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.

Jon Gruden and Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer
Jon Gruden and Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer – Photo by: Getty Images

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.

Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer and GM Jason Licht - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

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.

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Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: trevor@pewterreport.com
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destinjohnny

Why would keeping the worst gm just because he cares be a good reason?
After 5 drafts here is your talent ranking
Qb-23rd
O-line 28th
Wide outs -tight ends 5th
Backs 30th
D line 23rd
Backers 26th
Secondary 32nd
But let’s keep him cause he cares

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EastEndBoy

I also found the argument in favor of retaining Licht (I.e., that he cares) to be lacking. If all it takes to hold on to our GM job is to care, I suspect the High School counselor from Tampa Tech will be next in line. How about results on the field as a marker!

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e

And, if Arians says no… Then who next?

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tpeluso

“Who knows what even Derwin James would have been in Mike Smith’s 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?”

EXACTLY the point I’d make to any James apologist. James would NOT have put up the kind of numbers here that he did in LA, and Vea definitely looks like he’s starting to figure things out.

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Bucsfan1983

Who cares?? Then Derwin is missed used for the 7 games Mike Smith was DC in 2018. James still has more potential and a higher ceiling than Vea. It was a very easy pick to make. You take James 10 times out of 10.

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Bucsfan1983

Man 14 of y’all are severely sleeping on James or have no clue what kind of player he is.

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Buc-n-Philly Fan

Try 29 folks who see a higher long term ceiling than James!

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yohohoandabottleofrum

Good article to start the new year. We all know that everything in the NFL is a crap shoot, but this is a really good list of coaches that I think could right the ship. If Jason makes the right FA signings and stacks multiple picks in the draft and starts with the O line and the D line then a running back and secondary help this team could really be good in the future.

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EricNV

I agree with most of Trevor’s points and personnel choices except for 1: Duffner. Duffner did the most he could to turn around the defense after Smith’s departure, and if we had any blocking from the right side of the O-Line, we would have likely won more than 5 games. However, the problem I have with Duffner is all of the missed tackles the defense has made for as long as Duffner has been the linebacker coach. The Bucs used to have one of the best tackling defenses in the league, if not the best, for years. Duffner shares the… Read more »

matador

Now this is telling it like it is, instead of selling out to advance your own interests (as so many, seemingly most, in business and politics do today).

“Mr. 27-53” indeed

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bucs/2019/01/01/why-is-jason-licht-still-the-bucs-gm/

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EastEndBoy

Excellent article by Martin.

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shuster

“it was raining running backs, Licht and his scouting staff couldn’t get wet”. I love it.

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Naplesfan

Good post by Fennelly, the non-koolaid drinker on the TB Times sports staff.

Hey, one can never go broke betting on the Baby Glazers to continue making stupid decisions.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

Bruce Arians will not take this job unless he has full control I’m not sure the glaciers and GM will go for that most likely we’ll get some coordinator that the glaciers and GM will be able to tell him what to do and nothing will change in bucksland if that’s the case.

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You do know that Arians was offered complete control more than once in Arizona and he turned it down saying he had no interest in running the organization? So yeah, another brilliant post by ass-Bob.

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76Buc

That’s some run-on sentence Dude.😉

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Buc76

This is about selling tickets. Arians would generate excitement and sell tickets. He would be great for Jameis Winston and the offense. He would bring good coaches with him. He could even keep wearing the red cap. All of this provided he’s healthy. If Licht cannot land him there is no use for Licht. If Arians doesn’t happen this team will not get a good coach. It better happen or no one will buy tickets.

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Wright

It’s not about selling tickets. What a load of BS. If you knew anything about the NFL, you’d realize NFL owners make most of their money off massive TV deals. There could be zero tickets sold and Glazers would come out way ahead.

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Naplesfan

So you think there is no embarrassment factor whatsoever that the Bucs not only feature half empty stadium every home game but the majority of fans in the seats are rooting for the visiting team?

I suppose that the Baby Glazers must have egos, or they would have just sold off the team to someone who cares and pocket their billions in cash.

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stlbucsfan

So the best argument for keeping Licht is because he cares?? Lmao are you kidding me? I wish my job would keep me around despite doing a worse job than my predecessor who was fired. Maybe he can care us into more wins lol.

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Naplesfan

I see that the sizeable Noles/Winston fanboy club who desperately wanted to retain Licht because he is their guy’s protector are showing up here in droves to downvote any commenter who disagree that Licht should have been retainbed.

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stlbucsfan

One could argue that emotion and attachment are the very reason he can’t propery evaluate the team Bc he’s too busy caring and not busy evaluating.

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Horse

Good Cover 3 Trevor.
I’m very very lukewarm with Licht and here’s the reason; once he realized RoJo was going to need some time and his transition to the NFL and same for Cappa,
why didn’t acquire/trade for some help?
Anybody have an answer to that question besides something derogatory?

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Captain Sly

Maybe this will help you Horse.
Head Coach =F
Offensive Line Coach =F
Running Backs Coach =F
Young player learning/playing in a bad scheme. What are the chances of success, not much.

