From Desert Storm To Desert Embrace

March 27th, 2017

PHOENIX — The last time Jason Licht attended the NFL Owners Meetings here at the Arizona Biltmore, his body language was quite different.

In the spring of 2015, the Bucs were coming off a 2-14 season under first-year coach Lovie Smith and a first-year GM. Tampa Bay had gone winless at home and 0-6 against NFC South opponents.

It doesn’t get much worse.

But when the meetings formally open here today, Licht will walk the hallways with head held high.

He won’t strut, but he’ll be glad to accept congratulations from fellow NFL executives for a job well done last fall, when the Bucs posted their first winning season since 2010.

Your favorite Buc website is out here in force this week, eager to bring you the juicy developments from the desert. We expect extensive interviews with Licht, co-owner Joel Glazer and second-year head coach Dirk Koetter, as the Bucs approach the start of their offseason program in April.

The last time Glazer and Licht checked into this posh resort, the Bucs were front and center in the national media. That’s because they owned the No. 1 overall pick in a draft headed by Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

Smith and Licht tried to be coy about which way the franchise was leaning, but you didn’t need prescription lenses to read the tea leaves — it was going to be Winston all the way.

As it turns out, both quarterbacks look like young stars in the making.

Changed Tune

The Bucs have come a long way since that 2014 disaster. They quickly acknowledged their mistakes in free agency, dumping quarterback Josh McCown, left tackle Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Johnson after only one season.

“We are already better,’’ Licht vowed two years ago. “The addition of Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator was huge. We’ve ripped off the ‘Band-Aids’ and we’ll work feverishly to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes twice. That’s on me. It’s better to cut ties a year too early rather than a year too late. We want players who want to be Bucs and players that are hungry. Ownership couldn’t be more supportive.’’

When Glazer makes his annual remarks this week, he won’t be peppered with what-went-wrong questions. Instead, he’ll be asked why Buc fans should feel confident the team will end a nine-year playoff drought.

“You go into every season expecting high standards,” Glazer said in 2015. “One of the things I’ve learned is you can’t look back, other than to learn from your mistakes and correct them. There’s no question it has strained the patience of the fans and strained the patience of the owners and anyone who follows the Buccaneers. Everyone wants success and we haven’t had that the last several years. We’ve got to solve the problems going forward.”

But have they?

Landing a franchise quarterback is a heck of a start. The Bucs have also added Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Cameron Brate, Adam Humphries, DeSean Jackson, Kwon Alexander, Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence, Robert Ayers, Brent Grimes, Chris Baker and Bryan Anger since the last time the their accounting department received a hefty bill from the Arizona Biltmore.

There’s a different Buc vibe in this resort.

“Driving Force”

Before heading home with his family, Licht expects to touch base with his friend Joe Maddon, finishing up his final week of spring training with the Cubs in nearby Mesa.

After Maddon regales Licht with stories about Chicago’s championship season, Licht will inform Maddon that a forlorn NFL franchise may have just turned the corner.

That’s a conversation any Buc fan would relish.

The last time Tampa Bay dispatched a contingent to the Arizona Biltmore, the Bucs were 2-14 and appeared to have taken up permanent residency in the division basement.

Now, they’re movin’ on up.

“I’ll never get over it,’’ Licht said of that miserable 2014 season. “It’ll be a driving force for years to come.’’

9 Responses to “From Desert Storm To Desert Embrace”

  1. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira, awesome quotes from Jason Licht & Joel Glazer. It’s obvious that ownership and management and coaches are all setting the bar high for this season, and that’s a very good thing because so are all of us Bucs fans. Tough 2017 schedule but the pieces are coming together.

  2. tdtb2015 Says:

    “I’ll never get over it,’’ Licht said of that miserable 2014 season. “It’ll be a driving force for years to come.’’

    That is how you dissolve VICTIMHOOD. Turning the past into your desired future. There is no TANTRUM there.

    Let it go naysayers! Enjoy the ride! Really Dave. Enjoy the ride!

    Go Bucs!!!

  3. tdtb2015 Says:

    Great Job Ira! Your inputs in JBF are always golden!

  4. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    EXCELLENT article
    I’m so pumped, let’s go BUCS!!!!!

  5. Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    2 years ago! What a disaster that season was. The only good thing that came out of it was the Bucs could draft Jameis. Crazy Lovie. A defensive minded HC who goes a whole season without an OC, well except for the guy who filled in at OC who had ZERO NFL experience!! I seriously do not think the bucs had a season that the HC made such crazy decisions – with the possible exception of the first year under Lovie.

  6. Bucsfanman Says:

    New era, new mentality! Love it!

  7. jameisaintnopunk Says:

    jason licht, the man, the myth, the legend, the GM who would not tow the line, the man who would not accept failure, the one who boldly goes where few have trodden, we salute you, your tenacious grit, and steely eyed glare, your unwavering stance, to bring a championship here, steady at the helm, he guides our ship, speak softly and carry a big mofo’n stick

  8. Pickgrin Says:

    A good read Ira. Your perspectives are always interesting and well presented.

    Congrats to JBF for finding a way to bring you aboard. We, who religiously read this here best source for all things Bucs, are all benefiting immensely from Ira’s journalistic polish/professionalism and years of insider Buccaneer contacts.

    And a big thanks to Ed Morse Cadillac for making this happen financially. This arrangement that keeps Ira employed with a Buccaneer dedicated media organization and thus allows him to maintain his Tampa Bay HOF voter status – is a bold and creative way of advertising that hopefully will prosper the Ed Morse dealerships many times over.

  9. unbelievable Says:

    Well said Pickgrin.

    The addition of Ira is the best thing to happen to JBF in a long time.