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FAB 1. Licht Is Bucs’ Best Ever G.M.
“We have the resources to keep all of you guys together, and to keep you next year. And we’re going to f@*#ing win this thing again next year, alright?” – Bucs general manager Jason Licht to his players after Tampa Bay’s boat parade celebrating the team’s Super Bowl LV victory.
Not only are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers atop the NFL because of their remarkable 31-9 victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, but Licht stands alone as the greatest general manager in franchise history.
Licht wound up hiring a Super Bowl winning head coach in Bruce Arians, having enough pull to lure him out of retirement.
For decades Rich McKay has been considered the top general manager in Buccaneers franchise history. He was the G.M. when Tampa Bay drafted the likes of strong safety John Lynch, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks, three Pro Football Hall of Famers, and another Buccaneer who should be in the Hall of Fame – cornerback Ronde Barber – along with five-time Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott in the 1990s. McKay was also the general manager that hired head coach Tony Dungy, who turned the franchise around, in 1996.
McKay was instrumental in re-signing all of those important Buccaneers to contract extensions, as they would form the nucleus for Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl team in 2002. McKay did a lot of good things during his reign from 1994-2003, including his campaigning for a half cent sales tax in Hillsborough County in 1996 that helped keep the Bucs in Tampa due to the city’s partnership with the Bucs to build Raymond James Stadium in 1998.
But McKay’s legacy has some flaws to it, the first of which is that he is more politician than personnel man. While he is credited for drafting Lynch, Sapp and Brooks, head coach Sam Wyche and McKay’s actual personnel men back in the early and mid-1990s – Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell – deserve just as much credit. Wyche was heavily involved in personnel back then.
After Dungy was fired, the Glazers tasked McKay with finding an offensive-minded head coach to replace him. McKay called Raiders owner Al Davis, but when he deemed the price was too high he served up Marvin Lewis, another defensive-minded head coach instead. The Glazers were furious and sidelined McKay and handled the coaching search themselves, pulling the trigger on the Gruden trade in February.
After winning Super Bowl XXXVII the Bucs became Gruden’s team and the relationship between Gruden, a grinder, and McKay, who was a South Tampa socialite, who loved to golf, quickly eroded. McKay drafted quarterback Chris Simms against Gruden’s wishes and re-signed a lot of the Super Bowl stars to monster contracts, overpaying the likes of kicker Martin Gramatica and defensive end Simeon Rice. When McKay abruptly left the Bucs midseason to join the Atlanta Falcons in 2004, Gruden would privately accuse him of sabotaging Tampa Bay’s salary cap before moving to a division rival.
Licht’s tale is simpler and easier to digest. In 2014 he inherited a roster that was bare of much talent outside of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David and running back Doug Martin and an aging cornerback in Darrelle Revis. Of those four, only David would be around six years later, helping Licht and the Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV.
The Super Bowl champion Buccaneers are the team that Licht built. It wasn’t him alone. He had plenty of help from the likes of director of football administration Mike Greenberg, his trusted right hand man, along with personnel honchos John Spytek, Mike Biehl, and
Why? Because Licht got his start in the NFL as a college area scout and knows how valuable they are to an organization – especially a championship organization.
But Licht leads the way. He is the leader of this Buccaneers ship.
The only real drama he’s faced is finding a f@*#ing kicker, as Licht would say.
That and finding the right head coach.
Licht was hired by Lovie Smith, the man he would fire just two years later. Licht promoted offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to continue to work with Jameis Winston, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, and that seemed like the right move at the time. But the Bucs needed to upgrade, and Licht went to the Glazers and replaced Koetter with Bruce Arians, who he lured out of retirement.
The hiring of Arians, plus recruiting Tom Brady to Tampa Bay, the deft trades for outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, the Bucs’ lone Pro Bowler this year, and tight end Rob Gronkowski, finally finding a reliable kicker in Ryan Succop, along with some tremendous drafting since 2017 helped Licht build this Super Bowl team from the ground up.
There are at least three Hall of Famers on the Bucs’ Super Bowl team that Licht brought to Tampa – Brady, Gronkowski and Mike Evans. And there could be a couple of more coming down the pike if the supremely talented Devin White and Tristan Wirfs and perhaps a few others continue to develop and deliver playoff berths and championships with the Bucs. Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl window just opened and won’t close for several more years due to the youth and talent on this team.
In 2021, the only Buccaneer left from the previous era is David, who happened to be the favorite player of Ron Licht, Jason’s father, who passed away during the 2019 season. David is everyone’s favorite at One Buccaneer Place and isn’t going anywhere in free agency. Licht will make sure the stalwart linebacker retires as a Buccaneer and goes up in the Bucs Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium.
Licht doesn’t quite belong up there yet, but who knows? In his seven years in Tampa Bay, Licht has only been to the playoffs just once.
