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18 February 2015

Transcript: Head Coach Lovie Smith & General Manager Jason Licht NFL Combine Media Availability

HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
 
(Opening statement)
“Whenever you go 2-14, you can’t wait to get the next season underway. The Scouting Combine normally kind of kick starts – of course, the draft – but, the next season a little bit as you look at it that way. There are a lot of things we need to do better. As a head football coach, there are a lot of things I know that I can and will do a better job at. Kind of asking all our players to take the same approach. In the offseason, you can first start working on your coaching staff and try to get it right as you go forward. We’ve done that, adding Dirk Koetter to our staff as our offensive coordinator. I had a chance to compete against Dirk for a lot of years. Whenever a team puts up over 50 points against you, you take notice, which he was able to do as a coordinator. Adding (Quarterbacks Coach) Mike Bajakian and others will help. Then you get around to personnel, and that’s kind of where we are right now. Free agency, of course, is first up, but it’s about the draft – (that’s how) we build our program, getting out of last place in our division. Always excited about the Combine, excited to get a chance to meet players that you haven’t met for the first time, and of course to see players work out. I believe in the Combine and think it helps to see a guy, even on a choreographed setting like this, perform at his trait.”
 
(On the decision to release quarterback Josh McCown)
“Just a new year. Things didn’t go exactly the way we wanted last year. Bringing in a different offensive philosophy, staff, along with other things, we just felt like going forward with Mike Glennon only would give us our best chance. Josh McCown is a heck of a – Josh is a lifetime friend, did a great job for us in the locker room, different things leadership-wise, [and we] thought it was fair to him to let him go elsewhere.”
 
(On what he was most disappointed in last season)
“I’m not trying to run away from your question, but we were happy with very little. Of course, start with the coaching part, we have to do a better job. I think to a position, each position we need to improve. Wide receiver-wise, we got a lot out of our wide receivers. Mike Evans had a great rookie year, Vincent Jackson, but just overall production on offense wasn’t good enough. Defensively, of course, Gerald McCoy – there’s a reason why we signed Gerald to be the face of the franchise, to lead us forward. Lavonte David is a great player. Young players like Bradley McDougald really stepped up, but we have a long way to go.”
 
(On the frustration of last season)
“Frustrating, of course. Two wins – haven’t been in that situation before. But I know you have to crawl before you walk, and you just don’t get to that place where you’re winning double-digit, having double-digit win seasons. But, for us, we’ve set the bar and we have a long way to go. At the same time, it’s not like we were blown out. There were three games we weren’t in. The rest of the time we had opportunities to win, [and] a lot of those games right up until the last play. This year we’ll finish the job.”
 
(On the importance of signing Gerald McCoy to a long-term deal)
“I think if you just look at the position, especially with 4-3 teams, that under tackle, the guy that’s closest to the quarterback, can really impact what you do defensively. You mentioned those two players [McCoy and Ndamukong Suh], about as good as there are at playing that under tackle position. But, for us, everything starts up front with our four-man rush. Gerald, of course, sets the tempo with that. He’s a great player and we’re paying him that way.”
  
(On having the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft)
“Well, I think we’re going to look at it, if you have to be in this position, yeah, you’re always looking for the franchise quarterback and people want to talk about the quarterback, and if you’re down there and you have an opportunity, you have to really look at that closely, which we’ll do. But we like just having options, all options, on the table for us. We like being in that position and seeing what happens in the end.”
 
(On the plan for Mike Glennon moving forward)
“The plan is, well, to move forward with Mike. I mean, it’s about that. You look at our roster, Mike’s the quarterback on our roster right now, for good reason. Even though he didn’t play as much as he liked last year, we saw some things that we really liked in him. Some of our new coaches that came in really liked him. Made the statement that we would be moving forward in the future with him and that’s where we’re at now.”
 
(On what guard Logan Mankins brought to the team this year)
“Logan [brought] everything I hoped he would bring. I’m talking about a veteran that’s played at a high level, leadership, and then just good play. Logan played well throughout. We need to get others up to pace with him, but everything you want in a player coming in, a veteran player that’s done it a certain way, he was able to do for us. Look forward, going forward, with him.”
 
(On reported comments that he would be comfortable making Jameis Winston the face of the franchise and what makes him comfortable with Winston in that position)
“I said what I feel right now, with the information that we have right now, I understand allegations are against him. I understand that he went through the justice system, court system, to be exonerated on some allegations against him. I understand some of the college things a lot of guys do that you’re not – you wish you wouldn’t later on, and I understand some of the things that he did that are on his record right now. But we just take all the information that we could possibly get at this point – and it’s early, keep in mind we’re just to the Combine. We have a lot more research to do and we’ll do that, but right now with the information I have right now, we haven’t taken him off of our list or anything like that.”
 
(On if he has spoken with Winston)
“Can’t really talk with the prospects until right now, so we’ll start that process. I’m looking forward to getting to know and spend time with not only Jameis but Marcus also, and the rest of the athletes this week.”
 
