BUCCANEERS QUOTES 1-27-21
GENERAL MANAGER JASON LICHT
(On what this season has been like for him)
"It's been a lot of fun in a very challenging year with everything that's going on in the world [and] the pandemic. It's kind of a strange feeling that, hopefully, we never have again. I look back at this time last year compared to where we're at right now – and we still have unfinished business. Everybody is very focused on this game – I can assure you of that. But, just how far we came in a short amount of time in terms of our record and where we're at. It's just a feeling of being grateful for our ownership for giving us the resources that they have to keep this team together, to go out and get Tom [Brady], to trade for 'Gronk' (Rob Gronkowski) and make some other moves during the season when it would have been very easy for owners to pull the reins back a little bit for reasons that go along with being in a pandemic. But, [they] still wanted us to push forward because they desperately want this. They wanted to be in the Super Bowl and they want to win it like we all [do], but they want to do it for the fans. They love the excitement that the Tampa Bay fans have because of this – I think that's what drives them. I'm just very grateful."
(On the patience the ownership group has given him to fulfill his vision for the organization)
"I'm very humbled. Once again, I use the word grateful. I've been through a lot with my staff [and] they've done an incredible job – John [Spytek], Mike [Greenberg], Mike [Biehl], Rob [McCartney] and all the scouts. I could sit here for a long time naming everybody. I knew that I had a special staff [and] I knew that with B.A. (Bruce Arians) we had a rare coach. I said it at the beginning of the year – we have a rare coaching staff. Just for it to finally come together the way it did this year so far – it's just a humbling experience. I've matured in my position over the last three [or] four years. I was able to learn from a lot of mistakes – and I had a lot – and I would always admit to those. Listening to my staff more, more inclusiveness and more teamwork, I think, has been the reason that it has come together and we've made better decisions in the last few years. Then, having a head coach like Bruce and the relationship that I have with him – I don't know if it will ever be repeated. He is just such a unique guy and we have such a unique, strong bond. We get along well and we even argue well to get the result that we want and make the decisions that we've made. It's been awesome."
(On his time working with Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid when the two were in Philadelphia)
"I have the utmost respect for Andy. I didn't work with him in the role that I'm in right now as the GM, but I imagine it would be very similar to the way that my relationship is with Bruce [Arians]. We had a great bond as I was the VP of Player Personnel and then Director of Player Personnel under him in Philadelphia. I think what I've learned the most from observing him is leadership. He's a phenomenal leader and he was always quick to give credit to people and always quick to take the bullet. I really appreciated that about him. He's just a great man and obviously an excellent coach – a Hall of Fame-worthy coach. I'm just very appreciative. I reflect on my time with him often."
(On how the loss to Chicago changed the way the team played throughout the rest of the season)
"That game was a game that, probably in my career here – and we've had a lot of bad losses – that one was one that really stung the most, I think. Not only did we lose the way we lost with the penalties and things like that, we also lost Vita [Vea]. I was talking about this the other day with Bruce [Arians], actually. I said, 'Gosh, that game still stings.' He said, 'That's the best thing that happened to us. That game is the best thing that happened to us, looking back in retrospect.' I think he's right. We cleaned up our penalties, we were more disciplined and it just brought everybody together. It showed that we're all human – everybody – and everybody needs to be held accountable. Everybody on the roster, everybody in the front office and everybody in the organization. It brought us closer together."
(On how his philosophy and perspective for the season changed when the team signed QB Tom Brady)
"I'm going to disagree with you a little bit on that. We were, obviously, all in for this season. But, the way that we're set up right now – there's a lot of questions and a lot of unknowns right now in terms of what the salary cap is going to be. But, I think we're set up beautifully thanks to Mike Greenberg [and] Jackie Davidson making those decisions and giving me their input on how to set up contracts and things like that. Tom is 43 years old and we have some other elder statesmen on our roster, but we have a young, young team. A young defense, a young secondary, young receivers [and] we have a fairly young offensive line. I wouldn't say it changed on March 20th [when we signed Brady]. We're still looking long-term and we still have to plan long-term [with] the way we set things up. Because of the job that Mike Greenberg and Jackie Davison have done, we're in that position to do that."
