FAB 4. No More Bad Characters In Tampa Bay
Bucs general manager Jason Licht gets at least one more draft in Tampa Bay and at least one more round of free agency. There is a decent chance that he may draft or sign a bust – a player that just doesn’t perform up to expectations. That happens virtually every year with every general manager around the league. No G.M. has a perfect draft or a perfect free agent class.
Drafting or signing a bust is one thing, but drafting or signing a player with bad character is another. A player with bad character is also called a “turd” in NFL scouting circles to define a player with a crappy attitude.
The Big Takeaway
Players that don’t play well are one thing. Players that have cancerous attitudes can really stink up a locker room. In a critical year in Tampa Bay for Licht and first-year head coach Bruce Arians, the Bucs general manager needs to do a clean flush of the locker room and get rid of any bad characters, but more importantly – don’t add any more in free agency or the draft.
Now you may ask why I am signaling to Licht to stay away from such players, yet suggesting that the Bucs consider signing running back Kareem Hunt, who was kicked off the Chiefs on December 1 for what would be classified as misdemeanor assault towards a woman in Cleveland last offseason if he were charged with anything. By all accounts, Hunt was a great teammate in Kansas City, just as Jameis Winston, despite his previous off-field issues, has been a great teammate in Tampa Bay. He’s also taken full responsibility for his actions and I believe in forgiveness.
When I talk about guys with bad character I’m talking about left tackle Anthony Collins, who stunk up the joint and took the money and ran in 2014 while butting heads with offensive line coach George Warhop, and also tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a second-round draft pick, whose alcohol problems early in his career led to his quick demise as a Buccaneer after he butted heads with head coach Dirk Koetter.
The one-year locker room cancer that was defensive tackle Chris “Swaggy” Baker (or was it Chris “Lazy” Baker) has been well documented, but there were two other turds who stunk it up over the last year in Tampa Bay – wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Brent Grimes. First, let’s recap Jackson’s two-year tenure with the Bucs, which will be coming to an end this offseason after he gets cut or traded.
On December 21, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times wrote this: “Interviews with coaches and players confirm that Jackson was fined extensively for being late to meetings and sometimes fell asleep in them. He rarely took notes.
It got worse in the final months. Jackson refused to play catch with one of his coaches one day before practice and was told to sit out.
Just before Christmas last year, he played cards in the locker room with his former Washington teammate, defensive tackle Chris Baker, and was late to a meeting. When told he would be fined again, Jackson erupted and kicked over a display Bucs receivers were using for a secret Santa gift exchange. He then became involved in a physical altercation with one of his coaches and had to be restrained by a teammate.”
Jackson had several tantrums on the sidelines of Bucs games this year when he wasn’t getting the ball when Jameis Winston returned to the lineup, and then despite the team’s 27-9 win against the 49ers, Jackson took to social media to vent over the fact that he had just three catches for 19 yards. Jackson asked to be traded prior to the trade deadline, and then said on his podcast that he wanted to stay and retire with the Bucs a few weeks later. Then in December, Jackson told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he wanted to move on from Tampa Bay and put his house up for sale.
Good riddance, DJax.
Then there was the play of cornerback Brent Grimes, who had to be talked out of retirement to come back to play one more year at age 35. Talking a player into staying when he has one foot out the door was Licht’s second mistake. His first mistake was signing Grimes in the first place a few years ago because his outspoken wife Miko is a ticking timebomb.
It’s like having a pet boa constrictor. You can pet it and hold it, but if you think you’ve truly made it domesticated and try to sleep with it, it tries to strangle you and kill you.
The danger of a boa constrictor is always there. Why? Because at the end of the day it’s a snake.
The first couple of years in Tampa Bay, Grimes played well with four interceptions, 24 pass breakups and a game-winning pick-six in 2016, followed by 11 pass breakups and three more INTs in 13 games in 2017. But last year, Grimes’ production nose-dived. In 13 games, Grimes had zero interceptions and came into the season finale with just three pass breakups.
