The pursuit was so shrouded in secrecy that it was referred to within the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization by codename: Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson. Indeed, the prospect of Tom Brady, six-time Super Bowl champion and widely-acknowledged greatest football player ever, joining the Bucs, a historically hapless franchise that hadn’t made the playoffs in more than a decade, seemed about as likely as Jackson emerging out of an Iowa cornfield in the movie Field of Dreams.
But come Brady did. At age forty-three, pushing the boundaries of football mortality and without Bill Belichick by his side for the first time in his NFL career, this would be the ultimate test for the ultimate football legacy. Brady’s new coach, Bruce Arians, also had much to prove. One of the great offensive minds of his generation, Arians returned to coaching in 2018, at the age of 65, in search of the one achievement that had eluded him throughout his illustrious career: a Super Bowl championship. Together, like so many aged snowbirds, Brady and Arians had decamped to Florida to make the most of their remaining years.