Jason Licht deserves credit for Tampa Bay’s ascension to the Super Bowl

NFL: DEC 01 Buccaneers at Jaguars
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At the end of the regular season, Bills G.M. Brandon Beane emerged as the executive of the year. As the end of the postseason approaches, Buccaneers G.M. Jason Licht merits plenty of praise for the work he’s done in Tampa.

The arrival of quarterback Tom Brady pushed the Bucs to where they now are, and Brady’s arrival in Tampa ultimately was more about the player picking the team not the team picking the player. Still, the Buccaneers had to be willing to go all in with a 43-year-old quarterback — and they also needed to have the pieces in place to get Brady to choose to land there.

Licht systematically put those pieces in place over the past six years.

He arrived in 2014, and his initial first-round pick was receiver Mike Evans, who became the first player in league history to generate 1,000 receiving yards in seven straight seasons to start his career. Other key players drafted by Licht since 2014 include receivers Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, and Tyler Johnson, running back Ronald Jones, tight end O.J. Howard, offensive linemen Tristen Wirfs, Donovan Smith, and Ali Marpet, defensive tackle Vita Vea, linebacker Devin White, and defensive backs Antoine Winfield Jr., Sean Murphy-Bunting, Carlton Davis, and Jordan Whitehead.

Licht, in 2014, first signed undrafted free agent Cameron Brate; although they gave up on Brate in 2015, they signed him from the Saints’ practice squad after an injury to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Brate has been a mainstay ever since.

Veteran free agents added by Licht include center Ryan Jensen in 2018, pass rusher Shaquil Barrett in 2019, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in 2019. In 2018, Licht and the Bucs traded for pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul.

Then came 2020, starting with Brady. Brady led to the trade for Rob Gronkowski. Then came running back Leonard Fournette. Cut just before the season started, Fournette gradually has grown into a key contributor for the Buccaneers.

Yes, Licht’s resume includes the indelible stain of the decision to use a second-round pick on kicker Roberto Aguayo in 2016. But the Bucs didn’t double down on the mistake; after a year, they acknowledged it and moved on.

They also moved on from coach Dirk Koetter after the 2018 season, and Licht’s relationship with Bruce Arians played a role in getting Arians to take over the job.

Finally, they moved on from quarterback Jameis Winston, the guy in whom Licht and the Buccaneers placed a significant amount of faith by making him the first pick in the 2015. When Winston’s contract expired, Licht didn’t try to convince Arians to give Winston another year in the system. Arians was done with Winston, and Licht trusted Arians’ judgment.

So as Super Bowl week begins, it’s only fair to point out the role of the G.M. in putting together the team that found its way to the top of the NFC, capping an 11-5 regular season with three straight playoff wins.

What’s that, you say? The Bucs have sold their soul for a short-time stint with Brady? He’ll surely be back in 2021, and who knows how long he’ll stay after that? He could end up playing for the Buccaneers as long as Winston did, and they could be waiting a lot less than another 18 years to get back to the Super Bowl.

15 responses to “Jason Licht deserves credit for Tampa Bay’s ascension to the Super Bowl

  1. The Bucs are an overnight sensation 7 years in the making. This is a great article laying out the template for that. Build both lines, the D and the running game first, then the non QB skill players, then bring in the right HC and QB ladt to get you over the top. Also glad to see you noted how Licht wasn’t afraid to move on from flat out mistakes (Aguayo) and young players who had maxed out or were regressing (Winston).

  2. Yeah, he totally planned out years of sucking accumulating picks for when Tom Brady would leave NE and pick his team.

  3. He barely gets any credit. He fielded terrible defenses for years, which directly led to them losing his first four years. Maybe if he wasn’t picking Vernon Hargraves top ten, they wouldn’t have sucked for so long. He also overpaid Doug Martin earlier. This was all Arians and Bowles, period. He just handles the contracts.

  4. He’s a terrible GM .Tom Brady is the reason they are in Super Bowl. The same GM who drafted a kicker in the 2nd round? oh yeah that guy.

  5. Brady gets too much credit the Bucs are a STACKED football team. WRs, Dline, LBs all probably tops in the league.

  6. kingbags says:
    January 31, 2021 at 11:59 am
    Brady gets too much credit the Bucs are a STACKED football team. WRs, Dline, LBs all probably tops in the league

    ———

    Yet they can’t even get to 8-8 or make the playoffs without Brady at QB. And here they sit in the SB, year 1 of Brady with no offseason training. I’d say it’s a significant difference regardless of how ‘stacked’ you viewed them prior to his arrival.

  7. xxsweepthelegxx says:
    January 31, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    kingbags says:
    January 31, 2021 at 11:59 am
    Brady gets too much credit the Bucs are a STACKED football team. WRs, Dline, LBs all probably tops in the league

    ———

    Yet they can’t even get to 8-8 or make the playoffs without Brady at QB. And here they sit in the SB, year 1 of Brady with no offseason training. I’d say it’s a significant difference regardless of how ‘stacked’ you viewed them prior to his arrival.
    * * * * * * * * *

    Tom Brady basically had an up and down season by Brady standards. You can make a case at took some time to adjust without a preseason. What Brady brought to the Bucs was a discipline and a belief they could win under any circumstances. Brady came to Tampa Bay because Jason Licht assembled the type players Brady wanted to surround himself with in place. Brady didn’t want to start over. Brady was tired of cold weather as well. Licht was willing to add some additional players Brady wanted. This turned out to be a match made in heaven between Brady and the Buc’s organization. You can call it whatever you want. Now Buc fans are seeing the results and reaping the rewards of going to the Super Bowl. That’s all the matters.

  8. I’m glad for Jason Licht. Living here and seeing his interviews, etc, he’s comes off as a very likable guy. He’s all about his family also. Awhile back he made a deal with his kids to jump into the pool with them after every win. We started doing that as well. For Florida standards it was very cold after the Saints game. Last week vs the Packers it was warm enough to stay in for a few minutes. Hopefully we get to do it again next Sunday. 🙂

  9. Let’s pump the brakes on this Licht love fest a moment. Yes he managed to get some good players and field a talented team, but so did the Eagles a few years back. And the press and fans anointed both their GM and HC as geniuses and as sucessors to the Pats as the new Kings of the North. How’d that work out? Building a SB team is hard, but building a long term true SB contender is many times harder. Win or lose this SB, it’s the next several seasons that will tell how much of today’s team is good judgement and how much is just luck.

  10. kingbags says:
    January 31, 2021 at 11:59 am
    Brady gets too much credit the Bucs are a STACKED football team. WRs, Dline, LBs all probably tops in the league.

    ————————————
    One Pro Bowl player on the Bucs. Bucs and Brady haters are clueless. Now sit on your couch and watch our Bucs play in the Super Bowl.

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