Tom Brady to Buccaneers: Tampa Bay admits it had secret code for recruiting the four-time Super Bowl MVP
It's an ending right out of a Hollywood movie -- literally
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers longing for Tom Brady this offseason was the worst-kept secret in the NFL, but they at least tried to keep it under wraps as best they could. When the six-time Super Bowl winner hit free agency for the first time in his illustrious 20-year career, and shortly after declaring he would not be returning to the New England Patriots in 2020, all eyes shifted to two teams in particular. One was the Buccaneers, but they'd get competition from the Los Angeles Chargers -- who parted with longtime quarterback Philip Rivers and offered Brady a return to his home state of California.
In the end, Tampa won out, but the whole ordeal led them to go full operative in how they handled the wooing of Brady. They actually developed a secret phrase to mask who and what they were talking about, to prevent any leaks. To decide which one they'd use, they took a page from "Field of Dreams," a classic baseball movie starring Kevin Costner.
In the movie, Costner is persuaded by a mystic voice to construct a diamond on his own land, and does so to discover what "if you build it, he will come" actually means. Once completed, the ghosts of baseball greats began showing up to play ball, and that's how the Bucs felt about Brady.
They labeled their pursuit of him "Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson", which is who Costner built the mystical field to attract.
"Just having some fun with it," Bucs director of player personnel John Spytek said, via NFL.com. "And making sure people don't know what the hell we're talking about if they overheard. We wanted to keep it as quiet as possible."
Overall, it didn't work, but they gave it their best shot.
"If we build it, he will come," Spytek confessed he'd tell general manager Jason Licht, via ESPN, echoing the aforementioned movie line. "Go the distance."
Licht did just that, and following anxiety-filled moments of concern over if he and head coach Bruce Arians would actually be able to pull it off, the news broke that Brady had chosen to take his talents to Central Florida. Much like the chances of an MLB ghost opting to return to Earth to play on a random guy's corn field, the Bucs -- who carry the worst franchise winning percentage in the entire NFL (.387) -- Spytek and Licht knew it was the longest of long shots, but they nonetheless got to work moving the pieces in place.
"I think we've got something," Brady said in the fateful call to Arians. "We've got a chance to be very special."
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