Bucs’ Joel Glazer talks about his belief in Jameis Winston, keeping Dirk Koetter and Grumors

In an exclusive Q&A session with the Times, the Bucs co-chairman spoke of his belief that the Bucs QB will be cleared and faith in his head coach and GM
Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer called Jameis Winston a ''first class'' individual, talked about keeping the coach and GM and expounded on Grumors on Tuesday. [STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON   |   Times]
Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer called Jameis Winston a ''first class'' individual, talked about keeping the coach and GM and expounded on Grumors on Tuesday. [STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times]
Published Mar. 28, 2018

ORLANDO – Do you believe him?

That was the question posed Tuesday to Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer about Jameis Winston.

The NFL's investigation into possible misconduct by Winston is nearing six months. Both coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht  said Tuesday they were "frustrated" by the slow pace of the probe into their quarterback.

Winston has steadfastly denied allegations from an unidentified female Uber driver that he groped her in the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz., in March of 2016. Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby, his former Florida State teammates, has said he was in the back seat with Winston that night and nothing occurred.

Glazer had not addressed the issue until a one-on-one interview with the Tampa Bay Times at the NFL owners' meetings Tuesday.

Do you believe him, Joel?

Glazer didn't hesitate.

"Yeah. Jameis has been nothing but a great person since he's been with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Glazer said. "And he's done everything we've asked of him. He's been a great leader. He's been unbelievable in the community and we have great confidence in Jameis. So we focus on the great things Jameis has done."

It's not the first time Winston has been accused of sexual assault. Although two criminal investigations said there wasn't enough evidence to proceed with a case brought in 2012 when he was a student at Florida State, he settled a civil lawsuit with Erica Kinsman of Zephyrhills in 2016.

Glazer was asked Tuesday why he believed those types of allegations have been directed at Winston.

"I can't get into what other people say and speculate and all that," Glazer said. "I can only speak to the person that I know, the person I have known. And the person everyone I know knows. That's what I'll speak to, and that's a first-class individual, hard-working, wonderful in the community, a leader and everything that we would've hoped for in our quarterback.''

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In a 10-minute interview, Glazer addressed what went wrong in 2017, the decision to retain Koetter and Licht, whether they considered hiring Jon Gruden and why Winston hasn't yet delivered on his promise as a franchise quarterback.

What went wrong?

JG: It was just one of those seasons where not one game went our way. I mean, look at the last half of the season. A lot of close games, usually in the NFL a couple go your way and that just didn't happen. Then, you know, injuries and Jameis' injury. It was just one of those seasons you want to put in the rear view mirror, try to take some positives and look forward.

Did Hard Knocks create unrealistic expectations?

JG: No, I think that would be a cop out to point to Hard Knocks and use that as an excuse. I was pleasantly surprised how Hard Knocks went. I don't think it had any real effect on our team. Like I said, there were a lot of factors. The Hurricane. That was a very stressful weeks coming right out of the gate and then we didn't have a bye the rest of the year. You know, I don't want to use any excuses. Our record was a record.

Why do you think Dirk is the right man to lead the Bucs?

JG: Our players were playing hard and I respect the players playing hard. I respect Dirk the way he hung in there when things were kind of tough. You know, we feel like we were playing strong at the end of the year. We had a lot of positives. And quite frankly, we need to add to the roster. You can't look past that, either.

"Nine and seven the year before and everyone has great expectations which is great and he's the same person. Same guy who went 9-7. Again, you can't discount the fact that Jameis did get hurt last year. He was playing hurt. One thing you got to applaud is, he went out there and he played. Now, some people may question maybe he shouldn't have been playing. That's easy and hindsight.''

Did you consider hiring Jon Gruden?

JG: "I think there's a lot of misinformation going around out there when Jon was considering coming back. Obviously, we want a relationship with Jon. Jon was going into the Ring of Honor. Jon is around Tampa. You know, I think there was a lot of speculation on that part. We think very highly of Jon, but at the end of the day, we felt we're two years into this with Dirk. We look back to at 2017. We look at the factors for last year and we look at what happened last year and the right thing for this team was to continue on.''

Is it playoffs or bust this year for Koetter and Licht?

JG: "No, it's not that. The one thing is I don't want to lower our expectations just because we haven't had the success the last 10 years. The goal is still the ultimate goal. You know, you always want to see improvement. You want to see this team growing. A couple good signs under all this is when we sign some of our own guys, it generally means you're drafting well. Some of the smaller things that didn't go our way, we've got to get to go our way.''