Buccaneers' GM Jason Licht Quotes 4.9.20
COURTESY OF TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
(On how the addition of quarterback Tom Brady affects his preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft)
"Well, obviously Tom is arguably the best quarterback to play the game, so it's nice to have that guy. In terms of how we go about the draft this year, we're still evaluating every position, every player, every position of need and positions that maybe some perceive as not a need. We still stack the board the same. We still look for great players. We're looking to add the best player available where it meets a need in certain positions. I wouldn't say it really affects the way we've been conducting meetings or [the way we have] been stacking the board, but it is just a really good feeling to know that Tom Brady is on our team."
(On how the pandemic affects the process on draft day and whether the team has backup plans for if there are any issues with technology)
"We are currently going through a lot of scenarios with that. We're working through a of different platforms in terms of being able to have some video conferences and talk to one another. We're going to find the best one [and] the most secure one. We'll have some mock situations of our own. Sometimes you can get a little over-technical in these situations. You want to make sure you have a hardline phone. You want to make sure you have several phones available to you – cell phones or what have you. But sometimes it comes down to the old-fashioned picking up the phone and calling the league office and saying, 'We are going to pick this player.' We'll have all of our scenarios done when the draft starts in terms of where I would trade up, where I would trade back, what we'd be looking for, what we'd be wanting, what players we're going to take in order [and] those types of things. In terms of the technical part, we're still working through it a little bit, but I feel very confident. We have a great IT department led by Spencer Dille. We have a lot of different avenues that we can work through."
(On if Director of Football Technology Spencer Dille will be readily available to assist if something goes wrong and if there are other people who can make the pick if there are issues)
"That's one way of doing it. Each general manager and each head coach are going to have an IT person that's going to be available at their residence. I feel very comfortable with that. In terms of who actually turns in the pick, if I call someone and tell them to turn it in or I turn it in myself, I think that's maybe the least of our concerns right now. It will get in one way or another."
(On how canceled pro days affect the team's evaluation of players, especially those who did not participate in the NFL Combine)
"Well, normally it is a big piece of it. Just before this I was watching some pro day videos [of] players that have conducted their own pro day and sent them to us and to every team – you use the tools that you have and the information that you have. Fortunately, it's a level playing field across the league. In terms of getting to know the players, that's another big aspect of it. We spend a lot of time interviewing these players when we're at their pro day with their coaches and with our scouts. Our scouts, scouting department and our coaching staff have been working around the clock doing FaceTime, Zoom and what have you interviews. I've joined in on quite a few of them. We've been getting quite a bit out of it. It's been a little bit more focused. Sometimes when you have a player in for a visit, you talk to a guy for 10 minutes [and] then you move him on to another coach, another personnel guy or another scout. This way, we're focused in on the player for a solid amount of time and we all have our chance to ask questions and see how he reacts. Once again, we've been utilizing the information that we have and the technology that's given to us. I feel very good about where we're at.
(On how many private workouts the team was able to conduct before teams and prospects were banned from traveling)
"Just a handful. It's the same thing that I just said – we're getting a lot of videos sent from agents. We request certain players' videos of their workouts from their agents. We try to analyze that the best we can. It's the same across the league. Sometimes in this process you can over-analyze a little bit and put too much stock into a workout. Whereas, the tape – I know you guys hear this all the time and we say it all the time – but the tape is about 90 percent of what the player is. We can tell how hard a player plays. We can tell how smart sometimes [that] a player is just by the way he plays. In some regards, I'm excited about this draft to see if we're going to get more of a pure evaluation and draft more off of a pure evaluation than over-analyzing."
(On whether he considers quarterback Jameis Winston a hit or a miss in the draft)
"We have a lot of respect for Jameis. Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route. I've got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things and I think anybody in our office, or our building, would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that personally – and I think I speak on behalf of the organization – that he was a bust. I think he's got a bright future ahead of him. It just really comes down to, we had a chance to get Tom Brady. Tom Brady is a hell of a player and we are very excited about that. I'm very confident that Jameis is going to go on and get an opportunity. That's not the last you're going to hear from Jameis."
(On what it feels like to have built a team that a player of Tom Brady's caliber wanted to join)
"I have taken my fair share of criticism – a lot of it deserved – and I'll never shy away from that. But we've also had a lot of hits and brought in a lot of good players that got us to this point, like you said. It feels very good. It feels damn good to have a player of Tom's stature and the résumé that he has, that he felt like this is a place where he could come and win. It feels damn good."
