REUTERS: When Tom Brady left the Patriots after two decades for the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers last offseason, he said he was doing so to see "how great I can be".
That led to raised eyebrows as well as a few eye rolls among NFL fans.
Sure, Brady won a record six Super Bowl rings in New England, but he would be a 43-year-old by the time the season rolled around and Father Time remains undefeated, especially in a sport as physical as pro football.
He was also joining a Buccaneers squad coming off a 7-9 season that had not made the playoffs since the 2007 campaign, their lone championship coming way back in 2003.
A winning culture was not exactly part of the Buccaneers' DNA, having been a laughing stock of the league in the 1970s and perennial bottom feeders from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.
But the Northern California native, who was drafted by the Patriots in 2000 in the sixth round with the 199th pick, set out to forge a new path for the franchise and once again prove the doubters wrong.
Before the season even started, Brady, who signed a two-year, US$50 million deal with the Bucs, took matters into his own hands by bringing longtime Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement to join him in Tampa.
And he joined a Bucs team that was better than its record from the previous season suggested.
It boasted a solid receiving core in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, a stout defense and a sharp and diverse coaching staff led by league veteran Bruce Arians, who has two rings of his own from his time as a wide receiver coach and offensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After losing to a very good New Orleans team on the road in the season opener, the Bucs ironed out the kinks and got better as the year progressed.
The team played its best football in the final month of the season including upset wins over the Saints and Green Bay Packers in the playoffs to set up a meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.
The Chiefs are slight favorites to repeat as champions, but it is hard to bet against Brady, who appeared relaxed this week while discussing his journey back to the Super Bowl.
"Part of the reason why I came here is because there were a lot of great things here - a great coaching staff, great players. I felt like I could come in and really help the team win," he told reporters.
"We all hoped to get to this point in the season, which we have. Now we've got to go try to finish it off."
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Ed Osmond)