Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Licht Relishing First GM Gig

Jason Licht

BY LUKE EASTERLING
Editor/Senior Writer
@LukeEasterling

The Mark Dominik era in Tampa Bay ended with a whimper, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 4-12 in 2013, costing the general manager his job and setting off a complete house-cleaning that included head coach Greg Schiano and his entire (gigantic) staff.

The Bucs replaced Dominik with Jason Licht, an up-and-comer in the world of NFL scouting departments who is taking on his first opportunity to be the head honcho of all things personnel.  Running the show for the first time might seem intimidating, but Licht says the key is being willing and able to assemble and rely on a strong supporting cast.

“You really have to feel comfortable delegating, and I have a great staff.  You have to resist the temptation of feeling like you can do it all, because you can’t.  You really have to have a strong support staff, and delegate.”

Licht has seen his share of front offices, having spent time in with five different NFL teams before joining the Bucs this offseason.  He spent three years in New England, where he was part of a personnel staff that drafted the likes of Richard Seymour, Deion Branch, Damien Woody, Matt Light, and of course, Tom Brady.  Licht also spent five years in Philadelphia, a span in which the Eagles won three division titles and earned a Super Bowl berth.

Licht worked closely with GM Steve Keim (right) in Arizona.

Licht worked closely with GM Steve Keim (right) in Arizona.

Licht also made stops in Miami and Carolina early in his scouting career, and was a personnel executive for Arizona in 2008 when the Cardinals won the NFC West and advanced to the Super Bowl.  After his time in New England, Licht returned to Arizona in 2012 as Director of Player Personnel before being promoted to Vice President.

Licht says despite his many stops on the road to his first GM gig, it hasn’t been difficult to blend all of those different atmospheres and experiences into his own style.

“Actually, not hard at all, because we’re all kind of preparing for the day that we get an opportunity.  You take the good things that you like from each place, but you also kind of want to put spin on it, too, and make it your own.  Because I don’t think you’re ever going to be successful if you try to be something you’re not.  You have to be authentic.  That was my whole deal, I’ve got to be myself.  If I try to be someone else in particular, it’s just not going to work.”

As the NFL Draft industry continues to grow exponentially, the decisions and thought processes of general managers across the league are scrutinized on a larger scale than ever before.  But Licht says the process isn’t as simple as many would believe.

“I do agree that we put a lot of stock, a lot of hype into these players…that they’re the savior, that they’re going to come in automatically and change the program.  Many fans may not realize how much there is…there’s a lot to it when they get in there.  The preparation, getting the right fit, learning the scheme…all those things take a while.  It’s not just an instant plug-and-play type of thing.”

Licht and new head coach Lovie Smith have already left their mark on an overhauled Bucs roster.

Licht and HC Lovie Smith have already left their mark on an overhauled Bucs roster.

The Bucs’ top picks are no exception to that line of thinking, as expectations are high for the likes of WR Mike Evans and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Building chemistry will be a challenge for a team that has seen more than half its roster overhauled from last season’s group.  But it’s clear that Licht and new head coach Lovie Smith see eye-to-eye on plenty, and have rebuilt the Bucs’ roster around their new philosophy.

Will those changes—and that philosophy—translate to more wins in 2014?  Only time will tell, but early returns during training camp have given new hope to both players and fans alike.

Right down to the uniforms, it’s definitely a new day in Tampa Bay, one that should begin with more than four wins under Licht’s watch.

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