“To me he’s the Executive of the Year,” said Bucs head coach Bruce Arians on Monday, fresh off Tampa Bay’s 30-20 playoff win at New Orleans, when asked about general manager Jason Licht.

And why wouldn’t Arians believe that Licht is the league’s top G.M. after Sunday’s divisional playoff win against the Saints as the Bucs prepare to head to Green Bay for a rematch against the Packers in the NFC championship game?

Licht’s personnel moves over the last two years working with Arians – and even before that – were on display in Tampa Bay’s biggest win of the year.

No move was bigger than signing six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady, who accounted for three touchdowns in the victory at New Orleans and two scores the previous week in the win at Washington. With Brady at the helm, the Bucs averaged a franchise-record 30.8 points per game this year and have scored 30 points or more in each of the team’s last five games.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, LB Devin White and GM Jason Licht

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, LB Devin White and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Speaking of points, Licht finally solved the team’s puzzle at the kicker position with the addition of veteran Ryan Succop, who has been the Bucs’ unsung hero this year. Succop set the franchise record for most points scored in a single season with 136, and was perfect in New Orleans with three field goals and three extra points.

Linebacker Devin White, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2019, which was the year Arians was hired by Licht, was the best defender on the field in New Orleans, recording a game-high 11 tackles, recovering a fumble and a big interception in the fourth quarter.

Cornerbacks Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting – all recent Day 2 picks – combined to hold Saints star wide receiver Michael Thomas to zero catches. Murphy-Bunting, a second-round pick from 2019, recorded a big interception in the second quarter – his second in as many weeks – to help the Bucs build an early 10-3 lead in the win over the Saints.

Safeties Antoine Winfield, Jr., a second-round pick this year, and Mike Edwards, a third-round pick from the 2019 draft class, also had a hand in forcing two takeaways. Winfield knocked the ball out of Saints tight end Jared Cook’s hands with White recovering the fumble, while Edwards ended New Orleans’ comeback attempt with Brees’ third interception of the day late in the game.

“I’ve got to say that Jason is the main reason I came back in coaching,” Arians said. “I knew how good of an evaluator he was having worked with him [in Arizona]. We shared the same vision – we’re going to build this thing on defense. We’ll score enough points.”

Bucs QB Tom Brady

Bucs QB Tom Brady – Photo by: USA Today

True to Arians’ word, the Bucs scored 30 points for the second straight playoff game, hitting the team’s season average of 30.8 points per game. The key was holding the Saints below 30 points, which is something Tampa Bay hasn’t done in the four previous losses to New Orleans under Arians.

The defensive draft picks that Licht and Arians chose over the past two years played a significant role in the Bucs’ victory, as did some of the duo’s recent offensive selections.

Right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who was this year’s first-round pick, held Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan to just four tackles on Sunday. It would be fair to say that Wirfs won all three individual battles against Jordan, a five-time Pro Bowler, in the three Bucs vs. Saints games this season.

Wide receivers Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson, who were drafted on Day 3 in 2019 and 2020, respectively, also came up with a pair clutch catches in New Orleans that led to the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter.

On third-and-11 at the Tampa Bay 20 with the scored tied at 20-20, Brady threw a back-shoulder pass that Johnson contorted his body to make a fantastic 15-yard reception.

Three plays later on third-and-5 at the Tampa Bay 40, Brady dropped a 29-yard dime to Miller between two Saints defenders to get the Bucs in field goal range to go ahead 23-20.

“He has a great rapport with all of them, especially Scotty,” Arians said of Brady. “There are very few guys that can twist and turn and make that catch, but Tom put it out there and he knew Tyler could make that catch. He’s got a great, great future.”

Throw in reserve offensive lineman Aaron Stinnie, who got his first start at right guard in place of Alex Cappa, and running back Leonard Fournette, who had his second playoff game in a row with a touchdown and over 100 yards total yards of offense, and Licht’s fingerprints were all over one of the biggest victories in franchise history.

Bucs GM Jason Licht, head coach Bruce Arians and Joe and Bryan Glazer

Bucs GM Jason Licht, head coach Bruce Arians and Joe and Bryan Glazer – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Brady was also instrumental in helping to lure future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, and that allowed Licht to pull the trigger on a trade with New England for his services. Although he caught just one pass for 14 yards in New Orleans, the Bucs were able to rush for 127 yards between Fournette’s 63 yards and 62 yards from Ronald Jones II against the league’s fourth-best rushing defense, and Gronkowski’s blocking on the perimeter played a role in that achievement.

“Just building the roster the way he has, and then being able to get Tom and Gronk, Leonard and still be really cap-friendly [is remarkable],” Arians said. “We believed RoJo was a player. He had all that talent. It was just a matter of maturity. I can’t say enough about what Jason has done. To me he’s the Executive of the Year just pulling off all that stuff he did.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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ScottC543
ScottC543(@scottc543)
10 months ago

I concur.

Buc76
Buc76(@jjjj)
10 months ago

No Tom Brady is executive of the year. Licht got lucky. He bombed on Winston and a lot more…on another note Rick Stroud reports Vita Vea could play Sunday!!