(On how Director of Football Research Jacqueline Davidson has impacted the organization since her arrival)
"She's awesome. I was so excited when we had the chance to [hire] her. I've known her for several years now because of her relationship with Mike Greenberg. Mike Greenberg had always spoken so highly of her and her intelligence. He said that she's the smartest person that he's ever worked with back in New York when they were together [at the Jets]. She's made an impact already in her first year. She is – as advertised – brilliant. Every contract that we do is unique. It may seem simple when you read it across the ticker, see it online or see it on Twitter that the Bucs signed Antonio Brown to this or signed Leonard Fournette to that. All those contracts have a lot of conversations, a lot of tweaks and a lot of negotiations, and she was a big part of both of those. I can point to those two right there – I don't know if we would have gotten those done without the work of Jackie and Mike. Hiring her goes along with the entire philosophy that Bruce [Arians] loves diversity. The Glazers have a philosophical view of inclusiveness of all races and all genders within the organization. It just so happens she is a woman [and] it just so happens that she's African-American, but we hired her because of her resume and what she brings to this organization. Hiring her made us a smarter organization immediately."
(On how TE Rob Gronkowski has evolved since joining the Buccaneers compared to when he first entered the NFL in New England)
"If you're having a bad day, I suggest any of you just go spend a little time with Gronk. He just lifts you up just by being with him. He's funny – we have conversations every day and I look forward to it. I tell my wife, 'I can't wait to go talk to Gronk at practice today.' He's just being himself, he's very authentic, he loves the game and when it's time to be serious, he's very serious. There's a lot of talk about what Tom [Brady] has done for this locker room – and it's all warranted – but what Gronk has done for this locker room is equally as amazing. Just a great teammate and loves life."
(On if he has a theory for the recent run of success for the professional sports teams in Tampa Bay and if the Buccaneers felt pressure to perpetuate that success this season)
"I don't want to say we felt pressure. We were happy for them. I can't speak for everybody – we never really had a meeting about that – but I think it's unbelievable [and] I think it's something that's great for the city of Tampa. I think it's something that in 100 years from now, they'll still talk about. During the pandemic, all teams had success. Now, we're not finished yet – we want to win this thing. I don't have a theory about why it happened in Tampa. I guess, maybe you could chalk it up to the water – I don't know. I'm just happy it happened."
(On if he has reflected recently on the team being within one win of its goal of winning a Super Bowl after signing QB Tom Brady)
"Naturally, I think you envision it every year in the offseason. You want to make some moves that hopefully get your team into the Super Bowl. I think when you sign a guy like Tom, it makes it a little more realistic. Just talking to him the days after we signed him, you could just hear and feel the confidence that he had. It made it a little bit more real. Now, you never take anything for granted. We had some highs and lows in the season where things at times looked a little grim. We needed to pull together, but we never lost our confidence. Looking back on some of the things we talked about, you do kind of want to pinch yourselves a little bit saying, 'Wow, this really did happen.' I can't think of one particular time or one particular conversation that we had, but there were a lot among all of us."
(On the 2020 NFL virtual draft process)
"What I liked the most was that in the months leading up to the draft, we were working from home and I got a lot more work done. I think everybody else did too, without distractions that you have and things that come up during the day in the office. I was able to share the experience with my family, which was the most special part of the whole thing – [the part] that I'll never forget, and they won't either. We still talk about it to this day. I still have little sticky notes I've kept in the draft room that we setup in our house of my 7-year-old that would write down names of players that I should draft. Just little moments like that and sharing it. At the time we did draft Tristan [Wirfs], having everybody come in and get a big family hug. It was really cool. Now, the part that you don't like is not being able to share that with your co-workers and your scouts, who work so incredibly hard – and they are right now as we speak, boots on the ground, getting ready for next year's draft. I can't say enough good things about them. I have a great staff. I talk a lot about the guys in house and they deserve tons of credit – more credit than I receive. But the scouts on the road are the lifeblood of the organization. I get a little emotional about it because that's how I came up in the business and I know what they're going through. To not have them there with you – it was a little bit of a gut punch, but being with the family was awesome."
