happen to the Buccaneers happened, Devin White was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. Most people would think that a linebacker that had 140 tackles, 9 sacks, a forced fumble and recovery, 16 QB hits, and 15 tackles for a loss would be a shoe in for the Pro Bowl. Well, so did Devin White. Tom Brady who also had a great season was snubbed as well, with 40 TDs, 4,633 yards, a 65.7 completion percentage, and only 12 interceptions. But when it really clicked for Devin White was after his conversation with Brady.
“Few weeks ago, I was kinda upset I didn’t make the Pro Bowl,” Devin White said. “He’s like, ‘D, there’s a bigger bowl I’m chasing. We’re all chasing it. C’mon.’ I just thought, man, it’s a blessing to hear that. I need to hear that. This thing’s about us. He’s still chasing those bowls in his 40s. I am just so grateful to be able to spend this time with him.”
And that was all she wrote, the Buccaneers went on to win Super Bowl LV and the rest is history. So, was it the “Patriot Way” or the “Brady Way” that won the Buccaneers their second Super Bowl in franchise history? Was it the “Patriot Way” or the “Brady Way” that won all six Super Bowls in Patriots franchise history? Maybe it was a little bit of both, but I think it was mostly Tom. The everyday texts to his teammates that just said, “we will win”, the long nights studying in the film room, the constant strive to be better each and every day, the ability to make everyone around him better, the mentality that losing isn’t an option. And most importantly, the ability to win at the highest stage everywhere he has been. So, you tell me, which “Way” was it?