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04 January 2016

Buccaneers Quotes: Monday, January 4, 2016

BUC BITS OF THE DAY: This season, Tampa Bay’s offense set a single-season franchise record, with 6,014 yards of offense, the most in team history. The team’s 357.9 yards per game stand as the fifth-most in the NFL, the highest finish for a Buccaneers team in franchise history.
 
QB Jameis Winston finished his rookie season with 4,042 passing yards, the third-most by a rookie QB in NFL history and the second-most ever by a Buccaneers quarterback.
                                                                         
HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
 
(Opening statement)
“As we went into this past season, high hopes, every team starts off the season the same way. You want to, for us, win our first game, win the division and ultimately win the Super Bowl. Things didn’t turn out that way for us this year. As we started the football season as a 2-14 team, there was a lot of room for improvement. I think that’s where we are. You’re always judged on your record. Our record isn’t good enough right now at 6-10. But we have made improvements with our ball club. As I talked to you starting this football season, we had a lot of foundational pieces that we needed to put into place. I feel like we’ve done that in a lot of areas, but we’re still not there. So, believe me, we realize where we are. We’re not good enough. We had one last chance, yesterday – talking about yesterday’s game – to match up against the best in the league right now and what we found out is that we’re not there yet. But we will get there. So that’s how we’re finishing this season. We’ve made progress, but we still have a ways to go. Offensively, we’ve made progress, too. Jameis Winston had an outstanding season for a rookie. He threw for over 4,000 yards. I saw him grow in a lot of different areas. Our football team isn’t a finished product yet, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re in pretty good shape going forward with [Winston] leading us, on and off the field. Our running game, we wanted to have balance, [and] for the most part we had balance throughout the season with Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Our offensive line was a big area of concern [prior to the season]. Our offensive line came together, played well, blocking for the run and the pass. So there were some good things we were able [to do]. Receiving-wise, Mike Evans – we missed Vincent [Jackson] for a while, but to get Austin Seferian-Jenkins back in there with the tight ends… Cameron Brate really stepped up [too]. So, offensively, you can see the numbers. I think we finished up as a Top 5 offense in total yards – that’s improvement. Defensively, if you just go by yards, I think we’re going to finish up 10th. That’s improvement. We realize on the defensive side of the ball that we’re not there yet in a lot of areas. Third downs weren’t good enough, we didn’t take the ball away enough times, scoring defense wasn’t there. But we’ll continue to build our defense. Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David – Lavonte David was outstanding yesterday, too, I might add, like he’s been all throughout the year. What we saw the last four games of the season – we didn’t play our best ball the last four games of the season, and maybe it was as simple as missing a few players. One like Kwon Alexander. It was good to see him back in the building today – we were a different defense when he wasn’t out there. But, in the end, it ends up being a 6-10 record. We realize that. We know where we are in our division. But eventually we will get there. Special teams-wise, we were OK at best. Talking about the return game and then our specialists, too. It’s always tough this time of the year when you say goodbye to your team, because this group will never be together again. We have some players that have played a long time, some that are in the fourth quarter of their careers, but that had outstanding seasons for us, like Gosder Cherilus, Logan Mankins. These are guys you don’t retire on the type of years that both of them had. So that’s where we are.”
 
(On getting a big impact from the 2015 draft class and whether another leap could be expected in 2016 if the team hits similarly on defensive draft picks)
“My glass, of course, is always half-full, but I think it’s safe to say that, yes. When I talk about foundational pieces, we have a lot of those in place throughout. The young players you mentioned: Donovan Smith, left tackle, started the entire year; Ali Marpet, playing most of the year; and of course, Jameis. So, yes. Then you now go to the defensive side of the football, the one draft pick we did have defensively, Kwon, being our MIKE linebacker. If we can have that type of success coming up, there’s no reason to think that we can’t make another big jump on our record as much as anything I’m talking about. So, yes, that’s the plan. And not just, of course, the draft. We have free agency, we have a lot of different ways to improve our ball club.”
 
