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Bucs GM Jason Licht to coaching candidates: Jameis Winston is your QB

Licht says Winston, soon to be 25, has accomplished more than some elite NFL quarterbacks have done at his age.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws during the first quarter against the Falcons on Sunday. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws during the first quarter against the Falcons on Sunday. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Dec. 31, 2018|Updated Dec. 31, 2018

TAMPA — Bucs head coaching candidates need to understand one thing about the job in Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston is your starting quarterback.

General manager Jason Licht, who will lead the search for to replace Dirk Koetter, made that clear Monday.

"Jameis Winston will be here. We have him under contract for a year," Licht said. "He has done some amazing things for a young 24, turns 25 in a week, quarterback. He's accomplished more than most of the elite quarterbacks have at his age throughout that time span. There's a lot to like about Jameis. Jameis will be here next year."

Licht was asked if a coach would be excluded from the search unless he was willing to accept Winston as the Bucs quarterback.

"Well, based on the texts and phone calls and emails that I've been getting since roughly 8 o'clock last night, I don't think that's going to be an issue."

Winston was suspended the first three games of the season for violating the NFL's player conduct policy. An investigation by the league determined he touched a female Uber driver "inappropriately and in a sexual manner without consent" in March 2016.

Winston returned to the starting lineup at Atlanta jon Oct. 14. After losing to the Falcons, he beat the Browns in overtime but threw four interceptions in a loss at Cincinnati that resulted in his benching for three games.

The Bucs have picked up the fifth year option on Winston's contract worth $20.92 million.

"You know, I saw a lot in the second half of this season," Licht said of Winston. "Obviously, we went through a lot in the beginning of the season. Suspension. There was a lot going on in this organization that was tough for a lot of people to overcome. I saw him bounce back at the end of the year and play very good in my eyes. In a lot of people's eyes, with the conditions he was in. So we have a lot of faith in him."

Other highlight's from Licht's news conference:

On firing Koetter following Sunday's 34-32 loss to Atlanta.

"Ultimately, results, the wins, just weren't there. And collectively, everybody here in the organization has fallen short of expectations of what we thought we could do. So they've been disappointing for the entire organization but we are determined to get back on track."

Licht said he bears some responsibility for the Bucs failures.

"You know, right now, I'm just grateful to be here. I'm grateful to be here. I'm grateful to be standing here. I told that to Dirk last night. He told me he was happy that I was here and right now, like I said, the Glazer family put their confidence in me to find their next head coach. I'm grateful for that opportunity and we're committed to find that guy."

Koetter said the Bucs will look outside for a head coach. Three years ago, they hired from within, tabbing their offensive coordinator to replace Lovie Smith.

"Just like last time, when I say cast a wide net, we considered many, many options. This year we're going to look outside. We're going to include (a consulting firm) Korn Ferry/Jed Hughes that I thought would help with this just to assist as a tool with the backgrounds. They have a lot of background on all these candidates that they've been compiling for many, many years. They've helped a lot of successful franchises assist them with their hiring and I felt like this would be, in terms of logistics, and knowing a lot of these candidates, this would be a great assist. But they won't be choosing a head coach."


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