ScottC543
ScottC543(@scottc543)
Reply to  Buc76
10 months ago

Yeah, Licht got lucky.
Over and over again. And again after that.

He’s gonna getting lucky again this weekend too.

Last edited 10 months ago by ScottC543
fredster
fredster(@fredster)
Reply to  Buc76
10 months ago

He has had way more home runs than bombs. Every GM has big misses. He put together one hell of a team and coaching staff. I personally think he’s becoming a great GM and I never bad mouthed him or wanted him gone even early on. GO BUCS!

Spitfire
Spitfire(@spitfire)
Reply to  Buc76
10 months ago

Now that’s just silly. Brady didn’t build that Defense who just embarrassed Brees in his final NFL game. Light has done a solid job at building a team that is in the NFC Championship game. The best part is that even though in a couple years we will be looking for a new QB and leader of the franchise, we have a lot of great building blocks to build on for the future. We have the perfect amount of Youth and Veteran building blocks while not being in cap hell. We haven’t mortgaged the future like the Aint’s and we… Read more »

PissedOffBuc1988
PissedOffBuc1988(@buclover1988)
Reply to  Spitfire
10 months ago

Licht is just getting started. Keep him in tampa for as long as possible

gcolerick
gcolerick(@gcolerick)
Reply to  Buc76
10 months ago

Wow….Mr Glass half empty. Have a nice day!

76Buc
76Buc(@76buc)
10 months ago

Probabilities say you’ll miss a few. Licht had to go through some OJT (we all have), but the past few years he has really been the unsung hero of this franchise.

^^mtn^^
^^mtn^^
10 months ago

If you’re going to hold him responsible for the mistakes, you also have to give him credit for the gravy moves as well.
Never will forgive Lovie for tearing the o-line apart when he got here.

SappAttack
SappAttack(@derekmitchellmay)
Reply to  ^^mtn^^
10 months ago

can’t like this post enough.

^^mtn^^
^^mtn^^
10 months ago

If you’re going to hold him responsible for the bad moves, you have to give him credit for the gravy moves as well.
Never will forgive Lovie for tearing that o-line apart when he arrived; turned out to be a real dud, other than tanking for the 1st pick.

Last edited 10 months ago by ^^mtn^^
76bucsfan46
76bucsfan46(@76bucsfan46)
10 months ago

Jason has grown into the job, he was a first time GM. No one is perfect, but atleast he doesn’t hang on to his mistakes. The man is rounding into a complete GM.

Buc stops here
Buc stops here(@buc-stops-here)
10 months ago

Finally, a story on Jason Licht. He was thrown under the bus when he started from the mistakes he made. Over time he has improved and everyone should recognize the team today is what he put together starting with Lovie Smith and all the way to Arians. Sure a lot of those earlier picks did not pan out, but as of late – particularly the last three years – the draft picks are working out. Also, he has been one of the best from his start at finding people who are not drafted who can contribute. Cameron Brate? Not drafted.… Read more »

Horse
Horse(@horse)
10 months ago

No question Licht best Free Agent was Brady. I have to admit Brady is a special guy; he was far from my favorite player as a Patriot. Bucs are now Brady’s team. Finally, he will deserve that title. Licht got this Season right if we beat the Packers and

sunshineben
sunshineben(@sunshineben)
10 months ago

why all the praise on Licht? The bucs have been losers for most of his years.as gm.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy(@eastendboy)
10 months ago

If it is not completely obvious why we are in the NFC Championships this year, and missed the playoffs (once being the absolute worst team in the whole league; 4 times out of his 7 seasons we have been picking in the top 10) during Licht’s tenure, I don’t know what to tell you. The GOAT is the difference!…thank you BA for getting him here.

Buc76
Buc76(@jjjj)
10 months ago

The point is these players would not play as well as they are and these free agents would not come here except for Tom Brady being here. Therefore, Tom Brady is the executive of the year. Jason Licht has done very little here. He occupies a chair. A monkey could do what he’s done.

matador
matador(@matador)
Reply to  Buc76
10 months ago

The Brady effect is real. Licht being a great GM is not. The before-after comparison is stark. Heck Brady is even doing some of BA’s job, by his own admission, and likely some of BL’s job too. This article is just currying favor with the information gate keeper, no need to take it as anything more than that.

PatrioticChief
PatrioticChief(@patrioticchief)
10 months ago

Unlike the Winfield or BB comment I think this one from Arians is completely accurate. He is definitely the Executive of the Year.

plopes808
plopes808(@plopes808)
10 months ago

Yes

compewterpirate
compewterpirate(@compewterpirate)
10 months ago

I am sure most of us are having to eat some humble pie regarding Jason Licht, myself definitely included! However, let’s give credit where credit is due. Jason nailed these last two drafts and had a truly outstanding free agency this last off-season. Acquiring Brady, Gronk, Succop, AB, Fournette, et al, surely has to be among the all-time greatest free agency hauls by an NFL GM ever.

matador
matador(@matador)
Reply to  compewterpirate
10 months ago

Brady Gronk AB and Fournette all fell into Licht’s lap.
The only reason he was even here to benefit from such luck is because of the shared history with BA.
And giving Licht credit for finally finding a kicker after burning two draft picks trying, and failing, to do so is just silly.