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Timeline: How the Bucs and Tampa converged for Super Bowl 55

Tampa wasn’t supposed to host the game. And the Bucs tried, and failed, for years to get to this stage.
The Bucs passed on Johnny Manziel to draft his Texas A&M teammate, Mike Evans. It worked out.
The Bucs passed on Johnny Manziel to draft his Texas A&M teammate, Mike Evans. It worked out. [ Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Feb. 1

Super Bowl 55 will be unlike any of the four previous NFL championships the city has hosted, for two reasons: The Bucs will be the first team to play the game in their home stadium, and Tampa was not originally supposed to host this year’s event.

A look at some of the key dates that led to this historic convergence:

April 27, 2012

Who would have known in Lavonte David's first practice that he would become a focal point of a Bucs Super Bowl team?
Who would have known in Lavonte David's first practice that he would become a focal point of a Bucs Super Bowl team? [ Tampa Bay Times ]

A first-round trade a day earlier gives the Bucs an additional fourth-round pick in the draft. Playing with what then-general manager Mark Dominik calls “house money,” Tampa Bay uses that extra choice and a third-rounder to move up 10 spots to select linebacker Lavonte David with the No. 58 overall pick. Thirty-four of the players picked in front of David are out of the league. He remains one of the Bucs’ focal points.

Related: Tampa Super Bowl: Where did the Bucs, Chiefs players come from?

Jan. 21, 2014

The Bucs introduced Jason Licht as their new general manager in 2014.
The Bucs introduced Jason Licht as their new general manager in 2014. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

After firing Dominik and his 28-52 record, the Bucs hire the Cardinals’ vice president of player personnel, Jason Licht, as general manager. The head coach Licht had been working with in Arizona: Bruce Arians.

May 8, 2014

General manager Jason Licht and then-coach Lovie Smith introduced Mike Evans in 2014.
General manager Jason Licht and then-coach Lovie Smith introduced Mike Evans in 2014. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

In one of Licht’s biggest early decisions, he chooses not to draft quarterback Johnny Manziel with the seventh overall pick. Instead, Licht picks the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner’s Texas A&M teammate, Mike Evans, who blossoms into a three-time Pro Bowl receiver.

December 2015

Landing big events like the Super Bowl was a selling point for renovations to Raymond James Stadium.
Landing big events like the Super Bowl was a selling point for renovations to Raymond James Stadium.

The Tampa Sports Authority, City Council and Hillsborough County Commission agree to use $29 million of public money to help fund $100 million in renovations to Raymond James Stadium. The upgrades, which include new video boards, are intended to help land marquee concerts and sporting events.

May 24, 2016

Tampa lost out on a chance to host Super Bowl 54, which went to Miami's Hard Rock Stadium.
Tampa lost out on a chance to host Super Bowl 54, which went to Miami's Hard Rock Stadium. [ TYLER KAUFMAN | AP ]

Tampa is a finalist for Super Bowl 53 and 54 but loses out to Atlanta and Miami, respectively. The city isn’t in the mix for Super Bowl 55, which goes to Los Angeles and its state-of-the-art stadium that is not yet under construction.

May 23, 2017

Rain delayed the construction of SoFi Stadium, which led to Raymond James Stadium landing Super Bowl 55.
Rain delayed the construction of SoFi Stadium, which led to Raymond James Stadium landing Super Bowl 55. [ GREG BEACHAM | Associated Press ]

Record rainfall in Los Angeles causes construction delays to SoFi Stadium, pushing its opening back to 2020. Because the NFL doesn’t allow stadiums to host the Super Bowl in Year 1, the league needs a new host for the 2021 game. Owners unanimously agree to move the game to Tampa, formalizing the agreement five months later.

Related: Tampa Super Bowl: What a major sporting event is like in the COVID-19 era

Dec. 30, 2018

Dirk Koetter's Bucs career ended in 2018.
Dirk Koetter's Bucs career ended in 2018. [ Times (2018) ]

The Bucs fire coach Dirk Koetter, who produced one of the best offenses in franchise history during a 5-11 season. Less than two weeks later, they lure Arians out of retirement to become the team’s fifth different coach in 11 seasons.

March 15, 2019

Shaquil Barrett was a key part of the Bucs' win at Green Bay.
Shaquil Barrett was a key part of the Bucs' win at Green Bay. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Bucs take a $4 million chance on a free agent linebacker, undrafted out of college, with 14 sacks over five seasons in Denver. Shaquil Barrett becomes a standout, leading the league in sacks in 2019 and starring in this season’s NFC Championship Game, with three sacks on the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers.

April 25-27, 2019

Scotty Miller was a steal as a sixth-round pick.
Scotty Miller was a steal as a sixth-round pick. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Bucs forgo a pass rusher with the No. 5 overall draft pick in favor of the nation’s top linebacker out of LSU, use their next pick on a midmajor cornerback, then trade down to snag two more defensive backs. And in the sixth round, use their No. 208 selection on an undersized receiver from the Mid-American Conference. All five — Devin White, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, Mike Edwards and Scotty Miller — start against the Packers in the NFC title game. White records a game-high 15 tackles with a fumble recovery, Murphy-Bunting has a pivotal interception and Miller catches a game-changing touchdown at the end of the first half.

Related: Bucs’ Scotty Miller says he’s fastest player in NFL, would beat Tyreek Hill in a race

Dec. 29, 2019

Jameis Winston's last pass as a Buc was a pick-six against the Falcons.
Jameis Winston's last pass as a Buc was a pick-six against the Falcons. [ Times ]

Atlanta intercepts Jameis Winston in overtime and returns it for a touchdown to end the Bucs’ 7-9 season with a 28-22 loss. The league-high 30th interception of the year for the 2015 No. 1 overall pick is the final piece of evidence the Bucs need to look behind what Arians called Door No. 2.

March 20, 2020

The Bucs thought Tom Brady could make them a championship contender when they signed him as a free agent. They were right.
The Bucs thought Tom Brady could make them a championship contender when they signed him as a free agent. They were right. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Bucs hear six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady knocking from Door No. 2 and sign him to a two-year, $50 million deal. Arians calls him “a proven winner who will provide leadership, accountability and work ethic necessary to lead us to our goal of winning another championship.” Ten-and-a-half months later, Brady and the Bucs are one win from making it happen.

Related: How the Bucs got Tom Brady to leave the New England Patriots for Tampa Bay

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Tampa Bay Times Super Bowl coverage

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