(On the team's success in drafting defensive backs the past couple seasons)
"Yeah, we have had some success recently. We didn't have a lot of success before that. I think trial and error helped with that. Todd [Bowles] and his staff – the defensive coaches – are excellent teachers. We had a clear vision of what they were looking for in Todd's scheme and we liked bigger, longer guys that are physical and smart – guys that, if they're maybe short on size and length, they have to be extremely tough. Todd finds a way to work these different talents and skillsets into his defense and change his defense to better utilize what they are. It's a really, really good group that we have right now. There was a lot of trial and error that went into that and I'm just happy that it's working out. Todd and his staff – they deserve a lot of credit, if not all the credit, for the way these guys have been playing during the playoff run."
(On his interactions with QB Tom Brady while he was working for the New England Patriots)
"I got my first job with the Patriots in 1999. It was my first full-time scouting job for a club. We went 8-8 that year, Pete Carroll was the coach, and he was let go. Then Bill Belichick was hired. We went right into draft meetings the minute he walked into the building. I got to know him through those meetings – [he was] a little intimidating, but he ended up giving me a promotion after that. I did not personally scout Tom. I was the southeast area scout at the time. I listened to the conversations about him and we watched tape together, but I can't take any credit for Tom being drafted. I do know that Coach Belichick really had his eye on him for a long time. We took him in the sixth [round]. We didn't need a quarterback at the time. He and Scott Pioli had him much higher than that on the board. The conversations started – if I recall correctly – with the third round. He was still sitting there in the sixth and they took him. I wish I could take credit for it, but I got to know Tom a little bit in my years there. We never really kept in touch other than if we happened to play each other and I'd maybe wave to him on the sideline or something. When we signed him here and talked on the phone, it was really the first time I had talked to him since 2011 when I was with the Patriots."
GUARD ALI MARPET
(On what was the turning point to get the offense and team on track)
"It's hard to say. I feel like with these things it takes a lot of different guys being on the same page and doing it over and over again. And I think that's what we've done. I think time on task just helped us out."
(On the contributions from young players and how much they've meant in the postseason)
"I think in order to have this much success you need the young guys to step up, and those guys really have. There's a lot of good leaders and you just mentioned all those guys. They've really done a nice job and they've taken it very seriously. They've led from the front as young guys, which is really important."
(On making this playoff run with T Donovan Smith, WR Mike Evans, and ILB Lavonte David and how far he's come since playing at Hobart)
"It's kind of crazy. I think coming in 2015 with Donovan [Smith] and some of those other guys, we really did have playoffs and Super Bowl in our head. We were 2-14 the year before we got here. We were like, 'We're going to turn this thing around, we're going to dominate, we're going to get to the playoffs,' and gosh it is hard to get here. I think because it's been so hard, it makes this moment that more precious, if you will. I feel very grateful for being here and it's been a grind to get here. Back to the Hobart days I would have never thought I would have been in this position, so I feel really grateful for that."
(On what HC Bruce Arians did to change the culture)
"I think one thing that I can think of; [or] at least that comes to mind, is B.A. has done such a great job for us is kind of letting players play their own game and giving guys the opportunity to do what they do that makes them successful instead of pigeon-holing a player and making them do what you want them to do. I feel like, at least for us as an offense and offensive line, he gives he freedom for the coaches and the players to do what they need to do to get the job done. Sometimes he'll say it's my way, he'll let you do what you need to get it done."