(On whether he will be involved in trying to recruit guard Logan Mankins to return in 2016 rather than retiring)
“No doubt. Part of my job is to recruit, also, players that I think can help us win football games. You normally don’t retire on the type of year that Logan had. You retire, you finish football, when you can’t play football anymore. That’s not the case with Logan. I thought he had an outstanding season. Do I get involved with recruiting guys like that? Yes, I do.”
 
(On his reaction to quarterback Jameis Winston’s postgame comments)
“I haven’t seen all of what you’ve said, but I know probably the way Jameis started it off was talking about what he can do better next year. As he came to me, that’s how our conversation went. ‘Coach, what can I do better? What do I need to do better? How do you see me, where do you see me?’ Part of being a leader is to challenge everybody to raise their standards, coaches, players and everybody in our organization. So I assume that’s what Jameis said. I know that’s what comes out of his mouth every time he opens it about the team and what we all need to do to get better, play better ball, coach better ball, and all of that. I assume that’s what he was saying.”
 
(On if Winston is on the right track with his thoughts about what is needed to improve the team)
“I don’t muzzle Jameis at all, or any of our players. I want them to say what’s on their mind and what they see. And as one of the leaders going forward, he needs to be vocal – and more vocal – in his role as our starting quarterback. If he said that, there’s probably a whole lot of truth to it. When you’re 6-10, we all need to do things differently, do things better. That’s definitely the message coming from all of us.”
 
(On whether a lack of maturity always goes hand-in-hand with a young team)
“I don’t know if they always go together, but, in our case, yes, we need to mature more as a football team. We did play a lot of young players. I think we were looking at our roster and there are over 20 first- and second-year players on our roster. This is a young football team, but some of the things we did, you just can’t put that on being young. The things that we have to do a better job of, that I’ve talked about quite a bit but we haven’t been able to coach it well enough, haven’t been able to get it done, is take care of the penalties. And that’s part of being a disciplined football team, whether that’s young, old, whatever. Those are areas before we can become a championship team that we need to take care of.”
 
(On how he can get the point across regarding penalties after having had issues all season)
“The only way you can do it is to just keep working on it. Simple as that. Keep talking about it over and over. Eventually, what I’ve found is that you keep doing things a certain way, that you get it. If you keep harping on it, keep preaching it, teaching it, you do take care of it. That’s what I’m going to go on. I think we had six or so [penalties] yesterday, five, that’s a number you can live with – that’s improvement. I just don’t think going forward that that will be what will stop us from ultimately being a championship team.”
 
(On if the team right now is where Coach Smith envisioned them when he was hired two years ago)
“I don’t think any of us would say that we’ve met our expectations. We had high hopes. When I took over the franchise – you just can’t build a program overnight. You’d like to have a quick fix, but that just wasn’t part of the process. When you get to 6-6 in a season, it makes you think that maybe you’re a little bit further along and we can get it done, but in the end, we weren’t quite there. We’re not where we want to be and eventually, we’re going to get there. It’s a process that you go through. Normally you can’t skip any steps along the way. We haven’t skipped any steps, but we realize in Year Three, we need to see the results of everything we’ve been doing.”
 
(On the shuffling around in the secondary and what that means for those players going forward)
“When you do that much shuffling, you’re searching, that’s what you are. I think it’s safe to say we didn’t play as well as we need to in the secondary. There are a lot of reasons for that. When you have a group that you’re working with and you don’t feel like you’re getting the type of play that you need to win, you look at other options. We kept doing that right up until the last game. That’s not a good thing. At the same time, you want to be able to see everybody that you have on your roster. I think we gave everybody an opportunity to show what they can do. We’ll make decisions based on that.”
 