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Naplesfan

Yeah, the Bucs offensive coaching staff was just so horrible that they only managed to place third in the league in offense. And both Koetter and Monken are in huge demand as OCs in interviews going on today. Clearly firing offenses by all!

Sheesh … SMH squared

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Bucsfan1983

This would be an A+ staff, Trevor!

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SenileSenior

Trevor, you are coming into your own as a football sportswriter.

Good information and analysis and much to chew on! Just the kind of article I am looking for as a fan.

Many people are touting Arians. The big questions are about his health and his desire to jump back into the fray. I would guess that his wife would want him to stay retired from coaching but not necessarily from football in some other capacity.
___________
Go Bucs!!!!!

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surferdudes

I posted previously why they kept Licht, I’ll do so again for those who missed it. If the Glazers had to find a G.M. first, they would’ve fell behind in the coaching search. There are 7 other teams looking for a H.C., we would’ve fell behind all of them finding a G.M. first, or having to replace two people instead of one. If you read the Glazer’s statement they didn’t say they kept him because he cares, or they thought he did a good job, or they were going to extend him. They simply said he’ll be conducting the search,… Read more »

buddah

Precisely correct. They would have a huge mess if they would be looking to hire both a new GM and a new coach. They did the right thing.

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Naplesfan

Surfer – that makes zero sense. If the Glazers were worried about being first rather than being best, they would have started their GM search a year ago, knowing that Licht was on probation (they only extended his contract a single year last January). They could have been talking to GM candidates all year, and got that guy’s insight into the best head coaches available. No top shelp NFL head coaching candidate wants to come in and work for the coach killer Licht and be told that he has to make do with the mediocre Winston as his so-called “quarterback… Read more »

Deón Lester

Licht is the reason some of you even came out of your cave to give your takes on this team. You hear we’re supposed to be good again & you pop up then it doesn’t go as expected then you talk crap about things that don’t matter. Despite the misses you honestly think you can up & find a GM that will save the day? the job is more than picking players & most of you loser are Mark Dominik dick riders & that’s even worse. This team is built to succeed if they can get the O line &… Read more »

EastEndBoy

I had to read this five times to make sure I wasn’t misreading it..”Donovan Smith has progressed”???? I still think you meant to write “regressed”, except that wouldn’t be correct either because you can’t regress from simply always being terrible. I don’t see it – progress???…nuh uh.

The biggest mistake we’re about to make is signing Smith for big money…here it comes folks because Licht cares too much about Smith and won’t admit his mistake.

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JohnGaltsGhost

Licht has a long track record admitting his mistakes and moving on. He’s well known for moving on from his mistakes like Aguayo like a Collins etc etc. There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t do the same with Smith.

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76Buc

Yep Mr. Galt. Collins was Lovies mistake.

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Buc76

Wright you’re not bright. You know nothing and your post just showed. Stick to what you. You know nothing about professional sports

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buddah

Why no discussion of Team Trainer. This team has been poorly condioned for the past four years and consistently has more injuries than most other teams.

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chefboho

Agreed Buddha. This team always seems to run out of gas in the fourth quarter or has a ton of starters injured. I’m aware it happens for a lot of teams but this team of ours seems cursed with the injury bug.

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Horse

Could be we run out of gas because lack of talent or attitude from several players. Remember what JPP said about being real. I have seen several players once the play gets past them they stop playing.

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76Buc

Buddah, I agree and have mentioned the medical staff and trainers several times. I always get criticized for it. This team is a MASH unit every year; not just occasionally.

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BucWild02

Really, that’s most teams these days. The players say it’s because they don’t practice enough anymore.

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OneBucPerson

I got some small corrections to make for this list. First off, hell no to the idea of bringing Leftwich in as the QB coach. Rosen looked like trash for most of the year even when he had a clean pocket, we need someone who can actually coach out bad habits from Jameis like staring down receivers or not setting his feet. I’d recommend we go after Tom Clements, dude turned Aaron Rodgers into a star and he damn sure could do a hell of a lot better job than Bajakian or Leftwich did this year. He’s been out since… Read more »

thejerseybuc

Monken will be interviewed by the Jets. He is highly thought of outside of Tampa. I agree on James, especially after Hargreaves less than stellar beginning of his career in the NFL. Drafting two local DB’s with top of the draft number one picks? I think Licht was a little gun shy on making a mistake here with another DB. For years we have been been dominated on both sides of the ball. Team needed and still does need to get more physical on both lines. Remember, there is a good chance 93 is on his way out, so Vea… Read more »

Matt

If not Greedy Williams CB LSU with 1st pick then the OT Williams Bama , DT Oliver Houston, DE Allen Boston (no way Bossa is available)… If we can’t get a top tier CB (I think Greedy is the only one IMO) or the top OT in Williams from Bama then I say we follow the draft and take the top D lineman available like DT Oliver from Houston who I think is the next Aaron Donald and my top pick (if Bosa isn’t available.

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Horse

I’m not a Bosa lover as I see attitude issues and not playing hard on every play. That’s just my opinion.

