TV Sports/Critic's Notes (Football)
NFL relevance for Tom Brady, Tampa Bay reflected in five prime-time games
By Jarrett Bell, USA Today
- May 8, 2020
Bruce Arians sounded pretty much like NFL fans across the land on Thursday night when the league announced its 2020 schedule – or projected schedule, given uncertainties tied to the coronavirus pandemic – featuring five prime-time games for his Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pretty pumped up by the prospects.
Five prime-time games for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 18 years?
No big surprise. It’s the TB12 Factor, in full hype and anticipation as Tom Brady has made the big move from the New England Patriots. And all eyes (or many millions of eyes) will be watching.
“I love it,” Arians, the Buccaneers coach, told USA TODAY Sports Thursday night. “I think it’s great for our group, that batch of excitement. You’ll feel it from the first game. I’m sure our guys are already talking about it. Let’s roll.”
More: NFL schedule release winners, losers: Who's sitting pretty?
More: 10 most intriguing games of 2020 NFL regular season
The Bucs are last year’s Cleveland Browns, the team that even with disruptions forced by the pandemic, have captured the collective fancy of football fans as the hot storyline too good to ignore.
Does Brady, at 42, still have enough zip in his arm? Will Arians mesh his playbook philosophies with Brady’s skills? Will there be enough passes for both star receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin? Will Rob Gronkowski, after a year in retirement, still dominate?
Say what you want about the Bucs chances in a competitive NFC South race that until proven otherwise, will be led by the New Orleans Saints. But, beginning with a season-opening showdown at New Orleans on Sept. 13, this is going to be fun to watch.
If there’s the semblance of a season that suggests the nation is on the road to recovery from the horrors of the Covid-19 reality.
If so, the NFL schedule-makers confirmed what we already know: The Bucs are relevant again.
Tampa Bay hasn’t been on the NFL map like this since Coach Chucky roamed the sidelines at Raymond James Stadium. And now you can’t count the Bucs out of the possibility of being the first NFL team to host a Super Bowl in their home digs.
Just for the record, the Bucs have never had five prime-time tilts on the slate – which, if this thing plays out according to plan will occur in a seven-week window in October and November.
But that’s just one measure of the Brady effect.
From the moment in March when it was apparent Brady would join the Bucs on a two-year, $50 million contract, Bucs season tickets became Hamilton hot. And for a team that last season ranked in the bottom tenth in the NFL as a road attraction, the Bucs are suddenly a hot road attraction.
Add the increased ancillary revenues from sponsorships, stadium signage, suite sales and the like that will be generated – probably more so next year, assuming we get on the other side of the pandemic with typical business models intact – and Brady’s projected bottom line for the Glazer family that owns the Bucs will be tremendous.
“I think it’s the best investment of the year,” sports business expert Andrew Brandt, a former Green Bay Packers executive who writes for Sports Illustrated and teaches at Villanova, told USA TODAY Sports. “Over two years, that asset value for the Buccaneers will grow to be much more than $50 million.”
The Bucs ranked 27th in the NFL for franchise value in 2019, according to Forbes, at $2.2 billion (The Dallas Cowboys, at $5.5 billion, were the most-valued franchise for a 13th consecutive year). It will be difficult for the Bucs or any sports team, to realize significant growth in 2020 due to the crisis conditions, but the visibility sets them up to cash in on the Brady factor.
As sports consultant Marc Ganis put it, “It’s like a massive B-12 shot in the arm for the Bucs and for the NFL.”
Ganis, president of Sportscorp, Ltd., said that Brady’s move to the Bucs rather than a more popular team (the 49ers were speculated among possibilities) is good for the league because it helps to prop up a downtrodden franchise.
Of course, the Brady hype is even better if it leads to enough victories to keep the Bucs relevant in the NFL standings after a 7-9 finish in 2019.
That’s where Arians is challenged to turn the hype into magic. Having started with a “virtual” offseason program because NFL facilities are closed due to the pandemic, he is obviously eager to get his players back into the building to get on with the nuts-and-bolts business of the hype that comes with the six Super Bowl rings that Brady won with the Patriots.
“He’s fantastic,” Arians said of Brady. “He’s one of those guys where he can’t get enough. It’s just a matter of trying to learn the basics. He’s got to get with what we do, and we’ll get with what he does. We’ll collaborate. I can’t wait to get into the meeting room with him. There’s only so much you can do on the computer.”
It’s unclear exactly how the timeline will progress for the rest of the NFL offseason, training camp and into the regular season. Arians said the memo that Commissioner Roger Goodell sent Wednesday that detailed protocols for the first phase of re-opening headquarters was helpful.
Beyond that, he realizes more adjustments will come – and perhaps even with the schedule the league just unveiled.
“That’s every year, we have to be prepared to make adjustments,” Arians said. “Whether it’s injuries or a hurricane, crazy things happen. This is just another one of those things. We’ll deal with it.”
At least the Bucs can see what could be ahead: Brady’s debut against the Saints at the Superdome for a prolific matchup of record-setting quarterbacks that pits him against Drew Brees.
Right out of the gate, Brady and the Bucs will get one of their toughest matchups of the season.
“I love it,” Arians said. “It’s a big game. You’d like to play a few games before you get to that one, but we’ll take it.”
Especially this year. And with the NFL spotlight shining on the Bucs like never before.