No Chef Hat For Jason Licht

April 1st, 2019

Sage Ira called for the firing of GM Jason Licht late last year. Now he’s found one way to defend him in today’s column.


Lay off Jason Licht on this one.

Licht’s 27-53 mark as GM of the Bucs speaks for itself, but it’s not fair to blame him for how this organization cooks the groceries Licht has provided for the past three seasons.

Licht’s power over personnel grew markedly when Dirk Koetter replaced Lovie Smith in 2016. The first player Licht drafted in his enhanced role was a cornerback out of Florida who excelled at press coverage.

But a funny thing happened to Vernon Hargreaves upon his arrival at One Buc Place. Koetter’s new coaching staff tried to turn Hargreaves into an off corner.

Hargreaves sucked it up and gave it a try, but his frustration kept mounting. He kept his mouth shut while Licht undoubtedly stewed in the executive suite.

Former Bucs DC Mike Smith

Flash forward to 2018 and the decision to draft Carlton Davis, an aggressive defensive back out of Auburn, late in Round 2. Once again, Buc fans watched in disbelief as yet another press corner was told to play well off the line.

Davis did what he was told and tried to maintain his confidence — even though Mike Smith’s scheme showed little confidence in him.

And all the while, Licht stewed.

Stuck In Publix

“Man, that defensive coaching staff made my elbows itchy.”

Remember when Bill Parcells carped about his right to shop for at least some of the groceries if he was responsible for cooking the meal? It was a classic sound bite, vintage Parcells, venting about feeling powerless to some degree.

In Licht’s case, he roamed the aisles of Publix but was frozen out of the kitchen when it came to preparation.

Licht and Koetter tried to maintain a good working relationship, but it wasn’t easy. The coaching staff wanted more talented players while the personnel side wanted more creative assistants.

That’s just the way it goes when you post consecutive 5-11 seasons with jobs on the line.

As Hargreaves heads into his fourth pro season, Buc fans still don’t know what to expect. Injuries have slowed his development, but Hargreaves hasn’t made much of an impact in his 24 NFL starts. His only pro interception came against Drew Brees in a riveting victory against the Saints that left the Bucs at 8-5 and in control of their playoff destiny due to a five-game winning streak.

Since those heady days, Tampa Bay has dropped 24 of 35 games and Hargreaves has dropped in stature. He seemed born again on Monday, standing at a podium at One Buc Place and sending out props to Bruce Arians for instilling confidence in him.

Rock-Bottom Opportunity

Arians is an in-your-face coach and he wants in-your-face cornerbacks. It’s not a stretch to suggest Davis is also ecstatic about a more aggressive approach under Todd Bowles.

It may not work. In fact, if the pass rush falters, this new approach could be a disaster. But how much worse can it get?

Opponents posted a 110.9 QB rating against the Bucs, tops in the league. They completed 72.5 percent of their throws, tops in the league. They averaged 8.2 yards per pass attempt, tied for tops in the league.

You get the picture.

This is an opportunity for Hargreaves to flourish in the final year of his rookie contract, perhaps earning a franchise tag or a contract extension with the Bucs. This is a chance for Davis to prove he was a savvy choice with the 63rd overall pick.

Licht can’t wait to see if he can turn the corner with these guys. For three years, he has held his tongue and stayed out of the kitchen.

Most importantly, it appears a Buccaneer coaching staff is finally cooking with gas.

Ira Kaufman began covering the NFL as a New York Giants beat writer in 1979. He arrived on the Buccaneers beat in 1985, Finally, the corporate leash was removed from his neck when he joined in July 2016. The award-winning Ira Kaufman Podcast fires twice per week, and Ira’s columns appear thrice weekly, except when Ira is on special assignment. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter also is a popular guest on various national radio and on local TV. He’s also co-host of TAMPA TWO at The Identity Tampa Bay, which returned to its regular format last month.

29 Responses to “No Chef Hat For Jason Licht”

  1. pelbuc Says:

    Coaching is irrelevant when Licht signed all those high character guys like Jameis, Baker, ASJ, DJax and re-signed Grimes and Doug Martin. All cancers in their own way. And those are the one we know of.

  2. Sport Says:

    Dual Practices maximizing the short practice sessions, utilizing existing talent to its best ability and BA & Co swagger should bring immediate and noticeable results.

    On track and I’m loving the direction we are headed.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    So then knowing that his team’s defensive scheme plays their corners off, Licht drafts cover and press corners. PRICELESS!!!!

  4. Colonel Angus Says:

    Doesn’t a good GM get on the same page as his coaching staff? Shouldn’t he have known that Smith didn’t prefer man coverage? Just like he should have known Koetter doesn’t like rookie RB’s and taking one that can’t block in 2nd round would be a waste?

