Rooted In Results

September 14th, 2016


Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter is firing away six times a week on In today’s column, the Custodian of Canton takes a look at general manager Jason Licht returning to the place that vaulted him into the NFL spotlight.


This upcoming game against the Cardinals has the feel of Old Home Week for Jason Licht.

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Jason Licht

The third-year GM of the Bucs built his NFL resumé by working for the Dolphins, Panthers, Patriots and Eagles, but Arizona was the organization that shaped Licht as a big-time executive.

It was in the Valley of the Sun that Licht saw the light in terms of building a successful team. Working with Steve Keim and Bruce Arians, he learned how the GM/head coach relationship can foster harmony throughout a franchise committed to winning.

“In Arizona, with Bruce and Steve, I saw a collective process, with everybody on the same page … being bold, not afraid to do things out of the ordinary,” says Licht.

Keim and Licht are particularly tight. The Bucs are leaving a day early for Phoenix and Licht hopes to spend time with the former NFL Executive of the Year before the Bucs and Cardinals clash Sunday in Glendale.

When owners, coaches and executives meet at a plush resort every March, Licht and Keim are never far apart. They enjoy each other’s company and both men are devoted to their families.

“Anyone that knows Jason recognizes not only what an outstanding evaluator he is but also a high-quality person,” Keim said when the Bucs hired Licht to replace Mark Dominik.. “His reputation is well-deserved and speaks for itself. There’s no doubt his talent and experience will be a tremendous asset for the Buccaneers.”

Like Licht, Keim has an uncanny knack for spotting talent.


When Keim was named Arizona’s GM in 2013, Licht was promoted to Keim’s old job as VP of player personnel. In the span of four drafts, Keim has overhauled the Cardinals and transformed them into a league power, with critical help from Arians, a two-time NFL Coach of the Year.

Before Keim and Arians took control, Arizona was 18-30 in the previous three seasons. Since that point, the Cardinals are 34-15, including a 23-21 home setback against New England in last week’s season opener.

Five of Arizona’s 11 defensive starters arrived via those drafts, along with standout running back David Johnson.

“People gravitate to him (Keim), which makes him an exceptional leader,” Licht says. “He has a very unique way of pushing buttons and he empowers people to do their job. When you feel empowered and feel a part of everything, you do your best work.”

Licht has a varied list of responsibilities as head of Tampa Bay’s football operations, but he never strays very far from his personnel roots. He stays in constant communication with his scouting department and works closely with Dirk Koetter to serve the needs of a first-year head coach.

“Jason knows how to put a roster together,” Arians says. “And I think he feels very comfortable with Dirk Koetter. We had a great relationship in Arizona. You don’t always agree, but you get along and you make decisions for the team.

“Other teams might not have a player that high on the board — we don’t care. They fit us. You draft for your coach and your team, no matter what anyone else’s grades are, and that’s why Jason will succeed in Tampa.”

Licht and Keim are inclusive executives who also share a knack for speaking their minds.

Results Rule

Licht is understandably proud of a rich draft harvest in Tampa that landed Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Kwon Alexander, Charles Sims, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kevin Pamphile in just his first two years calling the shots.

Ask Licht about his track record on the free-agent front and he offers no excuses. There have been more misses than hits, he acknowledges.

While the salty Arians remains one of the league’s most outspoken coaches, Keim doesn’t exactly walk around with a muzzle.

When asked about the NFL’s tolerance for regrettable off-field behavior, Keim once quipped: “If Hannibal Lecter ran a 4-3, we’d probably diagnose it as an eating disorder.”

Top that, Mr. Licht.

12 Responses to “Rooted In Results”

  1. Patrick in VA Says:

    Cool piece Ira. Gives an interesting insight. It’s been a while since there have been people on the team that you root for as people beyond their involvement with the team that you root for. Between Jameis, Licht, Dirk and Kwon, we’ve got a core of folks on the team now that you just generally want to succeed because they carry themselves the right way, they’re good at what they do, and you’re happy that they’re on our team.

  2. LifeOfABucFan Says:

    Well said Patrick..

  3. BigStinky Says:

    Let’s just hope we get a win in Arizona on Sunday. I feel like this team has a shot to beat anyone this year as long as we play like we did against Atlanta.

  4. Dreambig Says:

    Nice artical Ira! I had forgot the Licht – Arizona conection until yesterday when someone brought it up. That adds even more interest to this weeks game.

  5. DoNUTS Says:

    Huge Ira fan….TY Joe for bringing his input into your website.

  6. Love and Warrick Dunn Says:

    Adding Ira to this site was a huge coup. I’m talking Tiny Elvis HUUUGGGEEE.

  7. Mike Johnson Says:

    Again Ira on! Arizona is building a great organization as are we. The Cardinals at one time were laughing stocks of the NFL. They are no longer that now. This upcoming game is gonna be a tough one. Coach Arians and the GM called out the team for their play against the Pats. They will play all out come Sunday. On the road we are gonna have to..ruck up and outplay them. Can’t wait for Sunday. Beautiful stadium and loud fans. Lets march into AZ and kick some Arsk! Keep’em comin Ira.

  8. Pickgrin Says:

    Ira says:
    “Licht is understandably proud of a rich draft harvest in Tampa that landed Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Kwon Alexander, Charles Sims, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kevin Pamphile in just his first two years calling the shots.”

    What? No love for ASJ? Et Tu Ira? You scold the Joes for acting like ASJs talent is irrelevant – and then you do the same. Tisk Tisk.

    Good article though.

  9. LargoBuc Says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Licht whhen he came in to eat at my restaurant. He was very nice. Very personable. He treated me the Kitchen Manager the same as he did the owner, or the young dishwasher that was beyond himself just to catch a glimpse of Licht in the building. Talking to Licht, you could never tell he was a big time executive, well except for his taste in wine that is!

  10. Buccfan37 Says:

    Pickgrin… ASJ will play good at Arizona.

  11. JAB83 Says:

    IDK I always really appreciated the way GMC carrys himself off the field. I have rooted for him as a person from day one…. BUT I FEAR NOW HE HAS GONE TO THE DARKSIDE!!!! (At least for 5 months:)

  12. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that this game Sunday could be a turning point for the Bucs franchise. I have always believed that momentum and confidence is huge for teams to both succeed and fail in this league. If they can go into their house and beat one of the better teams in the NFL it may be the turning point. I think most of us feel we are a year or two away from being contenders. If (and its a big if) they can pull out a win this week I think that may be the point where the team starts to believe it can hang with the big boys and a playoff run may be possible this year! A win this week would be huge for both Licht and the Bucs!