But if the Bucs “f@*#ing win this thing again next year” and Tampa Bay goes on a playoff run for several years Licht will certainly be considered for the Bucs Ring of Honor as the first general manager inductee.
After all, he’s already considered the best general manager in franchise history for building the best Bucs team of all time.
FAB 2. Brady Belongs In The Bucs Ring of Honor
The 2020 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers already have a couple of Bucs Ring of Honor members on the team in legendary linebacker Lavonte David and record-breaking wide receiver Mike Evans. With another playoff berth or two the case could be made for head coach Bruce Arians’ induction.
The same could be said for Bucs quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady? After just one year in Tampa Bay?
Yes, Brady has already proven he deserves to be in the Bucs Ring of Honor by virtue of having the best season by any quarterback in Tampa Bay history and leading the team to its second world championship by beating Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City, 31-9, in Super Bowl LV.
You see, the Bucs’ history at the quarterback position isn’t exactly rich. Doug Williams, the only QB in the Bucs Ring of Honor, got the team to the playoffs three times, but was 1-3 in the postseason and never made a Pro Bowl. Williams completed 47.4 percent of his passes in five years as a Buccaneer and threw 73 touchdowns and 73 interceptions in orange and white.
Trent Dilfer became the first Bucs quarterback to go to the Pro Bowl in 1997, but was average at best.
The same could be said of Vinny Testaverde, Josh Freeman and Jameis Winston. All three failed to make the playoffs during their time with the Bucs, but rewrote the record book with passing yards and touchdowns because their teams weren’t that good and often trailed early, which meant that Tampa Bay had to rely heavily on the pass to try to get back in the game.
Brad Johnson made the Pro Bowl in 2002 and helped the Bucs win their first Super Bowl, but didn’t leave his mark on the franchise record mark. Tampa Bay’s dominant defense played more of a role in that Super Bowl season than Johnson’s passing did, and that’s why he’ll never be in the Bucs Ring of Honor.
It’s different for Brady, though.
In his first season in Arians’ offense, he broke the franchise record for most passing touchdowns with 40 and most TDs accounted for with 43, which includes three rushing scores, in addition to winning the Super Bowl LV. The 43-year old Brady should have been picked for the Pro Bowl ahead of Kyler Murray, whose Cardinals team didn’t even make the playoffs.
Speaking of playoffs, Brady was masterful in the postseason, out-dueling the legendary likes of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Mahomes in three straight games to deliver the Bucs their second Super Bowl win. The Super Bowl victory was Brady’s seventh, and he was selected as the Super Bowl MVP for the fifth time in his storied 21-year career.
Everyone knows that Brady is the NFL’s all-time winner. He’s the GOAT, and he ain’t done yet. He still has more magic to deliver in Tampa Bay in 2021 as the Bucs are built to defend their title next season.
Brady will be forever remembered as a Patriot by the league, but why wouldn’t the Glazers and the Buccaneers want to claim him, too – especially since he delivered the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory? Put TB12 in the Bucs Ring of Honor and he’s immortalized in our TB – Tampa Bay – forever.
Another playoff season or two could cement Arians’ status as a Tampa Bay legend, too. In just two seasons, Arians is 18-14 with the Buccaneers and his 56.25 percent winning percentage is tied with Bucs Ring of Honor coach Tony Dungy (54-42) for best in franchise history. What separates Arians for the time being is his postseason record, which is a sterling 4-0 and includes a Super Bowl championship.
Dungy was 2-4 in the playoffs, while fellow Bucs Ring of Honor coach Jon Gruden was 3-2 in the postseason, including Tampa Bay’s first Super Bowl. Arians’ four postseason wins are already the most in Bucs history. Add those four victories to his regular season records and Arians is 22-14 and has won 61.1 percent of his games in Tampa Bay, which is the best in franchise history.
Something tells me that Arians and Brady have some more playoff wins in store in 2021 – and maybe another Super Bowl – to cement their legend status in Tampa Bay and perhaps get Arians in the Bucs Ring of Honor, too. Brady, a future Hall of Famer, already belongs there after a legendary season in his first year in red and pewter.
FAB 3. Why The Bucs Get A RB At No. 32 In PR’s First Mock Draft
I read the comments on the PewterReport.com 2021 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft and apparently I have some explaining to do about the selection of North Carolina running back Javonte Williams at No. 32 for Tampa Bay.
A lot of readers that commented on the mock draft didn’t like the selection of a running back at No. 32, so let me explain the rationale behind it.
The Bucs – like all teams – want an impact player in the first round and someone who will definitely see the field as a rookie for the sake of value. Even at No. 32.
