At 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht met with members of the Tampa Bay and national media to address the decision to fire former head coach Lovie Smith late Wednesday night.
Clearly shaken up, Licht began the press conference by praising Smith as a person and as a dedicated coach, and called the events “one of the most challenging days of my career.”
Licht, the lone spokesperson for the Buccaneers with ownership currently out of town, proceeded to open up for questions. He answered on a variety of different topics ranging from the decision-making process, to the organization’s patience with coaches, to possible candidates, including offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, among other subjects.
Jason Licht and Lovie Smith – Photo by Buccaneers
While Licht said that he and Smith shared a vision of winning when they joined together in 2014, his job as general manager is to evaluate every aspect of the team and present his analysis to ownership. In doing so, the Glazers’ felt it was best to find a new leader.
“I commend (ownership) on the fact that they take their time, think things through and they don’t make emotional or in-season decisions,” Licht said. “They take in all the information. As a general manager, one of my jobs is to give them my analysis weekly, at the end of the season, the scouting of the coaching – strengths and weaknesses – and take that information. And they presented to me what their recommendation was.
“All I’ll say is that a football decision was made that we thought was best for the future of this franchise. I understood the decision after conversations and don’t really want to get into detail on those things. Once again, a deep respect for Lovie as a football coach, but we felt this franchise needed a new face, a new coach to get us back to winning.”
Licht made it clear that it wasn’t a decision based on an effort to keep Koetter. While he called the coach-quarterback relationship very important, he said that the move was made with the entire team’s future in mind.
That said, Licht called Koetter, who is widely believed to be the front-runner, a strong candidate among “a lot of quality coaches” available.
“Dirk Koetter is definitely one of (the quality coaches),” Licht said. “He’ll be a very strong candidate. He’s got a strong resume. I had a chance to work with him day-to-day for the last year and I like Dirk. He’s going to be a strong candidate.”
But are the Buccaneers, a team joining the search with such franchise’s as the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins, a strong option for one of those “quality” candidates? Coaches value stability and, given the recent history of three coaching changes in seven years, many wonder if a reputation of being impatient would complicate the search.
Licht’s response was blunt.
“I think when you have eight wins in two years and three home wins in two years… I think they’ve been patient enough,” Licht said. “It does take time, but I think while you’re building a good football team you can compete.”
While he’s yet to contact anyone for an interview – a process that requires the team to follow league protocol – Licht believes that the Bucs head-coaching job is a coveted one. Along with sensing outside interest, the general manager is confident that it’s an attractive opportunity, based primarily on committed ownership and a franchise quarterback.
“I would tell them that this organization has done everything it can to find the best head coach,” Licht said. “They are committed to winning. They are committed to finding the right guy. And now they’re confident that we can find the right guy and they’ve placed that confidence in me. I’ve been around some great organizations. I’ve been a part of a coaching search in Arizona and it resulted in a pretty good head coach. I’ve had a lot of experience with that – good coaches. I don’t think it’s going to deter a great coach from coming here. It’s an excellent situation. I’ve already been shown by the interest that we’ve seen that people want to come to Tampa and coach.
“I’ll start with, once again, ownership that is not afraid to spend money,” he continued. “I’ll then go into quarterback – a 22-year-old quarterback who I happen to believe is a franchise quarterback. That’s a very strong asset to have. That’s one that not many teams can say that they have.”
Other notes from Thursday’s press conference included Licht revealing that he has power over the 53-man roster, something he didn’t have with Lovie Smith. Also that he met with every coach on the staff individually and that the conversations were about Smith. Licht will continue meeting with members of the team, coaches and players, as they come in to One Buc Place.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll preface this by saying again like I said a few days ago, winning in the NFL comes down to two things: talent and preparation. I also said that I place wins and losses on the GM and HC, not the QB because the GM selects the talent and the HC prepares the players for the games. So for Licht to say that “I think when you have eight wins in two years and three home wins in two years… I think they’ve been patient enough” that’s a classless statement by Licht that shows a lack of accountability. Licht was just as much responsible for those losses as Lovie. When you hear a GM’s name come up, be it someone who is retired, on the market or currently employed you always hear the win/loss record of the teams they’ve managed and championships used in evaluating how good they are. I’m not saying I hate Licht as a GM now or anything because if we win big that’s more important, but either way that isn’t a statement I’ll be forgetting in the years to come.
I agree Pink. Not only lacks accountability, but lacks sensitivity. It did not need to be said. We have had no success since Rich McKay left (run out by Gruden).
But I’ve heard recently that Collins and Johnson last year were actually Lovie picks in free agency. Couple that with more Lovie “talent” in the secondary, and we can see just from a personnel scale, Lovie wasn’t getting it done. I always blamed Licht for last year’s free agency debacle, but now I see that may not be the case.
