Buccaneers play-by-play man Gene Deckerhoff marveled at the completion of a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown during Super Bowl LV, wondering aloud whether there was another quarterback in the NFL who could throw that pass any better than Tom Brady.
He should have seen Brady's pass on Wednesday.
Brady stood at the stern of his $2 million boat -- one he piloted for a period of time Wednesday -- as it glided across the Hillsborough River during the Buccaneers' Super Bowl LV championship parade, holding the Lombardi Trophy his team won just days earlier. A boat nearby awaited perhaps the most clutch (and risky) throw of his life.
A maskless Brady braced his feet and swung the trophy back and forth, measuring distance and strength needed to complete the pass before tossing it from his boat to the next. The Lombardi tumbled through the air, landing safely in the grasp of two eager passengers to the delight of everyone surrounding them.
The moment perfectly captured the Buccaneers' accomplishment in the 2020 season, one played amid a pandemic with a roster assembled just months earlier and launched without the advantage of an offseason program. In the days after Super Bowl LIV, no one expected the Buccaneers to be the ones hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. And on Wednesday, few expected them to be on boats celebrating their title.
And yet, there were the Buccaneers, floating down the river – largely maskless amid the pandemic, unfortunately -- with their fans joining them along the riverwalk and on their own boats, cheering what Rob Gronkowski called "one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history" on Sunday night. The parade was put on by the city of Tampa with COVID-19 protocols that included a requirement of masks on boats, except while eating or drinking, buses limited to 50% capacity, hand sanitizer and masks available on every vessel, third-party boats remaining 50 feet away from the parade boats, players and families assigned to boats, and a closed media event held outdoors at the conclusion of the parade at the cruise ship terminal. The mask requirement didn't appear to be followed very closely, though most who were seen without masks were holding beverages.
It didn't take long for Gronkowski, enjoying many a beverage, to lose his shirt on Wednesday. After scoring two touchdowns in the Super Bowl, can you blame him?
No, you can't, and you certainly can't hold his mid-week joy against him after he teamed with Brady to fly south and deliver a title to a franchise that had won just one in its existence. Gronkowski celebrated atop a boat as part of the parade, dancing in his trademark style, flapping his arms around and enjoying himself to the fullest as the Florida sunshine beamed down on him.
Receiver Scott Miller proved he had dependable hands when he caught a key touchdown in the NFC Championship Game, but he left those hands behind for the parade. Miller dropped teammate Chris Godwin's phone into the river during the parade, per NFL Network's Sara Walsh, Godwin's device into the depths of the Hillsborough, plunging into the only darkness found on perhaps the brightest day in the history of the Buccaneers..
After assembling a championship caliber roster, general manager Jason Licht built his celebration the most appropriate way possible for a man with a last name pronounced "light" -- he boarded a boat with a 12-pack of light beer.
Licht took the celebratory stage once his boat docked and made a proclamation that became commonplace Wednesday: "We're going to f------ win this thing again."
To do so, Licht will need to retain much of the roster that powered the Buccaneers to their first title since the 2002 season. To that effort, everyone involved -- Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Mike Evans, for example -- declared they will be returning for another run at a title. Coach Bruce Arians drove that point home by repeatedly grabbing the microphone to tell each of them "your ass ain't going nowhere," to the delight of those in attendance.
They'll have Brady at the center of it all once again, ready to lead his team in an attempt to become repeat champions for the first time since he did it with the New England Patriots in the 2004 season. Brady soaked in the moment more than usual, fully enjoying his first warm-weather Super Bowl title celebration of his career. By the time the Bucs docked and took the stage, Brady had exhausted his jovial energy, forgoing a celebratory speech.
No worries, of course. His teammates had him covered with their attire. Puffing a cigar and ad-libbing on the mic, Vita Vea and others wore T-shirts printed with Brady's famed combine photo.
The greatest of all-time was an unassuming prospect back in 2001. But like his Buccaneers were in the moment he decided to join them, their overlooked status didn't last long. All it took was one look at the boats on the river Wednesday to prove it.