Brady, productive drafts fuel Tampa Bay's run to Super Bowl

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs with a elastic band around his legs during an NFL football workout Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. The Buccaneers play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TAMPA, Fla. – Construction of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began long before Tom Brady decided the once-downtrodden team had most of what he needed to have an opportunity to build on his legacy of championships.

The 43-year-old quarterback is back in the Super Bowl for a record 10th time, surrounded by an All-Star cast of playmakers he helped assemble and a young defense that has played its best ball of the season during a playoff run to the NFL title game.

General manager Jason Licht laid the foundation with a series of drafts that landed receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, running back Ronald Jones and tight end O.J. Howard.

The GM who worked for the New England Patriots when Brady entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick also lured coach Bruce Arians out of retirement in hopes of fixing a shaky quarterback situation and provide a new vision on the field.

The 68-year-old Arians, who had worked with Licht while he was coach of the Arizona Cardinals, couldn’t salvage former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston but dared to dream of signing Brady if the six-time Super Bowl champion decided to leave New England as a free agent.

“You can’t hit a home run unless you swing for one. You can’t do anything special in life sitting on a fence,” Arians said.

“The question back then was if there was a quarterback that was a free agent, who would you want? Of course it was Tom Brady, not thinking he would become a free agent,” Arians added. “But once he did, it was a pursuit we wanted to make. That’s how you live life. Do you sit and live in a closet and try to be safe? Or do you go have some fun?”

Sounded pretty good to Brady, who signed a fully guaranteed two-year, $50 million that also included lucrative incentives for helping the Bucs end a 12-season playoff drought and reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.