  5. Billy_43 Says:

    No spewing negativity from me.
    Things are looking ^

  6. SeffnerSal Says:

    Actually Ira, it is Licht’s fault to a significant degree. It is Licht who put THOSE coaches in place, put them on the payroll, and when it was first painfully clear that Smitty wasn’t getting it done in 2017 late in the year nevermind ALL of 2018, Licht didn’t haul Koetter into his office and put enough pressure on Koetter to unemploy Smitty and others for at least Duffner in the meanwhile. Then…that would not only have shaken up the VHIII situation, but other scheme ineptitudes.

    So yeah…by inactivity, or not enough….Licht absolutely can be blamed.

    If you’re not part of the solution, you most certainly ARE part of the problem. It all happened, under his watch.

  7. Steve in Mad Beach Says:

    I yelled audibly at my TV every week watching Buc corners lining up 10+ yards away from the line of scrimmage.

    I could predict with surprising accuracy where most pass plays were going to go before the ball was snapped. If I could see it, what’re the chances that an opposing coach who has been studying Bucs tape for at least a week could miss it?

    Both Lovie, and Mike Smith were extremely ignorant and incompetent coaches!

    Speaking of Lovie, I’d like to fight that smug, condescending douchebag! How did he recently get a contract extension? I’ve never in my life seen someone who has been repeatedly rewarded with many millions of dollars for effing everything up!

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira, I thought YOU of all people were above making excuses for Jason Licht. That bubble just burst. Your 3rd para opening sentence speaks volumes … “Licht’s power over personnel grew markedly when Dirk Koetter replaced Lovie Smith in 2016.”

    I’ll (begrudgingly) give Jason a pass on ‘the Lovie years’ but no passes after that. Blaming Koetter & Smitty is just one more excuse. Like the Marines say … “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way”.

  9. BrianBucs Says:

    So knowing that his team’s defensive scheme plays it’s corners off, Licht still drafts cover and press corners. PRICELESS!!!!!

  10. Bucnjim Says:

    You draft the best players available and leave it to the coaches to get the most out of them. As a coach you need to be diversified enough to scheme around each players strengths. Systems that are not flexible will not work in the corporate world or in the NFL.

  11. Jmarkbuc Says:


    Not just once on the RBs…

    Mcsnoop AND rojo

  12. 813bucboi Says:

    licht got screwed over by the coaches….simple as that….


  13. Buc believer Says:

    Licht roamed the aisle of Publix but was frozen out of the kitchen?????? Ira has fallen prey to the Joe Buc make excuses phenomenon. It is truly horrible. No Jason Gump went shopping at the food pantry (when he drafts a kicker in the second round that is the food pantry) and tried to make a gourmet dinner.

  14. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Excellent piece, Ira
    Smith is retired and Hoke is def coordinator at Maryland- both no longer in NFL.
    New Coaching will or won’t validate Licht’s picks.

  15. Buc4eva Says:


    One of my favorite reads on this site EVER!!!!! 100% ACCURATE!!!

  16. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Great article.

    “I’ll (begrudgingly) give Jason a pass on ‘the Lovie years’ but no passes after that”

    Licht has definitely had his share of f ups but I don’t think this is some complete pass Ira is giving him.

    It’s more so acknowledging the lack of talent development/coaching in conjunction with his drafts.

    I.e. you draft a RB in R2 and do nothing to get his confidence going in games. Don’t play to his strengths and the only snaps you give him the entire world knows he’s getting the ball and it’s behind the 3rd string O-line. Seriously I watched every Rojo run (doesn’t take long)and he had probably only a couple bad runs with mostly him getting destroyed in the backfield 80% of the time with no chance. No big holes or opportunities. YOu can’t draft a RB in r2 and then not scheme him some plays to show off his wheels and get him a feel for the game.

    And we know Koetter favored a bad Steven Jackson over a promising Devonte Freeman. We know there is a history of this with him not trusting rookie RBs. Maybe he should have told Licht “hey I’m probably not going to play this guy because I’m scared about holding onto my job and rookies make me wet my bed. I actually might hurt this kid more than I ever help him”

    I.e. you draft press man corners and the coaches think they are better off playing zone even though the scouts/Licht said this is not what these guys are good at. I.e. you spend a 1st round pick on CB and make him play nickle because you don’t trust other nickles even though he was drafted to shut down WRs oun the outside.

    i.e. you draft a 3-4 OLB/DE and do not scheme him rush opportunities from that stance and instead oversee him losing tons of weight / gaining tons of weight quite obviously indicating they have no developmental plan…

    At best there was a big disconnect between Licth/scouts and the coaches in terms of how they viewed the players being used..

    That needs to end

  17. Buc4eva Says:

    Nobody busts on that many high picks. Davis, Hargraever, Spence will all be big contributers. I’m willing to bet Ronald Jones was all Dirk Koetter, but lets see if Arians can make it happen.

  18. Reach87 Says:

    ^^^what Bucnjim said. Truth!

  19. B.D Says:

    Maybe He should have bought the right groceries for the last coaching staff??
    why would you get square pegs to fit round holes?? not saying the coaching was not at fault, play with what you got…. but shouldnt they both be on the same page at least?? working together….?
    I hope since they worked together before (Arians and light)something better comes about, but I will wait and see. I think a whole house cleaning was in order

  20. The Buc Realist Says:

    Why would the GM get a press corner guy, and want the defense to press, but got the best zone coverage CB in free-agency in BG24????? Coach Smitty had to run the zone with all the leftover pieces from loser lovie’s vision of a defense!!!!!! Why did Coach Smitty talk about, precticed and played hybrid fronts until GMC complained about it, then it all magically disappeared!!!!!!!!! Why did the GM build around GMC and fail and now releasing those pieces when the sheep said he did his Job!!!!!!! Why does Joe say that finally LVD will be unleashed when his second best year was under Coach Smitty, when they just got to run some!!!!!!!!!!! then LVD was banged up all 2017!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And just for the record, It was lack of talent and injuries!!!!!!!

    I have been saying that this team is not talented enough!!!!!! I have said that all the way back to 2009!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And No one will want to admit the largest mistake each year!!!!!!!! That each year is a “win now” and there is a solid core to build around!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    But, keep thinking it is so close sheep!!!!! Keep thinking that all the problems are now fixed!!!!!!!!!!

    2019 will reveal answers to the sheep, that the “real” fans already know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Another coaching staff is coming in and the optimism is high. Some things can be blamed on previous coaching staff. Just the l improvements Dufner made me believe the scheme was partially at fault. Licht does not get exonerated for signing
    Swaggy Baker, T J Ward . His selection at running back in the draft were not ready to play the in NFL. They either couldn’t catch, block or understand the playbook. Aquayo was no generational kicker as Licht proclaimed. most If you have to hide players like Kenny bell on IR for further evaluation then you didn’t evaluate him properly.
    Even his most important pick has yet to put it all together and play consistent football for an entire season in his four years here.

  22. Curse of Gruden Says:

    Isn’t anyone going to mention Smith is giving the Joes the finger in that picture?

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I’ve been saying for the last two or three years that there was a serious disconnect between Licht and Koetter’s staff. He was drafting multi scheme players and the defensive staff had no idea how to put it all together.

  24. Defense Rules Says:

    Realist … I agree with you; it was ” It was lack of talent and injuries”. But it was ALSO coaching. Relatively few players can effectively start straight out of college IMO, and yet if you look at the defensive players particularly who we’ve drafted over the past few years, that’s exactly what we’ve expected of them. Injuries have forced many of our young guys into the starting lineup before they were ready.

    Folks can argue forever about whether the coaches didn’t ‘develop them properly’ or ‘didn’t scheme to use them properly’ or whatever, but to me the reality is that far too many were thrown into the fire before they were ready. Bad games (and losing) take a toll after awhile, although some players seem to be better at ‘shaking it off’ than some others.

    The Bucs are not a well-built TEAM, especially considering where we are salary Cap-wise. We’ve had to ‘carry’ too many players who simply aren’t ready for prime time, and that’s hurt the team as a whole IMO. We seem to have had far too many injuries to our starters, forcing the coaches to play some guys were simply weren’t ready. And surely our ‘coaching carousel’ for these past 10 years hasn’t helped one iota either. Put it all together and it spells one losing season after another. Hopefully BA & this coaching staff can change that, but I for one don’t expect it to happen overnight.

  25. Darin Says:

    Amen. Been saying it for years.

  26. SenileSenior Says:

    Right on, Ira!

    Can’t wait to see who emerges under Arians and Bowles and the rest of the coaching staff from the talent we already have.

    Can’t wait to see what kind of draft we have. Can’t wait to see who contributes this year and who will be worth waiting an additional year for.
    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!

  27. Dapostman Says:

    I can see Licht wearing a chef hat.

    Chef Boyardee’s. He’s earned it. That’s not a compliment.

  28. Jonathan Lipnicki Says:

    No chef’s hat…more like a dishwasher’s hair net.

  29. Saint P Says:

    I feel like we’ve got the most Trump supporters out of every NFL team, that can’t see the obvious in front of them… Smh. Jason’s job is to draft good to great players WITH the suggestion of the head coach. It’s the coach’s job to make them fit or build a system around their best attributes. “Coaching is irrelevant”?! I’ve heard some dumb things but wow! I guess Belichick and Payton are just touching themselves all day while the GM does the work!.. With the exception of some high priced free agents (to get ” Fan” attention) and a second round kicker, Mr. Licht and crew has picked up some steals (what up Ali!)! Great year for the Bucs ahead! All these fake and irresponsibly stupid “fans” should find a new team or just flush themselves! Go BUCS!