On the Monday morning after every championship, the head coach and quarterback of the winning team have their final news conference to cap the NFL’s Super Bowl festivities. As you might imagine, it’s not unusual for it to be filled with lots of smiles and laughs, the feeling of relief washing over both men.
Monday’s presser with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bruce Arians played out just like that, as the newly crowned Super Bowl LV champions, who dethroned the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in eye-popping fashion, reveled in the splendor of football’s ultimate victory.
The joy for Brady was, well, written all over his face. Working on about two hours’ sleep, Brady looked no worse for wear. For pro football’s certified GOAT — this was his NFL-record seventh Super Bowl, more than all 32 NFL franchises, as well as the 43-year-old’s fifth Super Bowl MVP — the feeling of winning never gets old.
Where does this championship rank in comparison to the others?
“Every year is different ... this year has been incredible for me, it's just been incredible,” Brady said. “It's great, that's where I'd rank it. It's great.”
It’s hard not to wonder if this also isn’t Brady’s sweetest. His former team, the New England Patriots, allowed him to bail this offseason and proceeded to go 7-9, their worst record since Bill Belichick’s first season with the team in 2000. Meanwhile, Brady took over a talented Bucs team that had a propensity to shoot itself in the foot with careless turnovers and turned in a great regular season, completing nearly 66% of his passes for 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while teaching the Bucs how to win.
“When you bring a winner in and he's running the ship, it makes a total difference in your locker room every time we step out on the field,” Arians said.
“And knowing that he'd been there and done it, our guys believed it. It changed our entire football team.”
To that end, Brady’s latest Super Bowl victory also helps answer the question of how much credit he deserves for the Patriots’ past success, especially given the litany of obstacles that stood in the Bucs’ way. The pandemic made it tougher for Brady to learn a new offense and build chemistry with his new receivers without the luxury of organized team activities.
“This year was so unique in that we had no time,” Arians said. “We were going to New Orleans and I think I'm speaking for Tom and it's like, ‘What the hell is that play? What's that word mean? What the hell is this guy going to do on this play?’ I think it just took time, and it's not easy.”
That contributed to an ugly season-opening loss to the Saints, and an offense that generally looked up and down through the first three months of the season, all the way through their 27-24 Week 12 loss to Kansas City.
But with the bye the next week, the Bucs regrouped, as Arians, Brady and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich all worked together to refine, rethink and tweak their offense. The result was eight straight wins to close the season, with Sunday’s dominant performance serving as the crown jewel in a season for the ages, the Bucs’ first Super Bowl win in 18 years.
“I can't give Tom enough credit for just hanging in there with the coaches and knowing this is going to work out sooner or later, and it did,” Arians said. “I just can't say enough about Tom and him just hanging in there and just continuing to battle, just [to learn] the verbiage itself.
“I mean, you do something for 20 years — and I was in that system, I know that system — ours is different. So [I’m] grateful for him to just battle through this thing and just watch the performances as we got better and better.”
This stunning achievement looked unlikely in August. Arians noted the Bucs’ players and coaches couldn’t eat together, nor could they really meet up in person.
“For them to care this much about each other and the bonding experience somehow happened,” Arians said. “I'm still trying to figure out how, because under the pandemic, this was so, so hard of a year for a team to be close.”
After listening to his quarterback speak Monday in an almost giddy fashion about what it took to overcome their issues, it also didn’t take long to see why it happened, not with Brady’s unadulterated love for the game practically bursting through the Zoom screen.
“I think in a unique way, with the coronavirus situation and all the protocols, it was really like football for junkies, you know?” Brady said of the 2020 season. “There weren’t really a lot of other things to do other than show up to work and play football, and normally there's a lot of other things that go along with playing football. So if you love football, this was the year to be a player in the NFL because that's all it was — it was like football camp with all your buddies year-round. I really enjoyed that part.”
Never was that more obvious than over the previous 24 hours, when Brady got to watch his new teammates — the overwhelming majority of whom had never been Super Bowl champions before — finally enjoy the fruits of their labor after the toughest football season in decades.
“That's the best part of it for me,” Brady said. “Everybody wants to win the Super Bowl ... but it's ... it's hard, man. It's a hard league. And these guys are good, these talented players, talented coaches. You need a lot of good fortune, you know? Injuries and stuff like that always play a part.
“But just to see them celebrate in our locker room … there were champagne bottles popped and cigars being lit, it was just ... it was a moment I'll never forget. Celebrating with them, that's an amazing feeling.”
Super Bowl LV from Yahoo Sports: