Brady holds the Bucs’ future in his hands

by Gary Shelton on January 26, 2022

in general

Brady had one of his finest seasons./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

And so we wait.

Will the Bucs be contenders in 2022? Will they matter? Will potential free agents answer the telephone?

It all depends on Tom Brady, doesn't it?

Will the Bucs settle for a quarterback on the roster? Will they chase another aging star? Will Rob Gronkowski be back? Will Chris Godwin want to return? Will the Bucs have a pulse?

Again, it's up to Brady.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

The Tom Brady Watch entered day two on Tuesday, and all that matters is, well, everything. This is his team now, his franchise. Antonio Brown is nuts, but he might have had a point when he suggested that Brady is really the general manager around here.

And if he goes, does he take the magic of the Bucs with him?

Look, no one would blame Brady if he wants to go sit on the porch. He's won everythimg there is to win, and he's rich, and he's famous. He's also 44 years old. He's been sacked (counting playoffs) 643 times in his career. That's a lot of bruises.

So we can agree on this. If anyone has earned the right to talk about how good he used to be, it's Brady.

Then there is this: Brady might be the most important player in the NFL to his team. This year, the Bucs were simply unable to win without him. Which makes the second question of the day this: If not Brady, then who?

Blaine Gabbert? Please. Bruce Arians once suggested that Gabbert was the most underrated player in the league as the media tried hard not to laugh. Gabbert has a career record of 13-35 as a starting quarterback. He hasn't started 10 games in a season since 2012, when he was 1-9. If Gabbert is the starter, the Bucs are aiming at a high draft choice the following year.

Kyle Trask? Double-please. Trask didn't play a down in 2901, and he was a late second-round draft pick coming in, which isn't the place you find most Pro Bowl quarterbacks. I thought Trask was a very good college quarterback, but I wouldn't want to hand him the keys to the franchise.

Ryan Griffin? No. He actually threw fewer passes this season than Leonard Fournette (who threw one).

So no matter what else you hear, the Bucs are kissing last place if they go with any of these guys.

So who?

Do the Bucs wait for the implosion with Aaron Rodgers? Do they get in on the Russell Wilson derby? Do they try to steal Deshuan Watson? Kurt Cousins?

How about the return of Jameis Winston? Are you ready for those days again? Winston has played under Sean Payton for two years, and the last time the Bucs saw him, he was playing well until he was injured. But Winston's scatter-armed presence in the pocket still keeps fans up at night.

Oh, there are others who might be available. Sam Darnold? Teddy Bridgewater? But all of them require a heavy swallowing motion.

Hey, the hardest thing in the NFL is to find a solid quarterback. That's why the league shifts through them so quickly. It's why the Bucs went so long looking at failures until Brady came to town.

So realize what is at stake here.

What are the key factors for Brady? Sure, he has enough money, and enough fame, and enough respect. Another year won't help him get into the Hall of Fame. But all of that was true last year, too.

I suspect that Brady wants to sit down with Licht and talk about the future of this team. If Godwin and Ryan Jensen and Fournette can be brought back, if he can be promised improvements in the secondary, then he could come back for one last hurrah.

If the team doens't bring back the guys he wants, and maybe a couple of others, then he waves to the fans and talks about his journey.

In the meantime, we search for clues, and we rationalize what he might do. We discuss. We debate.

And once the waiting is done, the search for another somebody will resume.

Previous post:

Next post: