Fast Answer To The Tough Question

January 7th, 2020

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You never know who you’re going to run into at an airport terminal.

In this case, the dapper man sitting at the gate in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, waiting for his Tuesday morning flight to Canton, was the one and only Ron Wolf.

Buc fans of a certain vintage remember The Wolf.

He’s The Man Who Got Away.

In 1975, 37-year-old Ron Wolf found himself employed at the old One Buc Place woodshed with the fancy title of VP of Football Operations. Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom had recommended Wolf to Buc owner Hugh Culverhouse, partly because he knew how vital Wolf was to Oakland’s success as the right-hand man to Al Davis.

All it took was one conversation between Rosenbloom and Culverhouse and voila, the Rams had weakened a California rival. Joining forces with Culverhouse and John McKay, Wolf began focusing on the 1976 Draft.

The first player he ever selected, Lee Roy Selmon, would later be fitted for a gold jacket. Ricky Bell, David Lewis and other good young players would follow, but the Bucs lost their first 26 games and
stood at 2-26 after two seasons.

“The head coach, the owner and myself, we were all first-time people,” Wolf said on the NFL Network’s “Timeline” special about the franchise’s disastrous start. “First-time owner, first-time head coach, first-time general manager … that is a recipe for disaster.”

Somebody had to take the fall, and it wasn’t going to be the high-priced coach who was lured out of Southern Cal, where McKay had built a college football dynasty.

So Wolf took the hit, falling on his creamsicle sword before rejoining Davis in Oakland. Then it was on to Green Bay, where Wolf traded for Brett Favre and signed Reggie White. In 2015, Wolf earned a gold jacket of his own when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor.

Legends Gather

Former Bucs executive and legendary Packers GM Ron Wolf, who traded a first-round pick for then-Falcons backup QB Brett Favre.

We crossed paths this week as members of a blue-ribbon panel convening in Canton to add 15 new members to the Hall.

During a long meeting on Wednesday, 10 senior players, three contributors and two former head coaches will be awarded busts in the NFL’s shrine of excellence. It’s quite a gathering, with Bill Belichick, Bill Polian, Ozzie Newsome, Carl Peterson and Dick LeBeau among the expected arrivals, and John Madden weighing in by phone.

Keep Jameis, says the Hall of Fame GM.

Who knows what kind of football history would have been written in Tampa had Wolf remained in command of the personnel department?

The 1979 Bucs, built with some of the core players Wolf had drafted, reached the NFC championship game, but success was fleeting. By 1983, the franchise had entered a brutal stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons.

Wolf was long gone, in the midst of a Hall of Fame career as a savvy executive who wasn’t afraid to make bold moves because he trusted his instincts.

I asked Wolf what the Bucs should do with Jameis Winston. He didn’t hesitate.

He said Tampa Bay needs to retain Winston for 2020, if not beyond. Wolf much preferred Winston over Marcus Mariota in the 2015 draft and still believes Winston can be a guy you can win with.

“In this league,” Wolf said, “you’ve got to have a quarterback. If you don’t have one, you’ve got no chance.”

Click through and shop now at Tampa’s first family of Ford, Bill Currie Ford.

Ira Kaufman launched his professional NFL beat coverage in 1979, back when Earl Campbell was the toast of the league and Lee Roy Selmon was defensive player of the year. After a lifetime at The Tampa Tribune, “The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports” joined in July of 2016. His twice-weekly podcast and three columns per week appear here year-round and are presented by Bill Currie Ford. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter is a regular on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio and a part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday show, in addition to his other appearances. 

52 Responses to “Fast Answer To The Tough Question”

  1. Ocala Says:

    The Bucs should retain Winston. I think it would be good for both sides to do a four year deal with two years of guaranteed money.

  2. 813bucboi Says:

    “In this league,” Wolf said, “you’ve got to have a quarterback. If you don’t have one, you’ve got no chance.”

    dont tell the titans, ravens and 9ers that…..

    titans just beat the GOAT with derrick henry…..
    ravens have a RB playing QB….
    9ers have jimmy g who aint nothing special…..

    imo, you have to have a run game and a defense… can have all the passing yards you want but without a run game and defense, QBs may join the 30 30 club….lol….

    GO BUCS!!!!!!!

  3. TexBuc Says:

    Bucs should not let a QB who just turned 26 yrs the other day leave. His immaturity will go away as he ages just as it does for everyone.

  4. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    What award has this column won?

  5. Alanbucsfan Says:

    A strong running game should help Jameis.
    Maybe not, hard to trust him, but if they keep him 1 more year-

    If Bucs don’t spend high draft picks on OLine and RB, then expect more of the same.