(On if he and Head Coach Bruce Arians believe that running back Ronald Jones II has the talent to be a feature back and how their thoughts on him will affect whether or not they address the running back position in the 2020 NFL Draft)
"Well, we do think Ronald still hasn't even scratched the surface of what he can be. He made a huge jump from year one to year two. He didn't have to do much to do that because year one wasn't very good for him, but year two we felt very good about where he came. We think he still has a tremendous amount of upside. That doesn't stop us from wanting to add to that group, which may be something we do depending on who's there, where they're at and what other positions we're looking at. We have a lot of faith in Ronald, and in fact, we have more faith in him now than we ever have. But that's another position, as you can tell across the league – some of the better teams, they have one, two or three guys – sometimes four – that they can rely on in different types of roles in their offense."
(On the art of trading up in the draft and never trading up in the first round as a general manager)
"Every year we put together scenarios of moving up in the first round, as well as moving down. It just hasn't worked out that way. It takes two teams to get together and have a marriage to do the deal. It's not as simple as just saying, 'Okay, we want to move up to the eighth pick.' I guess it is if you're going to give up a bounty of picks, but you just want to make sure you're not stressing your team and harming your team for the future by giving away too much. We put together every move up to every pick all the way up to one, with what we'd be willing to do. It doesn't necessarily mean we're going to do it."
(On if he got any insight from quarterback Tom Brady on what parts of the offense he would like to see upgraded through the draft and if Jason is comfortable with the team's current options at the No. 3 wide receiver slot)
"In terms of his input on what we need – no. Mostly the conversations were what he's excited about working with. I had some conversations, as well as Bruce [Arians], about what we were ideally looking to add – maybe not even through the draft, maybe after the draft, maybe through free agency still. There's still a lot of avenues that we can use to get some players, but we like our receiver group. We obviously like Mike [Evans] and Chris [Godwin]. We think we've got the best tandem in the NFL, or arguably the best tandem in the NFL, and there are not a lot of teams that can say that. We think Scotty [Miller] still has a bright future. We've got some young guys. [We've got] Justin Watson, who stepped up late in the year. Then we've got some young guys that we liked from what we saw, not just in games in flashes, but in practice at the end of the year. Bruce has a very good background and reputation – and well-deserved – in developing some young talent, whether they're undrafted, late-round draft picks or street free agents. We feel pretty good with what we've got. Ideally, you'd like to add depth at every position."
(On how much of a priority finding a developmental quarterback is in this draft)
"We can afford to do it, I think. It is definitely something we would look at, but it just depends on who that player is, where he is available, what other players are in front of him [and] if we're sold on that player. It's not as easy as just picking any quarterback and thinking, 'OK, he's the developmental guy.' They're hard to find. They don't just appear out of nowhere. A lot goes into it from their tape to their maturity level – all of those types of things. It just kind of depends on who the player is. If there is a player that we like at the right place, I don't think we would have a problem taking him."
(On breaking down film in interview sessions with prospects)
"We are able to do that. We've got a really tech savvy scouting department and coaching staff, so we've been able to get on video conferences with tape and watch and listen to them explain what they're doing. Then install some of our plays and have them regurgitate it to us, which has been really interesting way of doing things through this, but it's been very effective."
(On the approach to find immediate impact players opposed to developmental players now that Tom Brady is on the roster)
"In terms of having Tom on our roster and looking for immediate impact players, there's a balance here. Obviously, Tom isn't – probably – going to play for the next ten years. He's been kind of a freak of nature in terms of playing at the level that he has at his age because he takes care of himself so well. I can't put a timeline on how long is going to play, but you also have to think about the future as well. If you try to go for the guy that you think is only going to be able to play next year, and you expect him to come in and make an instant impact – I think you're fooling yourself a little bit. All of these players are going to need some developmental time, especially with the backdrop that we're in right now with the little bit of uncertainty of when we're going to be able to start. Players need reps, so there may be a little bit of focus on the intelligence and the ability to pick up things than there has been in prior years."
(On how the team plans to navigate the draft board from his house)
"Well, like I said before, I have great IT department. It's the best I've ever been around and we've already gone through that. I feel very comfortable with the information that I'm going to be able to get. It's incredible the things they can do. It's going to be a little different. Probably in between picks instead of high-fiving and doing those types of things, I'll probably have to take out the trash and empty the dishwasher, but it's going to be a little bit different. My kids will be in the house. They've already been told that they have to give me some space, but it's going to be different. It's going to be fun. It's going to be something that we'll probably remember for the rest of our lives."
