TAMPA, Fla. -- In what will go down as one of the most unlikely free-agent signings in NFL history, quarterback Tom Brady, winner of six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, became a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a franchise synonymous with losing for the past decade-plus.
But as far-fetched as it seemed, 10 months later, Brady has guided the franchise -- which finished 7-9 last year and had two winning seasons over the past decade -- to the Super Bowl, the Bucs' second appearance ever in the big game. It will mark the first time in NFL history a team will play a Super Bowl in its own stadium -- and they'll face the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of their three-point loss from Week 12.
So much has happened for Brady professionally and personally in that span, from learning a new route to get to work each day, to playing in the NFC for the first time and navigating a new offense under coach Bruce Arians. It wasn't without hiccups, but there were also triumphant moments and quite a few laughs. Here's a look back at the events and moments that have shaped Brady's first season with the Bucs.
March 17, 2020: Brady signs with Bucs
Brady signed a two-year contract worth $50 million to play for a Bucs team that hadn't been to the postseason since 2007. But it was a chance for him to start over and do something new for the first time in 20 years, and Tampa Bay's offensive playmakers were appealing. Brady said, "I'm prepared to give them every bit of commitment I've had my entire career to be the best I could be, to help this team be the best it could be."
April 2: Brady moves into Derek Jeter's house
In an unprecedented move for a former Bostonian, Brady moved into the "St. Jetersburg" home of former New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter on Davis Islands. When asked by Howard Stern what happens when the washing machine breaks, Brady said, "I call and I bitch to him and he gets it fixed," Brady said. "Everyone thinks they want to own a home, and it's nice to rent. You get all the benefits with no responsibility, so I'm totally cool with this."
But it was only for the short term, as Jeter put the home on the market. Brady and his family have since relocated.
April 7: Brady accidently enters wrong home
In an attempt to retrieve his playbook from offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and social distance himself, Brady walked into what he thought was Leftwich's home, but it instead was the house next door. "I'm sitting here, and I see this big shadow come up to my front door ... and I hear my doorknob turning ... and I'm like, 'What the hell?' Like, 'Who's coming in my house?'" homeowner David Kramer told TMZ. "He just goes, 'Am I in the wrong house?!'"
April 21: Brady reunites with Rob Gronkowski after trade
The Patriots traded Gronkowski to the Bucs for a fourth-round pick. The reunion has led to stories -- LOTS of stories -- over the course of the season, with some hilarious back-and-forths on Zoom and even some epic impersonations. Brady recalled one offseason when Gronk was preparing for a GQ photo shoot and feeling out of shape, so he asked Brady to work out. The two had a throwing session on a baseball field in the rain.
"The ball never hit the ground," Brady said. "And then he was like [lowers voice in an attempt to sound like Gronkowski], 'Dude, that was great. That was perfect. That was just what I needed. I feel ripped now.' And he was ready for his photo shoot because of one day of the two of us working out together."
Gronk responded the following week by mocking Brady's "struggle face" after he took a shot of Fireball at the Kentucky Derby. "Just seeing his face after, like in disgust, like, 'I'm putting this alcohol in my body?' ... He's just like, 'How am I gonna throw next week?'"
April 24: Brady gets booted from park, meets the mayor (sort of)
During a news briefing following Tampa's stay-at-home orders, Mayor Jane Castor revealed a city employee spotted a man working out in a downtown public park and told him he had to leave. It was Brady.
In an open letter to Brady four days later, Castor wrote, "Tom, my apologies for the miscommunication when you arrived -- not the best first impression. But given my law enforcement background, I couldn't help but have someone investigate the sighting of a GOAT running wild in one of our beautiful city parks. No harm, no foul, and thanks for being a good sport."
Castor closed the letter out with, "Tom, it's Tampa Bay. You win us a Super Bowl and we'll discuss Tampa Brady."
If it happens, will she keep her word?
May 24: Brady splits pants after making epic golf shot
In The Match: Champions for Charity golf tournament, one of the few live sporting events on television during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, Brady was paired with Phil Mickelson against Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods. Brady struggled throughout the day and was taunted by announcer Charles Barkley. But then Brady sunk the shot of his life with a birdie on the No. 7 hole, before telling Barkley, "Chuck, shut your mouth." Brady then suffered an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction, tweeting after, "Pants wanted in on social distancing I guess."
Sept. 13: Brady suffers first loss as a Buc
In his debut with the Buccaneers at New Orleans, Brady threw two interceptions, including a pick-six to Janoris Jenkins, while left tackle Donovan Smith surrendered two sacks in a 34-23 loss. But what generated even more attention was Arians pointing out Brady's mistakes publicly afterward.
Arians said, "He looked like Tom Brady in practice all the time, so it's kind of unusual to see that in a ballgame because they didn't do things that we didn't get ready for. Everything they did, we thought we were ready for." It didn't sit well with Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre, who said of Arians, "I think you're barking up the wrong tree." Later on, Brady said he appreciated Arians' tough coaching.
Oct. 4: Brady leads comeback from 17-point deficit
Brady overcame a first-half pick-six to lead the Bucs to a 38-31 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the second-largest comeback in franchise history, and Brady's biggest comeback since his 28-3 comeback in Super Bowl LI. "How can you not believe in him?" wide receiver Scotty Miller said. "He's the greatest to ever do it."
At age 43, Brady became the oldest player in NFL history to record five passing touchdowns in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It also signified the start of a culture shift in Tampa Bay. "I can honestly say, had this been last year, we would have gotten our ass beat by 20," Arians said. "[With] Tom -- he's never behind in his mind, so we can always make plays to win games."