  6. Swampbuc Says:

    Well what would hall of famer GM Ron Wolf know anyway?


  7. Stanglassman Says:

    Ron Wolf is a smart man. This sage advise soothes some of those Bucs loses to the Packers over the years. Letting Wolf go was up there with the Bo Jackson pick for the biggest Bucs blunders.

  8. AlteredEgo Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. Says:

    Ron Wolf was right
    to RUN from Hugh Culverhouse the first chance he got !

  9. Stanglassman Says:

    Great point Swampbuc. On one hand you got Ron Wolf and the other there’s JBF commenter Deeznuts.

  10. Pelsbuc61 Says:

    Seems like everyone’s an expert on JW except us Bucs fans who have seen enough of his blunders for FIVE years. It’s always someone else’s fault with JW. No running game, bad defense…. Well the last game clearly showed despite a running game and good defense, JW still threw INTS and lost the game. Also, it would be nice to start a game even as opposed to down by 2 scores. So next season when JW is under center with a brand new monster contract and we have no defense, thanks to re-signing JW, and Bucs start 2-6, I’ll remember all these experts that said JW needed to be signed.

  11. Kobe Faker Says:

    “Look at those sad eyes

    the eyes are the window to the soul

    those sad puppy eyes are saying

    Is that $30 million passing before my eyes?”

    Jaboo boo

  12. LaMarcus Says:

    Hahaha. Wolf knows what’s up. We need JW

  13. Alaskan Abdominal Snowman Says:

    Pelsbuc- Jameis lost us games this year but you can thank your kicker for leaving 9 points off the board and losing that game.
    It’s not about making excuses, it’s about watching the games with an understanding of what’s goin on. National media is ill informed on the Bucs and most likely do not take time to go back and watch Buc’s games, so what is your excuse?

  14. Stanglassman Says:

    There were legitimate reasons why Jameis had 2 Ints the last game. I’m not even talking about playing with a bunch up backup WRs and playing with a broken thump in his throwing hand. Watson did run the wrong route and Dotson did get blown up and let the DT get great penetration and tip the pass on the OT pick6.

    If the kicker goes 1-3 there is no OT, Bucs win. But it’s Jameis’s fault? Proving once again the Bucs have the stupidest fans in all sports

  15. mark2001 Says:

    Good old Ron… 81 years old. At one time he knew quite a bit about the game. I’m not sure anymore. And I think only Bruce knows if Jameis is retrievable. BTW Ron…if Mike hadn’t convinced Reggie that God wanted him in Green Bay, there would have been no SB during your tenure in Green Bay. But admittedly, you did do as good a job as Rich McKay did in Tampa.

  16. Cobraboy Says:

    Bring Winston back but ONLY after bringing back the entire front 7 and top reserves.

    Offer Winston whatever $$$ is leftover minus rooks and a cushion for injuries.

  17. Defense Rules Says:

    @Stanglassman … “If the kicker goes 1-3 there is no OT, Bucs win. But it’s Jameis’s fault? Proving once again the Bucs have the stupidest fans in all sports”.

    I don’t understand why some feel compelled to denigrate others for their comments. No Stanglassman, the Bucs don’t have ‘the stupidest fans in all sports’, but we have endured some pretty tough times. Losing season after losing season. Tend to think that opinions on little things like ‘What went wrong?’ and ‘How can we get better?’ will vary among fans in situations like that.

    For myself, I’m admittedly still undecided about ‘What do do about Jameis?’ Mostly because I don’t have all the FACTS to form a reasonable opinion. Just as a quick for instance, if the question was phrased ‘Should we bring Jameis Winston back for $33 million?’ my answer would be ‘No Way’ because that would cripple our opportunities to build a strong defense in 2020, improve our OLine & running game, extend Chris Godwin (who I REALLY like), etc.

    But I do trust that BA & his staff will get all those FACTS and make the best choice that they can make at the appropriate time. It may not work out, but then it MIGHT. This coaching staff wants the same thing that I do and that you do … to have a winning team. Just a hunch, but they probably want it even more. Their careers depend on making the right decisions.

  18. ben Says:

    so AFTER 5 YRS the bucs have a qb to take them to the playoffs?? Winston is still rated below even average by the nfl with good players around him …Don’t settle

  19. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira … Just read latest SBNation mock draft which I thought was really interesting. They had us drafting QB Justin Herbert at #14 (Bengals took Burrows & Dolphins took Tua … no surprises there). What was also interesting though is that their mock draft had SEVEN offensive Tackles and EIGHT DTs/DEs taken in the 1st Round. Wow. Looks like teams are getting serious about building the trenches.