(On if the team signed players that did not fit the scheme)
“First off, you start picking players because you think there’s a need. You pick the best available. Decisions don’t always work out, simple as that. You don’t stop the program because of that. You keep looking. It’s not the first time I, as a head football coach, have picked guys that didn’t work out. You do better the next time around. That will be our goal this time.”
 
(On if the team’s young core helps bring excitement for next season)
“I think you had a chance to talk to most of the guys. That is the tone right now. There’s disappointment when you’re headed this direction [down], then there’s disappointment because you can’t wait to really finish the job. That’s the tone of our program right now. With the young players, but also, as I’ve talked to some of the veteran players that have seen it happen before. They know – Logan Mankins, I’m talking about Gosder Cherilus, guys that have seen it happen – their excitement to want to finish up what they started. So yes, there is a lot to that.”
 
(On if there is a ‘culture of losing’ with the team)                                                        
“Until we win, that will be the case, but in order to win, you still have to look – I keep talking about us trending. We had two wins [in 2014], we had six [this season]. If you’ve been around here to look at our ball club right now, I don’t think it’s going out there by yourself to see us continue this trend. But right now, that’s how it has been for a long period of time. Until we do something about that, we have to live with that.”
 
(On if the coaching staff will be evaluated along with the players)
“A part of your end-of-the-year process that you go through is that: evaluating players and coaches, staff, going forward, all of that. That’s a base part of what we do. Of course part of the process today is saying goodbye to the players. I’ll start meeting with our coaches the rest of the week. That’s just a normal part of what you do at the end of the year.”
 
(On the message for the players heading into the offseason)
“I think the message is pretty clear for all of us, it is about next year. ‘Guys, we’re going to be a good football team. We’ve laid the foundation, now it’s time for us to reap the benefits of that.’ That’s the message going forward. If you believe in what we’re doing right now, we all will do more and we’re going to have better success next year. Once we get to a point where it’s a critical time, we’re going to get over the hump next time. The culture of [not] having losing seasons is just a year away. Guys believe that.”
 
(On what self-evaluation Coach Smith will do during the offseason)
“When you get to the end of the season, there’s self-evaluation going on throughout. It’s not like I have to go back over – that happened throughout. Every tough decision, every decision I maybe would do differently, I went through that process then. Just like for the players, now we take a step back and look at everything, without having to game plan. We’ll go through that process. Keep in mind, when I talk about our football team, I’m talking about me first. There are things I have to do better. You are what your record says you are. For me, I’m a coach that got better this year, but has to improve a lot more.”
 
(On if the team is worried about offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter leaving to take a head coaching job)
“In an ideal world, Dirk would be here to continue that growth that we had, but that’s just a base part of it. If I’m a football team out there looking for a good football coach, I would look at Dirk Koetter too. That’s just a part of people seeing you having success. And going back, just leaving it on what we were able to do on the offensive side, as we go into this offseason, we see the same thing happening on the defensive side of the football too.”
 
(On not having linebacker Kwon Alexander for the final four games of the season)
“He was definitely missed. You just look at the offensive side of the ball, it starts with the quarterback. Defensively, it starts with the MIKE linebacker. Not just starting with him, we had a chance to see what Kwon was able to do, he’s a playmaker. He brought energy, toughness, relentless pursuit to the football. When you don’t have everything established, all of the foundational pieces established, and you lose one of those key pieces, you see the results of it. We didn’t win another game without him out there. It’s not just Kwon, there were others. We missed Vincent Jackson. We just didn’t play as well as we needed to. We were definitely missing something without Kwon.”
 
(On if he thinks this team can or should be a playoff team next season)
“I’m saying it should. [It can be] and we should.  I’m going to go back to, we were 6-6, with a quarter [of the season] to go. That was progress, to get in position, and things looked pretty bright for us. We weren’t quite ready to take that next step then. We will make the corrections, the moves that we have to make in order to finish the 2016 season [in the playoffs].”
 
