PHOENIX — Five years ago at the Arizona Biltmore, Bucs co-chairman gave his blessing for the club to make quarterback Jameis Winston the face of the franchise.
Winston’s off-field issues were not a concern, he was confident the wins would come and a young team would develop into a consistent winner.
But fast forward to the league meetings in the same spot Tuesday and Glazer was surveying a much different landscape for the Bucs.
Bruce Arians has just been hired as the Bucs third head coach for Winston, who was suspended three games for violating the NFL’s player code of conduct. Back-to-back 5-11 seasons extended the streak of no playoff appearances to 11 years.
The only constant in the front office is general manager Jason Licht, who has one winning season in five years and a 27-53 record.
The Times met with Glazer for an annual state-of-the-Bucs interview and he spoke candidly about why the Bucs think they got it right this time and why Winston still is the man front and under center.
It’s been 11 years with no playoff appearances. Is that the hardest thing that you haven’t delivered on a promise to the fans?
“It’s absolutely painful. I mean, there’s nothing worse. If you asked me 10 years ago, would this had happened? Would we be here 10 years later, you would not think so. So we’re absolutely determined. It’s been extremely painful. We’re doing everything we can to turn it around. We have no doubt the fans will embrace the Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with any success that comes with us.’’
How big of a year is this for Jameis Winston?
“It’s a big year for the Buccaneers. It’s a big year for him. Obviously, the quarterback position is an extremely important position. But I know Jameis. Jameis is up for any challenge and he’ll be ready.’’
When we last spoke, Winston had not been suspended and you had complete faith in what he was telling you about the incidents. Did he lie to you?
“That situation is last year. It’s in the past. We’re looking forward, I know he’s looking forward. Our whole staff is looking forward. It’s all eyes forward to next year.’’
What gives you confidence with what you see on the field and off that the arrow is still pointed up for Winston?
“I think if you look at the last two seasons, it’s kind of been the tale of two seasons within the seasons with Jameis. Two years ago he was hurt, then toward the end of the year, you saw quality play on the field. Last year, after the beginning, comes back, towards the end of the year, plays well. We’ve seen it but it’s got to be consistent. But a year older, a year wiser and more experience.
Bruce Arians is the Bucs’ sixth head coach since 2008. Why has there been so much turnover in your organization?
“In football, ideally you don’t want so much turnover. That we recognize. Can pinpoint one thing or the other? I would say the answer is no. We can’t pinpoint one thing. Ultimately, it’s the results on the field and the results on the field have been unfortunate. It’s what’s led us to where we are.’’
Have you evaluated the ways you’ve selected coaches? For example, you utilized a consulting firm during the search process.
“That’s something we’ve looked back at what we’ve done in the past and the different types of coaches we’ve brought in. That’s why this time we did bring in somebody who had been involved with this with many teams and had success. And I think it was beneficial. Sometimes you need a different perspective of things. It was helpful.
Why is Bruce Arians the right coach at this time?
“I think it starts with experience. A proven track record. His work with quarterbacks and offense and where the NFL is today. And also it’s the way he interacts with players, too. So, the whole package, you put it together. Again, through the interview process, and getting to know him better, we’re just very impressed with. Everything you heard about him we saw when we met him.’’
Arians is 66. Cardinals GM Steve Kiem said everyday Arians would ruminate about retiring and then he did retire. He’s delegating a lot of the game-planning to his coaches. What makes you think he’s all in?
“You know, it’s funny, I know a lot of people outside of football in different businesses, whatever it is. And they’re in the grind and they do this anymore and say, “I think I’ve got to retire.’ They get out, they see what life is like without it. Appreciate things, make a few adjustments and come back in. But they still have the same fabric and make up and are still very successful. You know, we had long talks about that but we got over that very, very quickly in our conversations.
Jason Licht has one winning season in five years, has one winning season and his record is 27-53. What gives you confidence in Jason?
“I think if you look back at drafts, some of the players that have been drafted, re-signed, we do feel like we have some kind of nucleus of talent on this team. As you say, the record is the record but it also goes to consistency and personally we’ve talked about constant change. And we felt it’s important to keep consistency in one of the positions and not have complete wholesale change. We have great confidence in Jason. Obviously the record is the record and the story is still to be told.’’
How did his relationship with Arians lead to this hiring?
“That’s correct. We’re in the process. I was surprised, it was into the process where we knew he had interest but it would only be in certain situations and he ked with Jason and knew Jason. It’s because of that I think he was comfortable coming in. Because I know one thing, he wasn’t going to any situation. He had the experience with Jason so he knew he’d be helpful in helping him succeed.’’
How do you view what the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing? Great for the community or a rival for the sports dollar.
“I’m a firm believer when everybody in the community gets excited, it’s a positive. And whether it’s the Rays, the Lightning, it’s just a feel good factor that spills over to everything, whether it’s us or anybody. So we’re fans of the Lightning. We’re fans of the Rays. We don’t view it as a competitive situation. We want the best for them because we want the best for Tampa Bay.’’