  20. LordCornelius Says:

    “I don’t understand why some feel compelled to denigrate others for their comments”

    Agree. It’s ridiculous. That is my pet peeve here along with using blatantly wrong statistics or facts to make some point.

    Regarding Winston I don’t think some realize that the QB position is expensive across the board. The only way dumping Winston will free up significant salary cap is if we do not sign any FA QB worth a damn, and go with a rookie from the draft.

    For example Flacco was paid $22M by the Broncos even though he’s sucked for years. Foles at over $20M. Jacoby Brisetty carried a $27M cap hit.

    It’s not like dumping Winston for a FA QB will save us much $$… I’d rather just stay with Winston in that scenario since he’s 26 and has way more upside than anyone else we could sign.

  21. DoooshLaRue Says:

    Seriously, what the hell is happening to JayMiss’s forehead?

  22. Pelsbuc61 Says:

    Alaskan, I’ve been watching Bucs games since 76. Never has a Bucs QB been given so many offensive weapons as JW With such little results and yes, all Bucs kickers have sucked but this franchise has staked its future on JW for a while now with no results. I’ve watched enough Bucs game to know that defense was always the identity of this franchise and now that Bucs are starting to gel on defense, they will screw it up by giving the turnover machine a huge contract, thus limiting or eliminating solid players on defense. Remember our super bowl winning QB was Brad Johnson and Shawn King took us to the championship game.

  23. Stanglassman Says:

    DR- We both agree that Bucs fans have endured a lot over the years and have every right to state their opinion on how best to get better. That was never in question. I’d never denigrate someone for that. When someone shouts opinions like they are facts that’s when I draw the line. Especially someone who has used borderline racist langue in the past and never had a good thing to say about Jameis.

    My father was on the committee to get a NFL team in this community and I worked (for free) with the lobby firm to petition the FL legislature to get the community tax passed to keep the Bucs from moving. It was my idea to get Brad Culpepper & Derek Brooks to speak before the vote. Pep & DB changed votes and we got it passed. TB fans have no idea how close it was. The Bucs were moving if that partial stadium funding didn’t come through.

    I’ve been waiting 43 years for a franchise Qb and just because a few young Qbs have appeared (see RG3) to work out they seem to think that it would be easy to find a better Qb. It wont. Jameis deserves another year in this system.

  24. Mike Johnson Says:

    Say Ira, I remember that bunch Wolf, Mckay and Mr..”No Pay Doug Williams Culverhouse. Ok..I’ll be nice. Those were some real tryin times. My dad would take me to the stadium to watch our Bucs while he,,drank beer and cursed after every single loss. so you know..he cursed a lot. I say we should go after Bridges as a QB. But who am I kidding? We won’t. Jameis will be back because Arians truly believes he can fix him. And we will se next season. I’d say its a success if Jamesi can get his turnovers down to 15 or so. Get’em next yr Bucs!

  25. mark2001 Says:

    Stanglass… None of us know why Jameis has the issues he has with INT’s. Bruce does…he studies every play relative to what was called, and what he sees on film. He knows if Jameis is the guy to resign. Honestly, none of us has the breath of knowledge he has. I believe he is the right coach for this time and place. And I will rest in his decision, until he proves to be right or wrong. And the results will speak for themselves.

  26. Jameishas2go Says:

    I agree with Ron Wolf on one thing. If you don’t have a QB you cannot win in this league.

    However, if you don’t know you have a franchise QB, then you probably don’t and if you keep hoping that you do you will miss out on the one’s you could have had.

    Don’t hope, know. If you don’t know, then you don’t have’em don’t be afraid to keep looking.

  27. Alaskan Abdominal Snowman Says:

    Pels- You just stated it, we FINALLY have started to gel on defense and play well. Doesn’t Jameis deserve a chance to play with a solid defense? When his defense has played well we have won with a Jameis. Jameis is not a savior, he is an NFL QB drafted to the most losing franchise in sports history. Let’s allow him to play with the most complete TEAM he’s ever had around him.

  28. mark2001 Says:

    Alaska…they played well the second half of the year. And Jameis couldn’t stop throwing INT’s and continually submarined the D. Trust in Bruce…he will make the best decision with or without Jameis.

  29. mark2001 Says:

    Frankly, this isn’t about faith in Jameis..or not. It is about faith in Bruce to evaluate him in every facet, and decide if he is the best option for the Bucs to win. All the talk about Jameis one way or the other, other than what Bruce thinks, is frankly a waste of breath.