(On how the uncertainty of when players will report to the team will affect the way he drafts on draft day)
"I don't really think it will affect the way I pick on draft day. I think it's going to affect the way Bruce [Arians] and I, and John [Spytek] and Mike [Biehl] and our scouts – the focus that we put on here in the next few weeks and what we've done the last few weeks in identifying those traits of a player. We've used a few different ways of getting some information from them to gauge their intelligence, gauge their passion – some things like that, that we normally wouldn't be able to do. I think it's going to be a little bit more of a focus. I'm not saying that we wouldn't take a player that we feel maybe needs a year of development whatsoever. We've just stressed those traits in those players in this process more than we ever have."
(On when the last time he was in a room with Head Coach Bruce Arians)
"I can't tell you. It's been – just a few days after free agency opened, I believe. I can't tell you an exact date but it's been at least two weeks."
(On the process of working with Bruce Arians through these conditions)
"Bruce and I catch up on a nightly basis – at least on a nightly basis. Sometimes several times during the day, whether it's text, whether it's Facetime, whether it's a phone call. It's really kind of the same as it would be in the office, it's just the accessibility. I just can't walk down to his office and walk in and talk or vice versa. Got to make sure I'm not tied up with something, another conference call or with him where he's at right now. It's been pretty seamless. As seamless as it can be."
(On concerns with hacking and what can be done to appease the staff's concerns about it)
"Once again, I'll say my IT department has gone through every one of those questions, every one of those scenarios and looking for the safest place to do it – try to have it locked down and if we don't feel that it can be, phone calls could work as well too. In my opinion a speaker phone could be just as effective as a video conference."
(On what he finds himself doing under current circumstances as opposed to past years)
"It's been kind of nice, to be honest, in some regards. Obviously, we're in a very serious situation right now globally, but in terms of working from home it's been kind of nice. I've been able to focus more on watching tape. I've been able to focus more on the things that I'm doing to prepare for the draft and everybody else has as well. The only difference is when I walk out my office here. At the office I could pop into someone else's office and talk spontaneously. Here when I walk out of office I have to help around the house and be a dad and be a husband, which has been great for us too. Business-wise with the draft it's the most important thing going on right now, but in life it's my family and keeping them safe. If I was somewhere else holed up and not around here, I don't think I would be able to focus at all worried about my family. I think that goes for everybody else across the country. I don't feel like it's handicapped us whatsoever. I think I can speak on behalf of the entire staff, coaching and scouting, we've been able to functionally communicate and communicate often. I'm very happy with the process so far."
(On what goes through his mind when deciding to pick best player available or a player at a position of need)
"A lot of things go through your mind. That's why you have to stack the board correctly in your mind, in our minds – Bruce and I in the end – how we like these players. You take need in effect when you stack the board, but you don't want to stack a player at a position of need too far a player that is maybe a little bit better at his position. Sometimes the best picks, and I think I've said this in the past, sometimes the best picks have been the ones that weren't a position of need but it clearly was the best player, and a year down the road you're very happy and you can't see life without that particular player. Needs change quickly from April, May to July, August, September so it wouldn't be a bad thing to have another great receiver on this team. I think Bruce [Arians], Byron [Leftwich], and Tom [Brady] would find a way to get that player involved and it would be an asset for us."
(On if this is a year that best available trumps a position need)
"Maybe to a degree. Every year you want to work that particular part of the process out the same. You don't want to push players too high at a position of need just to get that position. Across the league, it's 50/50 whether any first-round pick is going to be a player or not three years down the road. It's 50/50 from the first pick down to the 32nd pick. You want to make sure you manage your board the best you can. You want to manage risk and you just want to make sure you get a good football player."
(On if he has been contacted by Rob Gronkowski's representatives and if he would be open to him for the Buccaneers)
"Well, he's doing a pretty good job with WrestleMania right now. I have no idea if he would want to play. I'll keep this on the draft right now because that's like asking about another player on another roster. He belongs to the New England Patriots, so we're going to focus on the draft here and focus on players that are available."
(On Mike Evans donating $100,000 to COVID-19 relief)
"It's awesome. It's not surprising for Mike. He was our Man of the Year candidate from the Bucs last year and deservedly so. He's just an awesome, awesome person. I feel like in our entire locker room, we've got a bunch of great guys. Tom [Brady] and Gisele [Bundchen] donated to the community as well. I know there's been talks of a bunch of different players on our roster that are looking for the best way to help the community in this situation, so I'm sure it won't be the last person. It definitely makes you feel great. It makes feel like you're doing a good job with my staff and Bruce [Arians] and his staff of bringing in the right kind of guys. To win a championship you do need some talent, but you have to have the right kind of guys and you have to have the right 53. I think we have the right locker room right now."