Unless Ndamukong Suh or Shaquil Barrett doesn’t return, drafting a defensive tackle or an outside linebacker wouldn’t meet that criteria as Suh and Barrett will be full-time starters in 2021.
Yet I don’t necessarily see running backs Leonard Fournette or LeSean McCoy returning, and I don’t think the team can count on third-round pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn stepping up and splitting carries with Ronald Jones II next year given his fumbles and drops in limited action as a rookie. And yes, Fournette and Jones did split carries in 2020 with Playoff Lenny leading the way 584-508, including the postseason.
So where is a rookie going to see the field on a loaded Super Bowl Buccaneers roster? At running back, splitting carries with RoJo in 2021.
To the Jones fans out there, the Bucs like Jones, but they don’t love him. If they did he would have wound up with more carries by season’s end. That might be a bitter pill for some of you to swallow, but it’s a fact.
Here’s another fact. NFL teams shouldn’t pay running backs big second contracts.
Don’t believe me? Ask Jason Licht about Doug Martin.
Ask the Cardinals about David Johnson.
Ask the Rams about Todd Gurley.
Ask the Panthers if they got the bang for their buck from Christian McCaffrey since his big contract extension?
And after missing 17 games over the last two years, do you think the Giants are eager to sink $64 million over four years into Saquon Barkley, who has rushed for a pedestrian 1,037 yards and six touchdowns in the last 15 games he’s played in?
Even if Jones becomes a 1,200-yard rusher in 2021 during his contract year, the Bucs would be wise to move on rather than sink $12 million a year or more into him. That goes for Fournette, too – unless he wants to come back on another one-year deal worth $2.5 million, but that’s doubtful.
The value in the running back position in the NFL is on rushers in their rookie contracts. That means that this could/should be Jones’ final season in Tampa Bay.
If the Bucs don’t draft a starting-caliber running back in 2021 they’ll have to pay for one in free agency (which isn’t wise), count on Vaughn to be the man (which isn’t wise, either) or roll the dice on a rookie carrying the load in 2022, which is risky. That’s why drafting a premier running back this year makes sense in 2021 and beyond.
To those who suggest that Williams is valued as a second-round pick, picking No. 32 is as close to the second round as you can get. He won’t be around when the Bucs are on the clock at No. 64.
And because there is value to having a running back on his rookie contract, why not draft a highly touted running back like Williams at No. 32 and get him on a rookie contract for five years rather than four with the fifth-year option that comes with first-round picks?
What about New England’s James White you say? Yes, the pass-catching running back will be available in free agency next month, but he’s coming off his least productive season in five years, rushing for just 121 yards and two scores while averaging 3.5 yards per carry, and catching 49 passes for 375 yards (7.7 avg.) and one score.
At age 29, White is still good, but he’s not the god that some Bucs fans are making him out to be. He’d be a definite upgrade over McCoy as a third-down receiver out of the backfield, but Tampa Bay would still need a replacement for Fournette.
That’s where Williams comes in. Draft him in 2021 and then have him team with Vaughn in 2022 in Tampa Bay.
FAB 4. Williams Isn’t Harris, But He’s Close
I’ll admit it. I would love to see Alabama running back Najee Harris in a Bucs uniform and to see Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht draft him in the first round.
I’ve watched Harris over the past three years at ‘Bama and love his ability to run, break tackles, make people miss and catch the ball. His rushing production increased each year, especially the last two years from 1,224 yards as a junior to 1,466 yards last year, and his touchdown production soared from 13 TDs in 2019 to 26 in 2020. It was the same with Harris’ receiving numbers, rising from 27 catches for 304 yards as a junior and seven TDs to 43 receptions for 425 yards and four scores last year in his senior campaign.
I would also be fine seeing Clemson running back Travis Etienne, Jr. take a hand-off or catch a pass from Tom Brady next year. Etienne, who rushed for just under 5,000 yards in his Tigers career, including back-to-back 1,600-yard seasons in 2018-19, while scoring 70 touchdowns as a four-year starter. Etienne, who is faster than Harris, also caught 102 passes for 1,155 yards (11.3 avg.) and scored eight touchdowns, and that receiving ability would make him a perfect fit in Bruce Arians’ scheme – and Tom Brady’s newest best friend.
But unless Licht trades up from No. 32 to get either one, both Harris and Etienne should be gone before then, as teams like the Miami Dolphins (No. 18), New York Jets (No. 23) and Buffalo Bills (No. 31) have pressing needs at running back. That’s why I put North Carolina running back Javonte Williams in at No. 32 for Tampa Bay.
While he doesn’t have the name recognition that Harris and Etienne have, Williams is every bit the stud they are. After rushing for 933 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry in 2019, Williams took his game to another level as a junior, rushing for 1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns and averaging 7.3 yards per carry.