  30. Stanglassman Says:

    Mark2001- I concur.

    I believe Jameis will be back on at least a one year deal albeit the franchise tag or not. But I trust BA and staff too. In the scenario that the owners want to move on I’m not sure we’ll ever find out if BA was overruled.

  31. TampaTown Says:

    We have to keep Jameis even if he’s just a bridge to another QB who isn’t here yet.
    Ira- congratulations on you and your wife’s new little boy! Well done Sir. My suggestion for his name: Buc or Blitz. Keep it football related 🏈

  32. Stanglassman Says:

    If the Bucs win 6/8 instead of 5/8 the 2nd half would we be even having this discussion? Keeping in mind how poorly that Texans game was officiated and Gay going 0-3 to put them in OT.

    I know it’s not what happened but I think people just forgot how much they improved in the 2nd half of the season. I’m not sure what people’s expectations were this year but we got pretty much what I expected and hoped for. We should have all known given the fact that the team was learning a new system and the youth starting in the backend on defense that it wasn’t going to start great.

  33. mark2001 Says:

    Stangl…Honestly, I think this is Arians call to make. Licht is on thin ice. The Glazers know little about the where with all of the position, where Jameis is on the learning curve, who is better or isn’t better out there, etc.. And Bruce was brought in to develop Jameis if possible, and if not to make the best decision for the organization. The G men have played their hand, and empowered Bruce. I seriously doubt anyone would over rule him… Now that is, of course, in the context of Jameis’s salary demands, etc.. But Arians will make the best decision for the Bucs…not me or you…or Jameis. I’m pretty sure of that.

  34. mark2001 Says:

    Tampa…not necessarily. We have no idea who might be available in FA or the draft… and what Jameis might demand. And if he is a disgruntled franchise player? Big problem. Nothing is certain…that is why Bruce has left it open. You can bet he is doing everything possible to ensure he makes the best recommendation/ decision. It amazes me how much we fans think we know about this…in fact none of us knows squat when it comes to Bruces decision making. We will have to watch it all unfold.

    And BTW… we have enough talent, that with a starting caliber QB, we should be fine. The question is…what is best…not what would work.

  35. Buczilla Says:

    Awesome article Ira. Wolf is right, but no more than one year. If Winston kicks butt, then pay the man, but he has got to find some consistency first. I sure as hell won’t be holding my breath.

  36. TampaTown Says:

    Great take. Well said.

  37. stpetebucsfan Says:

    A simple question for the JW supporters who keep trying to blame the Atlanta game on Gay.

    When Gay missed the final kick had the game ended? Did we lose after that kick? Did our guys walk off the field at that point with their heads hung low?
    What the hell is a loss anyway? Don’t losses end a game. Did Gay miss a game ending kick?

    OR…did we win the coin toss much as Russell Wilson and Seattle did to us?

    Did Wilson throw a pick six or lead his team right down the field for the win?

    Did JW throw a pick six or lead us to a score?

    So that I have this right….a rookie kicker from The University of Bumfk…should have faced the pressure…..BUT a “franchise QB” making 20 million, expecting 25-30 million shouldn’t be able to handle the pressure? Really?

  38. stpetebucsfan Says:


    “The question is…what is best…not what would work.”

    Indeed that is the question.

    I would like to follow up with another. What if several answers would work?

    Then we determine what is best? Do we count a totally fractured fan base and the most polarizing athlete we’ve had in Tampa Bay since….

    IE….If there were three QB’s for sake of discussion…a rookie…a retread or JW who could ALL lead us to an 11 win playoff difference in record…would we still take JW?

  39. Bobby M. Says:

    The follow up question….at what price? Completely whiffed on a softball lob of an opportunity. If Winston signs for $10 million per yr, I think most see the rationale. If it’s $30 million….then maybe not.

  40. Pelsbuc61 Says:

    Paying JW 30 million a year to throw early picks and start the game 2 scores down and then blaming the defense and running game. Then hailing his heroics for making it a game and drooling over his stats during meaningless mop up time. That’s why Bucs suck year after year. They shouldn’t be afraid to move on.

  41. Defense Rules Says:

    Stanglassman … Fascinating backdrop dating back 43 years. Mine doesn’t extend back quite that far, nor is it nearly as interesting, but I did start following the Bucs in 1982 when I first moved here. And yes it has been a rocky ride, but I think most of us never give up HOPE that better days are ahead.

