Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
But this week, due to many circumstances you all are well aware of, this Cover 3 is going to be a bit different.
In my previous Cover 3 column, I correctly identified that there is no “we” in “Bucs” for former head coach Dirk Koetter. You can read it for yourself, if you missed it, but the gist of it is that Koetter’s fate has been becoming more and more clear for a while now, and eventually the former head coach himself let that knowledge slip.
However, Koetter’s departure, as is usually the case with house cleanings in the NFL, left the Buccaneers with more questions than answers right off the bat. To answer any franchise questions you always have to start from the top down.
At the very top are the owners. Bryan Glazer, Joel Glazer and Edward Glazer have to take as much responsibility for the Buccaneers’ lack of success as anyone else. The brothers’ father, the late Malcolm Glazer, whose name hangs in the Buccaneers Ring of Honor, was the one who hired Tony Dungy and traded for Jon Gruden.
After Malcolm suffered a stroke shortly after the Super Bowl he stepped down from the decision-making, and it’s been up to the Glazer trio, and their head coach hiring track record isn’t nearly as good. Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and now Dirk Koetter. And not a single one has made the playoffs nor made it longer than three years at the helm.
Though their history of hiring coaches is certainly less-than-ideal, they aren’t going anywhere, and with each failure of a hire they’re recognized it and moved on. Now it’s up to them to up their batting average — this next hire is the most important one they’ve ever had to make.
It was an unknown whether general manager Jason Licht would also be left out in the cold on Black Monday – or Sunday, in this case – but after the Glazers’ public statement on Koetter’s firing included the detail, “our search for a new head coach will begin immediately and will be conducted by General Manager Jason Licht,” you knew that Licht was safe for at least another year.
A reason for that is because I believe the Glazers need Licht. They don’t want to go through this coaching hire on their own, and hiring a general manager they’re likely quite unfamiliar with to assist them in their coaching hire is two risks on top of each other. For the shortcomings Licht has had in free agency and the draft, he has also been able to strike some gold. Keeping Licht was a coin flip, a debate that Scott Reynolds even mapped out on both side in a recent Fab 5, in which you could finish reading and see both sides.
The Glazers ultimately decided to keep Licht, and I believe that was the right move.
The tipping point of me landing in the pro-Licht camp doesn’t come from draft picks or signings. Those are the meat and potatoes of the argument that, as stated before, the evidence on both sides from those and other areas in his job can be split. But what made the difference for me was his press conference following Koetter’s firing. At the podium, Licht was professional, but emotional, too. His eyes were red and welling up, and his voice, at times, shaky.
Why? Because Licht gives a crap.
Licht cares. He cares about this organization beyond just his job or his security. It messes him up when he has to fire someone, and do you know why? Because part of him knows that he failed that person, too. He ended his press conference answering the question of “What do you have to say to the fans who have now endured back-to-back losing seasons,” and with a heavy voice he said “I feel your pain” as he walked off the stage.
I think this is more than just a free ride of a job to Licht. It’s way more than just an “I made it” step in his career for him to now coast and always be able to say he made it to peak of his profession. I truly do think he cares about the Buccaneers; its employees; its players; its fans; its city.
General manager tenures are tough to judge because of the time that has to go by in order to truly evaluate it. It’s often a swift decision by those looking to pass judgement. Licht just finished up his fifth year as the Buccaneers general manager. When you think about it, five years really isn’t that long considering some of the guys Licht brings in have to pan out for years before they are truly judged. If you take the first three years of his career in Tampa Bay, years in which you could say he was learning on the fly as a first-time GM, there are plenty of signings and draft whiffs you can point to. But I do believe that Licht has become more confident in himself and his role. The problem over the last two years, more so than any blatant misses on his part, seemed to be the disconnect between the players he wanted to bring in and the players the coaches wanted.
I know for a fact that there were certain free agents he wanted to go after that some of his coaches, ones who are no longer in Tampa Bay, were picky about and didn’t want – damn good free agents, too. Who knows what even Derwin James would have been in Mike Smith awful defensive system playing 20 yards off the line of scrimmage in Tampa Bay instead of at the line of scrimmage like he did in his rookie Pro Bowl season in Los Angeles?
I am not making a case for Licht to get signed to a long-term extension or anything. He still has to earn that, and he hasn’t yet. But what he’s done doesn’t deserve you losing all faith in him, either. What I’m saying is that it was the right move bringing him back for this extremely important one-year window for the Buccaneers in 2019 because he’s going to truly give it his all for the sake of the franchise just as much as himself. Now he gets to really go out and find a coach that will hopefully be on the same page with the types of players he wants to bring in, and you hope that the connection of innovation, plan and execution will be a lot smoother than it was in the Koetter Era, for a variety of reasons – not all divisive from Koetter himself.
After all, winning in the NFL is like a string of Christmas lights. From the owners to the front office to the coaching staff to the last guy on the practice squad – if one light bulb is off, the whole line fails to light up.
So just who might that head coach and coaching staff be to light the line?
Find out on the next page as we build the ideal Bucs coaching staff.