The moment the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make Tom Brady jerseys available, they will likely become the No. 1 seller in the NFL. There’s just one problem.
Which number will be on those Brady jerseys?
Brady has worn No. 12 his entire NFL career. It would be interesting to figure out how many No. 12 New England Patriots jerseys there are in closets around the world. It’s probably fair to assume, given Brady’s success over 20 Patriots seasons, that his No. 12 jersey is the best-selling jersey of all time in any sport. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a No. 12: star receiver Chris Godwin.
Which number Brady wears might seem like a minor thing, but it’s not.
Chris Godwin is attached to No. 12
Most players get attached to a number. In Brady’s case, TB12 has become his business brand. It would be weird for TB12 to not wear 12.
But it’s not that easy. Greg Auman of The Athletic said “Godwin loves 12.” Godwin wore No. 12 at Middletown High School in Delaware and also at Penn State. His Twitter handle is @CGTwelve_. His girlfriend is “_misstwelve” on Instagram. He’s not a guy on the roster bubble either; Godwin emerged as one of the NFL’s best receivers with 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns last season. And on top of all that, think of all the Buccaneers fans who have already invested in No. 12 Godwin jerseys.
In an interview with “Bucs Beat” on the team’s Twitter page, Godwin said he has talked to Brady but the jersey number didn’t come up.
“Obviously if he doesn’t want it, if he doesn’t make a big deal about it, I’m definitely going to keep it,” Godwin said. “We’ll see how that goes. Out of respect for what he’s done, what he’s accomplished and just the career he's built for himself, you have to lean into that respect. We'll see how that goes.”
Regardless of whether we think athletes should be attached to jersey numbers, they are. It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for Godwin and it’s a big deal for Brady. And it’s a big deal to the folks who want to start marketing new Brady jerseys.
Which number will Tom Brady wear?
Usually, a player will pay a hefty sum for his number if someone already has it. Perhaps Brady goes that route, or donates a hefty sum to Godwin’s charitable foundation as Auman suggested he might. But it also might not be that easy. Maybe Godwin doesn’t want to give up his number at any price.
With something like Brady’s new number, it’s not just the equipment manager assigning him one. Make no mistake, the number Brady gets is a big deal from a business standpoint. It could even be an organizational conversation if the players involved can’t figure it out.
Brady wore No. 10 at the University of Michigan. That number is currently assigned to Scotty Miller, a receiver who was a rookie last season. No offense to Miller, a sixth-round pick who caught 13 passes last season, but if Brady wanted No. 10, he’d get No. 10.
Brady could build some goodwill with his teammates by not pushing for Godwin’s number. His Instagram post officially announcing he’d signed with Tampa Bay was heavy on the message that he hasn’t proven anything and wants to fit in. It would likely play well in the Bucs locker room if Brady announced he won’t ask Godwin for No. 12 because that’s Godwin’s number.
Seeing Brady in a new uniform for the first time in his NFL career will be weird enough. And he might be wearing a number we haven’t seen him in before, too.
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