(On if his optimism comes from quarterback Jameis Winston’s play as a rookie)
“I think if we took a poll in the room and you said ‘Ok, you’re starting a franchise, what’s the main position you need to get right first?’ In this room and every room around the league, people would say ‘Quarterback position.’ For all of us right now, I think it’s safe to say we have our quarterback of the future, our franchise quarterback in place. So a lot of the optimism is based around that. I’m going to also jump to the other side – I think that MIKE linebacker position is pretty important too, with what we do. To get both of those guys at the same time, they’re close – they realize their role right now too, on our football team. So yes, that does give you confidence as you’re going forward. Quite a bit.”
 
(On how involved he will be in the draft process)
“I’ve been pretty involved, to say the least. Jason [Licht] and I, about this time last year, we were in Pasadena, [California], we started the process right away. I’ve been pretty involved. Jason and I have done things together throughout. It’s a little bit of a different scenario, as far as us not being in total control of who we can take in the draft. But the draft is coming up later on. Now it’s for us to do a better job in free agency. I will definitely be involved in that.”
 
QUARTERBACK JAMEIS WINSTON
 
(On how to achieve a culture change with the team)
“We’re going to take a couple weeks off and whoever I can see, whoever I can affect – and guys know who they are. At the end of the day, everyone is going to work together and we’re going to build this team together.”
 
(On whether he was concerned that his comments about effort from the team might have rubbed other players the wrong way)
“Absolutely not, because the first person I called out was myself. I made that very clear.”
 
(On whether he wants to see passion from the team across the board)
“Yeah, that’s what we’re going to get. We’re going to get the want-to and the will from everyone.”
 
(On his offseason plans)
“I haven’t made a plan yet.”
 
(On whether he exceeded his own expectations for his rookie year)
“The thing is, I just want to win here. I know what we’re capable of. We left so much on the table this year. The individual accomplishments, you can talk about Doug, you can talk about how good our offensive line was, but, at the end of the day, I just want everyone to better themselves.”
 
(On having a successful season both on and off the field)
“Actions speak louder than words, so that always holds true.”
 
(On whether he had any extra motivation to prove people wrong who doubted his ability to succeed on and off the field)
“No, I just was going to be myself. Eventually everyone was going to get used to who I was and I was going to get out of the spotlight one way or another by staying out of the news.”
 
(On whether he’s proud to have proved those who questioned him wrong)
“That’s none of my concern, about peoples’ opinions. Like I said, I have to be me. I know these guys in the locker room love me and it starts here. The opportunities I had to spend time in the community with kids and especially going to the homeless shelters with the rookies, that was a big opportunity for me to show people who I really was.”
 
(On what grade he would give himself for the season)
“I can’t give myself a grade right now. I just know I have to get better. I know that. I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I would have loved to lead this team to a playoff win, to the playoffs, but I didn’t do that this year. I have to get better.”
 
(On how he will use the offseason to improve for next year)
“It’s a blessing, because this is my first offseason as an NFL player. Definitely learning from Vincent [Jackson] and Logan [Mankins] and guys on how to be a professional and how to do things the right way, I’m definitely going to ask them for a couple notes when I start my offseason program. But you just continue to better yourself, get better every single day. And now that I don’t have to go to class or worry about grades or anything, I can focus on my craft.”
 
(On how much film of himself he plans to watch)
“Well, first, I’m going to take a break and just get away from everything. But I’ll be still working [in the offseason].”
 
(On whether he plans to work on fundamentals)
“Absolutely. Coach Bajakian, Coach Koetter, they expect a lot from me, so I have to continue to get better at everything that I do.”
 
(On whether he plans to train with George Whitfield again this offseason)
“Most likely. I don’t know yet.”
 
(On whether he noticed a difference with the team after being eliminated from the playoff hunt)
“When we were in the race, everyone was just pumped up. And it hurts your soul when you’re out of the playoff race, especially people who have been doing this a long time – they know how it is. It was relatively new to me, so my main instinct was to keep fighting, and that’s what I’m always going to do.”

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