    Mark2001 & I share the same opinion regarding Jameis. BA knows best. He can blow a lot of smoke (which sometimes has had me shaking my head), but anyone who ever worked for The Bear is OK in my book. BA’s surrounded himself with a solid coaching staff, and I’m convinced that they’ll know if Jameis is ‘fixable’. I’m also convinced that this coaching staff is a lot more ‘adaptable’ than many assume that they are. We all just need to be patient and enjoy the ride.

  42. Brandon Says:

    Jameis is so much like Favre that it is sickening. Wolf sees it. Year two in this offense will reap major rewards. Jameis will be reined in like Holmgren tried to do with Favre and allow the D and running game to function and the QB to finish the job.

  43. Stanglassman Says:

    St. Pete. Go watch that ATL Pick6 and you will see that the ball was tipped to the defender after Dotson got blown up shoved into Winston’s lap, allowing the DE to get his hand in the passing lane and deflect the pass. The idea that Jameis can’t handle pressure is just laughable. Almost as ridiculous as calling Utah a bumf*ck team. Gay was a 3rd round pick and ‘18 Lou Groza winner. Type google Utah utes NFL players and you will see a bunch of nfl stars. One’s even named Star.
    When Jameis and the Bucs start winning next year even you will come around and support your Qb.

  44. Greg Says:

    I would like to congratulate all on this thread as started with @ Stang and the historical reference the dialogue has been intelligent and well thought out with out personal barbs. Nice read and thanks!

  45. BrianBucs Says:

    Obviously Wolf hasn’t been paying close attention to the Bucs.

  46. Adrnagy Says:

    Maybe wolf hasn’t pay closely attention but with 30/30 news it was good enough to see good.

  47. 1sparkybuc Says:

    In the second half of the season the defense solidified and we had a winning streak with Jameis. 900+ yards passing in a two game span with a cracked thumb. We lose our two best WRs and still should have won the last two games. I want to see what Jameis can do in a second season in a new system, with a full season of decent defense, a healthy thumb, healthy WRs, an improved ground attack, better protection, and hopefully, a reliable kicker. In five seasons he’s had half of his last season with a respectable defense, and they had the only winning streak we’ve had since Freeman was QB eons ago. I want to see more. For the first time in forever, we look like a complete team. After everything Jameis has endured, he deserves a chance to just contribute to it. He’s wasted his career having to carry the team. The offense was all we had, and he was the offense.

  48. Stanglassman Says:

    Sparky- Well said and totally agree. What shocks me is that 90% of the Bucs fans don’t feel the same way.

  49. BucsFanSince1976 Says:

    Why does no one talk about signing Ryan Tannehill who is going to be a UFA?

  50. Defense Rules Says:

    @1sparkybuc … “I want to see what Jameis can do in a second season in a new system, with a full season of decent defense, a healthy thumb, healthy WRs, an improved ground attack, better protection, and hopefully, a reliable kicker.”

    Therein lies the ‘gotcha’ Sparky. Pay Jameis what he thinks he’s worth ($30 mil) and you won’t be able to afford the Top-10 defense necessary to clean up our offense’s messes. You won’t be able to afford Godwin after next year (he’s making $1 mil in 2020 and will probably be asking $18-$20 mil in 2021 & beyond). You won’t be able to afford an improved ground game (unless we go with rookies, and there we’d need to spend 2 of our Top-3 draft picks on OLine & RB to make that happen). And the ‘better protection’ from his OLine? (we’ve already got the highest paid OLine in the NFL). As for the ‘reliable kicker’ … Matt Gay ‘ain’t goin no place’ (yes he had 2 bad games … but he was a rookie; other than that, he was solid).

  51. Mister Negative Nancy Says:

    Sorry but Wolf is wrong. Having success through a career does not make one infallible.

  52. 1sparkybuc Says:

    @Defense Rules. There is no way we can keep everyone in the front seven if they all demand to be paid top dollar. We’re definitely going to lose some, but I believe most of them, including Jameis, will work to keep this team together. Jameis has always been a team guy. He knows no other team in the league has a better receiving corps. He’s not going to want to start over from scratch in another new system, with new coaches, and unfamiliar weapons. He will accept less, at least for one year, to stay with the Bucs. We will probably lose Suh, but JPP and Shaq compliment each other. They make each other better. I believe they will do whatever they can to stay. On the offense, there will have to be some pay cuts and pay raises, possibly a trade and definitely some cuts, but the best possible offense for 2020 keys on Jameis. One thing for certain, no matter who stays or who goes, the team will win more than seven games next year. They will be better.