Grimes seemed like he checked out mentally from the start, as he had a lackluster training camp, sitting out over a week with an injury that was never identified by the media. Grimes looked like he played soft throughout the year, rarely made plays and looked disinterested in making tackles in the run game.
“I mean, it’s an opinion, I don’t feel like I had a bad year,” Grimes said. “I had multiple games where I didn’t have a target. I allowed two touchdowns.
“Fans really don’t know. That’s why the owners in football have a great advantage, because they can paint whatever picture they want to paint because people don’t really know what’s going on. I play football and watching TV copies you can’t really tell what the f*** is going on. You don’t know. It’s whatever – people are going to say what they’re going to say.
“Going into this season I wasn’t sure if I was going to play. They called. They were running some weird numbers with the money or whatever. I get there, and we come to an agreement of a base salary of $7 million, which is nice money to play left corner or whatever, okay. I’ve been playing left corner – everything is cool. Y’all want to pay me $7 million when other corners are making way more than that and not playing as well as me, cool.
“But we get to the Steelers [game in Week 3] and then they start asking me to follow people and I was just tired of every year of my career I don’t get any type of respect for what I do. And then y’all hit me with the seven [million dollars] and then we get to a game with Antonio Brown and now it’s follow receivers and I couldn’t agree with that. Because it’s just disrespectful because people that follow receivers all the time, unless they’re on a rookie contract or trying to get paid, are usually making $13–15 million dollars per year. That’s not right. It’s disrespectful and that just f***ed up my whole vibe for the whole year to be completely honest. Because it’s just disrespectful, I just felt disrespected.”
Grimes went on to detail how he and cornerbacks coach Jon Hoke didn’t get along, and how he was benched for being on his phone at the halftime of the Bears game despite that being common practice with the team throughout the year. Players being on their phones at halftime instead of listening to the coaches talk about halftime adjustments seems like an entirely different problem altogether and speaks volumes about the losing culture that engulfed the Koetter regime.
But at the end of the day, Grimes wasn’t benched for poor play throughout the year like he should have been because head coach Dirk Koetter was likely afraid Miko would take to social media and make a big stink about it, criticize the coaches and the team, and air out the Bucs’ dirty laundry publicly – just like she did in her husband’s last stop, which was in Miami. Koetter was trying to do everything he could to win enough games to salvage his job, and couldn’t afford to let Miko rock the boat, so he let the Grimes-Hoke situation ride, which was a mistake.
Grimes needed somebody to tell him that the “CB” in front of his name stood for “cornerback” – not “Coach Brent.” Players play and coaches coach.
Good riddance, Grimes.
Players make way more money than position coaches do. For $7 million per season – which isn’t chump change for a player that turned out to be chump corner in his final year in Tampa Bay – Grimes should have done whatever his coaches asked him to do with a smile on his face. Football is the ultimate team sport and the best teams are the ones that usually have a lot of players with team-first attitudes.
Grimes clearly didn’t have a team-first attitude. Instead he had selfish, money-grubbing attitude and he set a poor example for a lot of the team’s younger defensive backs and rookies.
Do you think Adam Humphries’ “vibe was f***ed up” by being told to return punts in addition to playing slot receiver last year? Do you think Humphries griped about not getting paid more to play special teams in addition to offense?
Heck no, Hump went out and balled in a contract year, doing as much for the team as he was asked to do. That’s why the Bucs are going to attempt to re-sign him to a contract extension this offseason while waving goodbye to selfish players like Jackson and Grimes.
The FABulous Ending
Were there problems with Koetter and his coaching staff in Tampa Bay? Yes, and that’s a big reason why Koetter was fired. Grimes isn’t entirely wrong for calling out some of the faults with the scheme under Mike Smith and some of the chaos that ensued over the last year and half before Smith got fired. But it’s Grimes’ attitude – and the attitudes of players like Collins, Seferian-Jenkins and Jackson that have literally stunk in Tampa Bay over the last couple of seasons.
I think Arians, who is a no-nonsense coach, won’t tolerate any more guys with questionable character in Tampa Bay. But Licht needs to do his part and make sure he stops importing them in free agency and the draft.