ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The billboards are up on Florida's Gulf Coast and folks are waiting on hold to buy tickets as Canton-bound quarterback Tom Brady readies to reset everything for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And if Bucs fans want to see a preview of how a future Hall of Fame quarterback can completely impact his new franchise, they need look no further than when Peyton Manning joined the Denver Broncos.
On March 20, 2012, Manning stepped to a podium in south suburban Denver and said, "I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my playing career with the Denver Broncos."
Manning, who had played 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before a neck injury derailed his entire 2011 season, was already a no-questions-asked Hall of Fame-bound quarterback, just as Brady is. Brady has six Super Bowl rings and has played in nine of the league's title games -- a portfolio not seen since Otto Graham threw touchdown passes in the post-World War II NFL.
Broncos general manager John Elway, who knows a few things about being the hub of a franchise, said at the time that Manning's signing "raises all boats."
And that is what the fire-the-cannons Buccaneers are hoping for with Brady. Nothing will be the same in Tampa as long as Brady is there. He will be at the root of every decision, every practice plan, every person in the building, every single day.
The Broncos organization had experienced this before with Elway, but this will be mostly new to the Buccaneers. Because coach Bruce Arians has seen Manning up close as a former Indianapolis Colts assistant, though, he will have some quality intel on that front.
As former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall once said: "You could just tell, by everybody, and that's everybody, upstairs, downstairs, at lunch, whatever, if Peyton was even in the building, because of who he is, what he's done and how he does it. He's been successful at every point in his career -- of course you want to be a part of that. But you could tell even with the coaches, people in the office, everybody, it's rare because those players are rare."
The late Broncos owner Pat Bowlen knew it, wanted it, and thought it was missing from his team. When he introduced Manning, he said: "We're very fortunate to have two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in this room. One is already in. The other is definitely going in after he retires. Peyton is one of the best ever to play this game. I feel very fortunate to have him here. Our goal has always been to win Super Bowls; Peyton gives us a chance to win another world championship. I'm thrilled that he has decided to become a Denver Bronco. This is a great day for me, personally, and for our organization, our city and our fans."
And even as he said it, Bowlen knew he was essentially giving up much of the direction of his franchise and handing it to Manning. He also, as Elway did, knew that was how it had to be.
So much so that when Manning arrived, Elway said: "The last thing we want to do is not do what Peyton does best, and that is use his mind. We are going to try and take advantage of all that.”
The results in Manning's four years were four AFC West titles, 50 wins, two Super Bowl trips and one Super Bowl win. That resulted, in part, because Manning pushed every person, every day, starting with himself.
It is what Brady will do for the Buccaneers, even as he reaches out to his new teammates over the next few weeks.
They will be pushed more than they ever have before because Brady, like Manning did eight years ago, will arrive believing that how he does things works.
As Aqib Talib, who has been a teammate of both Brady's and Manning's, once put it: "We knew Peyton was ready, every day, so we had to be ready every day. People say they understand what that means, we all do, that they know, that they're on point and all that, but it's different than you've ever done and you know right away. People say they want it, but everybody's going to know if you really do once you're in it, man. I've seen both of those guys. They're the greatest, and you better really want that greatness, man, or you won't be around to live it -- you know what I mean?"