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Bucs GM Jason Licht: ‘I was able to learn from a lot of mistakes’

Tampa Bay’s seventh-year general manager said he’s humbled to be on the cusp of a world title.
After five losing seasons in the previous six years, Bucs general manager Jason Licht has helped assemble a roster and staff that has Tampa Bay within a game of a world title.
After five losing seasons in the previous six years, Bucs general manager Jason Licht has helped assemble a roster and staff that has Tampa Bay within a game of a world title. [ Times ]
Published Jan. 27, 2021

He understands how fortunate he is to remain aboard for the final stretch of this surreal journey. With less-patient ownership or a less-compatible head coach, Jason Licht would have been dropped off several exits ago.

But after five losing seasons in the previous six years, three head coaches and more kickers than anyone cares to tally, the Bucs general manager finally can see the NFL summit — with nary a growing pain to spare.

“I’m very humbled, and once again I’ll use the word grateful,” Licht said during a virtual session with reporters Wednesday.

“I’ve matured in my position over the last three, four years. I was able to learn from a lot of mistakes, and had a lot, and I would always admit to those.”

Eleven days before the Bucs hit their home stadium to face the Chiefs in Super Bowl 55, Licht spoke of his journey as Tampa Bay’s GM, as well as myriad other topics. Here are excerpts from the session.

On the surreal nature of 2020, starting with the signing of Tom Brady and culminating with a Super Bowl berth

“I look back at this time last year compared to where we’re at right now, and we still have unfinished business; everybody’s 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 had to keep this team together, to go out and get Tom, trade for Gronk (tight end Rob Gronkowski), make some other moves during the season when it would’ve been very easy for an owner — or owners — to pull the reins back a little bit for reasons that go along with being in a pandemic. ... They desperately want this. They wanted to be in the Super Bowl, they want to win it — like we all did — 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, and I’m just very grateful.”

On the importance of his staff and his relationship with Arians (with whom he previously worked at Arizona)

“I’ve been through a lot with my staff. They’ve done an incredible job. ... I could sit here for a long time naming everybody. I knew that I had a special staff. I knew that with (Arians), we had a rare coach; I said at the beginning of the year we have a rare coaching staff. And just for it to finally come together the way it did this year so far, it’s just a humbling experience.”

“(Arians) is just such a unique guy and we have such a unique, strong bond. We get along well, we even argue well. To get the result that we want and make the decisions that we’ve made, it’s been awesome.”

Related: Jason Licht is watching his handiwork come to life

On how the 20-19 loss to the Bears (on Oct. 8) seemed to propel the team (which is 11-3 since)

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“Not only did we lose the way we lost, with the penalties (11 for 109 yards) and things like that, we also lost (defensive tackle) Vita (Vea). So I was talking about this the other day with Bruce, actually. I said, ‘Gosh, that game still stings.’ And he said, ‘That game was the best thing that happened to us, looking back in retrospect.’ I think he’s right. We cleaned up our penalties, we’re more disciplined, and it just brought everybody together.”

On how the Bucs appear to be set up for the future

“Now there’s a lot of questions and a lot of unknowns right now yet in terms of what the salary cap’s going to be, but I think we’re set up beautifully thanks to (director of football administration) Mike Greenberg, (director of football research) Jacqui Davidson, making those decisions and giving me their input on how to set up contracts and things like that. Tom (Brady) is 43 years old — and I’ve said this a few times — we have some other elder statesmen on our roster, but we have a young, young team. A young defense, young secondary, young receivers, we have a fairly young offensive line.”

On the impact of Gronkowski

“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 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 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 of what Tom has done for this locker room and it’s all warranted, but what Gronk has done for this locker room is equally amazing.”

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