However, when you add Licht/Robinson’s stellar drafts, a case could easily be made that Licht was quickly building a competent team, and Lovie just wasn’t coaching them up correctly. Don’t worry, this is a referendum on Licht now—if he grabs another great draft, has a decent free agency, and nails the coach, he’s a god, with or without Robinson. If next year is more middling play, he’s under scrutiny.
Totally agree, from what I have read of the press conference, it sounds like Licht ran Lovie under the bus!!!! It sounds like he wants the total control.
If we didn’t have Jameis, we would be the Cleveland Browns. That’s it. If we didn’t have the Dungy/Gruden era we would be less than the Cleveland Browns. If you fire coaches every 2 years, we will never succeed even with Jameis.
Don’t be so hard on our team art, I really do have a feeling things can turn around quick with the right hire. Lovie just wasn’t it.
I don’t place nearly the blame that some of you do on Licht. A GM’s job is to put talent on the squad, within the framework of what Lovie wanted. He doesn’t make game day adjustments. He doesn’t teach technique or skills. He put guys on the team that fit a system and have talent. I would say through the draft that Licht and his personaell guys and talent scouts that HE brought in have done that and then some the last two drafts.
Free agency, has reeked of Lovies fingerprints. I know they both say it’s 50-50 but do any of you really think Licht would want players like Mike Jenkins on our team?
Lovie had final 53 man say so even in terms of the misses you have to lay most on his shoulders. I think we are in pretty good hands with Liht as he has seen what winning organizations do.
Agree with your post. GM didn’t have control of 53 man roster. Lovie wanted HIS guys. HIS guys didn’t get it done.
Totally disagree with the above Posters. Most of those players you speak about did okay once they left the Bucs. Lovie’s Scheme sucked! Jason, lighten up because it’s not like Lovie is going to be at a Homeless Shelter anytime in his life. He didn’t throw Lovie under the bus. I listen to his Press twice and he was protective of Lovie.
I am with you Horse. Lovie’s scheme just didn’t work. He didn’t throw him under the bus either. Really bad post to say that.
Cleveland Browns South
As Licht said, he didn’t have control over the team after the draft. Lovie did. He now has control. I agree with cgmaster27 and Horse. Let’s give Licht the pass to see what he can do now that he is in control.
As GM, Licht oversaw both college and pro personnel acquisitions.
While the college draft got better, our FA’s we signed from other teams did not.
Many say Lovie was the reason for the poor NFL FA’s and with the coach having final say on the roster I would have to agree.
Lovie brought in a number of defensive players this year and other than Chris Conte, they underwhelmed. Again.
Add George Johnson to the list. Bruce Carter couldn’t beat out a rookie. Henry Melton was adequate but didn’t come close to the number of sacks he had last year. Tim Jennings was a disaster.
Now it appears some of you want to get rid of Licht for the similar convoluted reasons you wanted Lovie fired for.
Licht has done an excellent job since he got here. The first thing he tackled was to improve our college scouting department and it has worked.
Give it a rest. Enough Buccaneer blood has been spilt for one week.
“NFL: Not For Long.” Jerry Glanville.
One of the greatest lines ever spoken.
Horse I agree. He was asked a simple question and gave a no BS simple answer. Unlike Lovie who talked in circles and constantly insulted our intelligence with idiotic riddle like answers. Yes they were patient enough and the results were not good enough period. You have a problem with that too bad. Try to spin it as the GM as the problem isn’t going to fly. From what I understand Lovie was in charge of free agency and Licht the draft. He put talent on the field and the offense flourished. Lovie is supposedly a defensive coach and guru. He did some good things in the past but nobody should ever rest on their past accomplishments. NFL and most jobs are what have you done lately. Lovie took over calling defense and it got worse. 8-24 record was garbage and he had more talent than Raheem and Shiano. So to have problem with Licht saying Glazers were patient enough doesn’t make any sense to me.
Looks like I actually agreed with Drd here. Lol. Everything you said just now actually made sense.
I have no issues with our GM. If the drafts continue to be impactful, and the next HC can reduce the penalties, the wins will come. Poor coaching was the biggest problem. I’m confident the Bucs will improve their record next season.
I often wondered exactly what it meant for Lovie to be “in control of the 53 man roster. First question; What about the 10 player Developmental Squad? Second question; Did that mean that Licht was responsible and in control of the 90 players at Training Camp and Lovie was to select his 53 from that group? I suspect the two worked together on all personnel decisions and that Lovie had final say. I think we all can acknowledge that Lovie provided Licht a list of desired defensive free agents and the GM accommodated his requests. We all know how that worked out. I guess it’s like me hiring a group of subcontractors my superintendent wants and then if they don’t perform as hoped declaring them my fault for listening to him. Happens a lot in Scubog world.
This is the way it should be, one voice moving forward. I have faith in the meathead Licht. I want to draft the best corner, not a scheme fit corner. Find a coach who says get me the best talent, and I’ll coach em up.
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