Bucs GM had two-year plan to land Brady

Landing Tom Brady was a monumental success borne of an even more substantial mission executed by general manager Jason Licht and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Licht said Thursday night in an ESPN interview that landing Brady was possible because the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as head coach in 2019.

“Getting Tom here, quite frankly, started with hiring Bruce last year,” Licht said. “I don’t know if we would be in this situation right now without Bruce Arians as our head coach. And they’re kind of living parallel lives right now; they’ve got something to prove, and they want to do it now.”

Brady was the target of Arians as soon as it became apparent the 42-year-old could actually leave New England. Arians did not hide his affection for Brady and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in February at the NFL Scouting Combine. Arians openly said he couldn’t commit to Jameis Winston — all three were due to be unrestricted free agents — without “seeing what’s behind Door No. 2.”

Turns out his No. 1 choice, Brady, was ready and willing to join the Buccaneers. He signed a two-year, $50 million deal and Winston was set free.

Brady has generated a palpable buzz in Florida, with expectations pushing the Buccaneers into a tier of teams on favorite status at some sportsbooks. That’s new territory for Licht, considering the Buccaneers last appeared in the postseason in 2007.

Then again, the playoffs are the only life Brady has known in the NFL. He’s won 13 consecutive division titles and played in nine Super Bowls. With that comes heightened expectations and a bull’s-eye from opponents.

“I don’t have a lot of concerns on that right now,” said Licht, who had two stints with the Patriots and became GM of the Bucs in 2014. “We have a head coach that, to be quite frank, isn’t gonna be here for the next 15, 20 years coaching the Buccaneers. So I think it was actually a perfect marriage: You’ve got two guys that have got something to prove; they want to win, they want to win now; they’ve got the same mindset.”

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