TAMPA ― It might sound a little corny, by design in fact, but the Bucs front office had a code name for their dogged pursuit of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Why? Because the greatest quarterback of all time leaving the Patriots to rescue the losingest franchise in major sports with a .387 winning percentage is as unlikely as the legendary White Sox slugger, Joe Jackson, walking out of a cornfield in Iowa.
The name was hatched by John Spytek, the Bucs’ director of player personnel and a former teammate of Brady’s for one season at Michigan. Oh, and Spytek is also a huge fan of the movie Field of Dreams.
"If we build it, he will come,'' Spytek used to tell general manager Jason Licht, repeating the famous line from the 1989 movie. "Go the distance.''
The Bucs have not been to the playoffs in 12 seasons, the second-longest streak in the NFL. Brady has not missed the postseason in the past 11 years and has six Super Bowl wins in nine appearances during his career.
Of course, we all know how that March 18 phone call went between Brady, Licht and coach Bruce Arians.
According to a Sports Illustrated story by Ian O’Connor, during the 90-minute conversation, Brady said something to the effect of, "I think we’ve got something. We’ve got a chance to be very special.''
That’s when Licht gave the thumbs-up to Arians.
Is this heaven? No, Tom. It’s Tampa Bay.