And he did it splitting carries with Michael Carter at North Carolina, so he’s already used to sharing the workload. That’s important because whether it was Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II in 2019 or Jones and Leonard Fournette this past year, Bruce Arians is a two-back head coach.
So let me introduce you to Williams, who had nine 100-yard games in his career. He had 19 carries for 160 yards (8.4 avg.) and three TDs versus a stingy North Carolina State defense this year, as well as 20 carries for 169 yards (8.5 avg.) and two scores with three catches for 55 yards (18.3 avg.) against Virginia Tech. He capped off his Tar Heels career with a massive performance against Miami with 23 carries for 236 yards (10.3 avg.) and three TDs.
Williams is a very good receiver out of the backfield with 50 receptions for 539 yards and four touchdowns in his UNC career, including 25 catches for 305 yards (12.2 avg.) and three TDs during 2020. And at age 20 – he turns 21 on April 25 – Williams enters the NFL with plenty of mileage left on his tires.
Williams not even being named as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award is truly head-scratching — he just had one of the most productive years we have ever seen at the position and came away with the highest rushing grade of the PFF College era (95.9).
Williams averaged 0.48 broken tackles per rushing attempt in 2020, which is also a PFF College record, and he did so while leading all backs in the percentage of runs that picked up a gain of 10 or more yards (26.8%).
The balance Williams possesses is truly special. Despite ranking 19th in the FBS in carries, Williams racked up four more runs that included 10 or more yards after contact than anyone in the country (23).
Williams has also forced 83 missed tackles, the most among any FBS player in the country and 15 forced missed tackles clear of No. 2 on the list, Najee Harris from Alabama.
PFF is right. With amazing contact balance to slip tackles, great power to break tackles, ideal speed to elude would-be tacklers, solid vision to find the hole and run to daylight, dependable hands to catch the ball, and very good production – Williams has had it all.
If Suh and Barrett return to Tampa Bay in 2021, drafting a stud runner like Etienne, Harris – or even Williams – makes perfect sense for the Buccaneers. Just watch his highlight video and you’ll become a Williams believer.
FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• DAVID LOOKING TO BECOME HIGHEST PAID LINEBACKER? Don’t believe everything you read. Is Bucs linebacker Lavonte David looking to get Bobby Wagner money – $18 million per season – as he enters free agency at age 31? That was a report on Twitter earlier this week, but Bucs sources tell PewterReport.com that’s not the case. David currently averages $10.50 million per year. Look for him to get a pay bump and a short-term deal this offseason to remain in Tampa Bay as the Bucs try to navigate a salary cap that is expected to be around $181 million, which is $17 million less than it was in 2020.
SOURCES: Buccaneers LB and pending free agent Lavonte David is seeking to become the highest paid linebacker in the entire NFL. He hopes for that to happen in Tampa Bay pic.twitter.com/V44CsRa0pW
• BALDY BREAKING DOWN BARRETT: Fox NFL announcer Brian Baldinger took to Twitter for another Baldy’s Breakdown of Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett from Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV.
• SUPER BOWL EDITIONS OF PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts four live episodes each week in the offseason – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at our original 4:00 p.m. ET time slot. Over the past week we chronicled the Bucs’s 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV and had Bucs general manager Jason Licht on the Pewter Report Podcast as a special guest on Thursday. Here are the most recent episodes from this week.
Watch the Pewter Report Podcasts live on our PewterReportTV channel on YouTube.com and please subscribe (it’s free) and add your comments. All of our Pewter Report Podcasts will be archived there so you can go back and watch the recorded episodes if you missed it live.
The audio versions of the Pewter Report Podcasts will can be found on iTunes and Soundcloud. There is no better time to listen to or watch a new Pewter Report Podcast – energized by CELSIUS – than right now or early Saturday morning during your workout or while running errands.
• BUCS ARE THE REAL CHAMPIONS OF THE NFC SOUTH: Of the four teams in the NFC South, the Bucs are now 2-0 in the Super Bowl with victories in 2002 and 2020, while the New Orleans Saints are 1-0 in their lone appearance in 2009. The Carolina Panthers made the Super Bowl in 2003 and 2015, but lost to New England and Denver, respectively. The Atlanta Falcons are also 0-2 in the Super Bowl, losing to Denver in 1998 and New England in 2016.
• WIRFS IS A SUPER BOWL SUPERSTAR: Not only has Tampa Bay right tackle Tristan Wirfs, the team’s first-round pick, had a sensational rookie season, he also had a super game in Super Bowl LV, according to Pro Football Focus.
Highest-graded OL in a Super Bowl since ’06:
1. Tristan Wirfs (2020) – 91.7
2. Brandon Brooks (2017) – 90.5
3. Kelechi Osemele (2012) – 90.1 pic.twitter.com/dLMCAxhtar
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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