Oct. 9: Brady forgets it's fourth down
In Brady's first prime-time game with the Bucs, down 20-19 with 38 seconds to go, he failed to connect with tight end Cam Brate on fourth-and-6. After the pass was ruled incomplete, TV cameras zoomed in on Brady flashing four fingers, appearing puzzled. Brady said after the game he was focused more on yardage and not on the down. Brady did, however, manage to poke fun at himself a few days later. In congratulating the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James for winning his fourth NBA title, Brady tweeted a superimposed image of James' head on Brady's body, holding up four fingers.
Oct. 18: Brady gets first signature win with Bucs
After being down 10-0 in the first quarter to the Packers, Brady threw two touchdown passes -- including one to Gronkowski for his first as a Buccaneer -- with Ronald Jones tacking on two more for arguably the Bucs' biggest win of the regular season. It was just the second time in franchise history that the Bucs had zero penalties in a game, which came after a tongue-lashing from Brady in their loss to the Bears. Prior to Brady's arrival, the Bucs had been the most-penalized team in the league with 133 penalties in 2019. They finished 2020 with 84 penalties -- 11th fewest in the league.
Oct. 27: Brady persuades Bucs to get Antonio Brown
Despite Brown's well-documented off-the-field struggles and Arians initially saying Brown "wasn't a fit" for the Bucs' locker room, Brady, who had been pushing for the Bucs to sign Brown for months, finally got his wish. Brady said he didn't believe he was risking his own reputation by taking Brown under his wing and letting him stay at his home.
"A lot of people weren't born with the same advantages that I've had growing up, they weren't born with the same background or support systems that I had," Brady said. "I think a lot of joy in my experience comes from seeing other people be their best and seeing people succeed in ways that can set their family up. I think that's a really important aspect of football for me."
Nov. 8: Brady suffers worst Bucs loss in sweep by Saints
Without left guard Ali Marpet, who missed the game with a concussion, Brady was pressured on 46% of his dropbacks, among the highest in his career. He threw no touchdowns and three interceptions in the 38-3 defeat -- the worst loss of his career.
"They kicked our ass in every phase," Arians said.
Nov. 11: Brady loses dock, jet skis in Tropical Storm Eta
Experiencing his first tropical storm as a Florida resident, Brady attempted to secure his jet skis by tying them to his dock. Except the dock broke. "They were about 300 yards away at someone else's house, and I got a bunch of messages from people that were like, 'Hey man, are [those] your jet skis?'" Brady said. "They got fixed. We dragged 'em back."
Nov. 29: Brady falls to Patrick Mahomes
Brady and the Bucs couldn't overcome two interceptions and a 17-0 deficit, but they managed to come within three points, losing 27-24 -- the fifth game between Brady and Mahomes decided by one score or less.
All game the defense struggled to put pressure on Mahomes, and cornerback Carlton Davis was overwhelmed by the speed of Tyreek Hill. "We were at 7-5 ... not feeling great," Brady recalled. "We felt like we needed to find our rhythm."
CBS color commentator Tony Romo made this Super Bowl LV prediction: "I think there's a better than good chance -- I don't even know what that percentage is -- that these two are gonna be here in Tampa."
Dec. 13, 2020-Jan. 3, 2021: Brady goes on tear to end regular season
After back-to-back three-point losses to the Rams and Chiefs in a span of nine days, Brady and the Bucs exploded out of the bye week. They won four straight, with Brady throwing 12 touchdowns and one interception in the best final-four-game stretch of his career. That included a 17-point comeback at the Falcons, which marked a turning point for the offense. "The second half of the [Falcons] game -- it's been on fire since then," Arians said.
Jan. 9: Brady delivers Bucs' first playoff win since '02 season
All week long, Washington second overall draft pick Chase Young said, "Tom Brady, I'm coming." But instead of sacking Brady, he came up to Brady after the Bucs' 31-23 wild-card win over Washington to offer his congratulations, with Brady promising to send him a jersey.
Brady threw two touchdowns, while left tackle Donovan Smith had arguably one of the best games of his career. "That's the boy," running back Leonard Fournette said. "We've got faith in him. We're gonna protect our butts off for him to make sure he gets that throw."
Jan. 17: Brady defeats Brees in divisional round thanks to defense
To commemorate the first postseason matchup featuring two quarterbacks over the age of 40, Brady tweeted a meme of him and Brees using age progression software and slapped a History Channel logo on it. But while the game was billed as a battle of two legendary quarterbacks, the Bucs' defense ultimately propelled them to the NFC Championship Game.
The defense notched four takeaways, including three that led to Bucs touchdowns.
After the game, what could have been Brees' last, the two quarterbacks hugged on the field and Brady threw a touchdown pass to Brees' son Baylen.
Jan. 24: Brady, Bucs' defense outduel Aaron Rodgers, advance to Super Bowl LV
In just the Bucs' second win in temperatures at or below freezing in the last 25 years, Brady threw three touchdowns -- including a spectacular 39-yard pass to Scotty Miller just before halftime after going for it on fourth down. Arians said, "We didn't come here not to take chances to win the game."
Though Brady threw three second-half interceptions and the Bucs were without both starting safeties, the defense managed to sack Rodgers five times and get two takeaways.
Arians said in the Fox postgame trophy ceremony, "The belief he gave everybody in the organization that this could be done. It only took one man."
"Tom's the GOAT," Miller said. "He's probably the biggest reason we are where we are."
After the game, Brady found his oldest son, Jack, in the stands, telling him, "Love you, kiddo! How 'bout that?! We're gonna go to the Super Bowl baby!"