The Money, The Will & The Drive

May 22nd, 2017

Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira Kaufman, the most beloved and esteemed columnist in town, has hung his hat at world headquarters since July 2016. His columns pop here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.


While other teams try to address major holes, the Bucs continue to tie up loose ends.

That’s the best news of all for Buc fans parched after a nine-year playoff drought. And if the front office takes a breather this week while players gather for OTA sessions, who can blame a busy brain trust that ignores Vegas oddsmakers but hears the pleas of their stick carriers.

The signing of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is the latest example of an organization determined to cover its bets.

Mike Glennon’s departure to Chicago left the Bucs with a queasy feeling behind Jameis Winston, who hasn’t missed a start in two years. If Winston twists an ankle and misses a few games, Ryan Griffin would have been forced into making his first NFL start.

Fitzpatrick has made 116 starts as a pro. That’s called a comfort level.

While starting for the Jets two years ago, Fitzpatrick was one of the league’s better quarterbacks. He has thrown four touchdown passes in a game for four different teams and the Bucs don’t need him to be a savior.

They need him to nurture Winston off the field and keep the wheels moving if the face of the franchise is sidelined for awhile.

There was a time when the Bucs would have no interest– zero — in a 34-year-old backup quarterback.

Times have changed, along with expectations.

Season On The Brink

Everyone in the building at One Buc Place senses Tampa Bay could be on the brink of something special. This is no time to hunker down with the same group that generated a 9-7 record.

That’s why the Bucs just signed Robert McClain to join the competition at slot corner. McClain played three years in Atlanta for Mike Smith and even if he doesn’t win the nickel job, McClain provides critical experience behind Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves.

While Fitzpatrick knows his role as a backup, the Bucs have spent the offseason adding pieces for depth and competition.

When Nick Folk became a salary-cap casualty for the Jets, Tampa Bay brought him in to battle Roberto Aguayo. I can just see the Stick Carriers keeping precise tabs on every kick during training camp.

Aguayo’s draft status will not be a factor in this open competition. If Folk wins the job, that’s called hard knocks.

I’ve been told Chris “Iverson” Baker doesn’t like to practice. We’ll see about that when August rolls around.

What I do know is Baker will make plays when the games count, joining Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald in an impressive rotation inside.

Don’t be shocked if the Bucs add a few more veterans before heading to Miami for the season opener.

If the right fit at defensive end or offensive tackle shakes loose during final roster cuts, GM Jason Licht won’t hesitate to adjust the roster. The Bucs have the money to strike.

More importantly, they have the will.

Licht needs a new contract, Dirk Koetter needs validation that 2016 wasn’t a fluke and the Glazers need to show their excited fans there’s no turning back in this pursuit of excellence.

“That’s What They Do”

This organization learned a bitter truth after 2010, when the Bucs were passive in the offseason. Passive is not in Licht’s vocabulary, and Koetter is equally driven.

What’s left?

The Bucs don’t have an Ezekiel Elliott in their backfield, but this ground game is going to be run by committee — even if Doug Martin returns.

That’s the way it’s done these days.

Elliott was the only back in the league last year with at least 300 carries. A decade ago, 10 players had at least 300 rushing attempts.

There’s enough variety and depth at running back to complement what should be a dynamic passing attack. If there isn’t, the Bucs won’t hesitate to make a move.

That’s what they do.

They hear you, stick carriers. Loud and clear.

19 Responses to “The Money, The Will & The Drive”

  1. mike n Says:

    great column Ira. Joe and ira have made this a helluva site.

  2. tnew Says:

    Ira.. a pros pro.

  3. Jim Says:

    Thanks for bravely suggesting that a pro with many years of experience might be a help in the development of young Jameis. Some fans bristle at the very idea. Fitz might start by telling Jameis that head-butting enemy linebackers and yelling at refs is just not positive, productive quarterbacking in the NFL…

  4. Mike Johnson Says:

    Great comments here Ira. Not sure Hard Knocks is a plus for us in the..Buckle down and concentration Dept. We’ll see. But it is good for our small fan base. We will accquire a lot more fans. I get this feeling Martin will still be here after the suspension. And I do think he still has a blockbuster year. Still a little worried about the pass rush. You can never have enough rushers. Come on season, Lets get her started!

  5. Tom Edrington Says:

    I was under the impression that the coaching staff is charged with teaching, developing and doing what they are paid to do to produce better performing players……

  6. Bucsfanman Says:

    It’s a shame that it has taken this long to get their heads out of the sand.
    We have a great foundation to build upon. Keep building!

  7. Ace WigSplitta Says:

    Damn Erve what a great freaking article!!!

  8. RayJameisStadium Says:

    Ira by the time I read the last sentence you had me pumping my fist up in the air and I heard the cannons fired!!!!

    Is it August yet?!?!?!?

  9. Pickgrin Says:

    Nice article Irv.

    “There’s enough variety and depth at running back to complement what should be a dynamic passing attack.” Agree and nicely/concisely written.

  10. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    I concur..

  11. Cobraboy Says:

    I like the RB group the Bucs have. Few teams have the quality and diversity these guys bring to an offense.

  12. TouchDownTampaBay Says:

    Actually just a few years ago they may have brought in Fitz to compete with Glennon for the starting QB position. Thank God Lovie was forced to throw that final game again NO back in 2014. In Jameis we trust!

  13. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    It’s a great time to be a “stick carrier”.

  14. MarineBucsFan Says:

    I think we are pretty much set for training camp. I like the competition at every position.

    May the best men win and may the football gods bless us with no more than minor injuries.

  15. James Walker Says:

    I’d like to see another veteran CB

  16. The Real Malloy Says:

    I am loving our depth at most postitions. We just are not used to this. In Licht We Trust….

  17. Ocala Says:

    Nice article Ira/Irv.

    The Bucs have much better depth this year than they did last year.
    The awful depth we had killed us last year.

    We still have some positions with not great depth but every team in the NFL has the same issue.
    My biggest concern is our corner back depth and our running back position.

  18. Pick6 Says:

    i still would have liked to see the bucs be a little less passive in creating competition and veteran depth at CB, S, WR, RB, and DE. we seem to be repeating the mistake of 2010 in putting too heavy of an assumption on the development of guys in the building. we aren’t projecting existing guys improving into starters a la kyle moore and others in 2011, but we are hoping for lots of health, a few injured guys to not miss a beat, and a few key young guys “taking the next step”. All well and good if it works out, but i’d rather see these young guys playing a couple of veterans off the roster before assuming they are up to the task

  19. ChiefKief Says:

    I remember when the Bucs were interested in a 34 year old back up. The great Josh McClown. He hand delivered us Jameis though. Licht new what he was doing all along.