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TBChucky

Sold! I’d take that staff in a heartbeat.. Bring Bruce to Tampa Licht!

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Matt

I absolutely love this! The only thing I would add (maybe I missed it) the Arians would have more control over draft and personnel .

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76Buc

May be left him control the 53.

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cvillebucfan

I want Arians and I want him inked ASAP. Great article. To land BA and TB would be an elite move for this org.

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tnew

Looks good, with Arians/Kichens the Bucs could name Kichens as head coach in waiting if he works out. I do believe with Arians the OC should be named asst head coach. I like Bowles as well. Really this is a possible and desirable staff.

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drdneast

Egads, I read the Marty Fentanyl column and I hate to say I agree with him.
But then again Marty would throw anyone from the Bucs under the bus if it meant he could get a column out of it.

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owlykat

I have been calling Arians our best Coach candidate well before this article so I loved all the reasons why in this article and I agree with all coaches he should bring except Leftwich. We could do better than Leftwich.

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drdneast

I know a lot of people think Hargreaves is a bust, hell, I didn’t even want the Bucs to draft him No. 1 unlike Pewter Report, but I am more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was playing in some sort of scheme (whatever Mike Smith called it, maybe the the catch and tackle) but most of our DBs looked like they had been run over before Duffner came in. I also know Eli Apple was considered a bust as a No. 1 in Giant land until he was traded to the Saints who… Read more »

BucFan circa76

Excellent article Trevor, what a way to start the year and what’s going to be a vital offseason at One Buc Palace. I agreed with most of your coaching choices/opinions – personally would love to find a way to hire Arians, Bowles, and somehow retain Monken and perhaps Duffner. In Bucdom, all we can do is dream, right? Since Arians “retired” at Arizona just a season ago, would the Bucs owe compensatory draft pick to the Cardinals if this goes that direction? With Arizona also searching (again) for a new head coach I imagine they would seek something if they… Read more »

4halfabuc

I agree with Surferdudes comments. I believe there may have been contact with Arians before Koetter was fired, probably through back channels and that Licht was promoting Arians to the Glazers. Perhaps the Glazers told Licht to go get Arians done. If the Bucs can’t get Arians they may go after Pagano.
If it’s someone like McCarthy or Jim Caldwell I think they would bring their own GM and Licht would be long gone.

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SenileSenior

If the situation was/is remotely like what Licht did to get JPP we are golden!

We shall see.
__________
Go Bucs!!!

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Captain Sly

The Glazers like the direction in which Licht is leading the team and therefore will not bring in some one to change that. Lichts going to be here so might as well get used to it. My strong feeling is if Arians is hired he becomes GM/HC and Licht becomes President of Football Operations. Happy New Years Everyone!

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Naplesfan

The Glazers like the direction the team is going? 2-14, 6-10, 9-7, 5-11, and 5-11 and no playoffs is not a direction any team owner should like.

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compewterpirate

A quality article as usual Trevor, however, there is one point that I strongly disagree with, regarding Licht’s ’emotional’ attitude and it being regarded in a positive light, as a sign that he ‘cares’. Excessive emotion or a fragile emotional disposition, in a senior executive, is not a desirable commodity. Reasoning or a capacity for logic, which are senior to emotion, are conversely highly desirable. In other words an executive who makes decisions based on emotions, at the expense of sound reasoning or logic, will fail at all levels. Could you see Bill Belichick standing at the podium, raw eyed,… Read more »

Naplesfan

The right coach will come to work for the right GM. People are getting it backwards. A head coach search is not a race against time .. it is a race against incompetence.

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surferdudes

Naplesfan, it should be obvious right, or wrong, the Glazers put more stock in who the H.C. is then who the G.M. is. They let Gruden run off McKay for Allen, promoted Dominick over more qualified people, and let Lovie hire Licht as his yes man. Licht is here to conduct the coaching search, that’s it. Licht will work at the pleasure of whoever that coach is, or that coach will bring in his own G.M. down the road. I’m not saying that’s the way to run a franchise, but the history of the Glazers says that’s the way they… Read more »

Handiman1031

“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.” This is the type of information that would be an interesting read. Who were the FA players? Who are some of the guys available he wanted in the draft that were passed over due to coaching evaluations? What draft picks were actually guys he wanted and went to bat for? Were you privy to this information before they were… Read more »

tog

Fan of yours and I liked the staff you assembled.

But this article is weak as fuck.

Keep Licht because he cares? Come on man, that’s the silliest argument I’ve come across. Put down the bottle…

How about understanding the very basics of drafting? Team assembling? Hiring? Caring doesn’t fix fundamental flaws in ability and competence.

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drdneast

Handiman1031, those were all great questions you posed and ones I have asked myself. The core question is on personnel decisions is one that has never been fully explained. Why is it such a big secret. I do know for a fact the Lovie Smith had final say on roster decisions his first year which I believe is a big reason the large majority of our FA’s that year were a big stinking bust. I don’t know if that was taken away from him the following year. Since then it has been a hodgepodge of slections with varying degress of… Read more »