(On what kind of benefit it is for Marcus Mariota to throw at the Combine)
“Oh, I think whenever you get an opportunity to prove to people what you can do – we haven’t seen any of the players live, get a chance to compete. I mean, all your competition that you’ll have throughout the rest of your time throughout the Draft is here, and for a player to choose to work out in this environment, it’s probably not ideal. First time they’ve probably, for the quarterbacks, they’ve thrown here. For the receivers, first time they’ve caught the ball outside in this environment. It says a lot about them.”
 
(On how he determines or assesses if a player’s maturity issues are behind him)
“I think you just start the process and you – for us, to initially tell that first conversation and you just start asking questions. And on a lot of different topics. Of course, we understand the obvious one, we do our research, and then there’s a lot of people for us to talk to. We’ve talked to a lot of people so far on both of the players, if we’re just talking about quarterbacks, and we’ll continue to do that. I think you just start the process and then in the end, you gather all of the information that you have and you make a decision. And for us, of course, when you have the first pick in the Draft, it’ll be an organizational decision where everybody’s on board with whoever we decide to go with. Ownership, of course personnel and of course coaching.”
 
(On if Glennon can be the team’s future franchise quarterback)
“Yeah, I think you can definitely say that Mike can be a quarterback that can play at a high level in this league, and for us, we’re at one quarterback on our roster. You look at my comments I’ve made about him, yes – I think he can be that.”
 
(On potential rule changes that might be made this offseason, including expanding replay to include pass interference calls)
“I have definite opinions on that. I think the rules we have in place right now, they’re there for a reason. I think any way that you can make a wrong right during the course of the game, whether it be penalties – any part of the game, I think eventually that will help our game.”
 
(On quarterbacks making the transition from college to the NFL)
“I’ve heard a lot about this pro-style system in college, but I think if you look at a quarterback, I think there are some offenses you can run in college that maybe will get you more ready to make that transition. But it is a transition for any college player coming to the NFL and in Marcus’ case, he ran an offense that most teams in the league don’t run, but I see him scrambling around, I see him making decisions, I see him making – for the most part – most of the throws that he’ll be making in the league. Again, you look in our league right now, there are different quarterbacks. There are some mobile quarterbacks, there are some more drop-back, pocket quarterbacks, but guys are having success doing it a lot of different ways.”
 
(On if it is more of a projection for players that did not play in a pro-style offense in college)
“I think it probably helps a little bit if you’ve done more of the things that you’ll be doing in an NFL game, but a lot of this is about projections though, really.”
 
(On if the off-field issues that the NFL dealt with in 2014 have changed how he views Jameis Winston’s off-field issues)
“No, it can’t.  We’re going to go and evaluate each player based on what they’ve done and their individual situation, period. We can’t let things that have happened with others – that doesn’t affect these athletes right here. We’re going to judge Jameis, Marcus, the rest of the players based on what they’ve done in their career up to this point individually.”
 
(On players facing punishment from the NFL despite not facing legal punishment)
“I support the league and any decisions they make. Whatever they go by, I understand that. As far as how we look at it, I think if a player has been accused of something and – again [if] they’ve been exonerated of it, you have to go with it. That’s what our justice system is all about. That’s how we’ll go forward.”
 
(On how he compares Winston and Mariota)
“With what I know – and that’s only based on being a college fan, watching them play on TV and of course watching a lot of video right now – I see two talented players that are different, they have different styles. [They have] won a lot of football games. What do you judge a quarterback by? Accuracy, decision-making, leadership and can he win football games. Both of these players – Marcus has won a lot of games for about the same period of time. Jameis, the same thing, I think he didn’t lose a game until the last one he played. That says an awful lot about both of them. I think you have two very good quarterbacks that both will have a lot of success in the league.”
  
(On if Tampa Bay would fit the offense to either Mariota or Winston’s playing styles)
“We would have to, of course. But, again, we need a quarterback that can throw the ball and make a variety of throws. We need a leader and we need a guy that makes great decisions. We would like to have a guy that’s mobile in the pocket, a guy that’s won football games. We’ll take this, along with a lot of other things. Again, this will help in the process when we get a chance to know the players and see them up close and personal. When you have the first pick, all the information we need we’ll be able to get. As much time as we need to spend with all of the guys, we’ll be able to do that also.”
 
GENERAL MANAGER JASON LICHT
 
(Opening statement)
“Well, this is an exciting Draft and Combine for us, with the No. 1 pick, but I hope it’s the last one that we are here with the No. 1 pick. That’s not the goal every year. The season didn’t turn out the way we wanted, by any means. It was long and painful at times, for all of us – especially the way we lost a lot of games – last possession or by one score. But despite all that, we were excited about the way some things did end up, and that’s the way the team came together and fought and never gave up. We found some pieces that I think we’re going to be happy moving forward with, and our draft last year we’re very excited about – especially Mike Evans, that we selected with the seventh pick last year. So with that said, we still want to build through the Draft – that’s our goal – and to assemble our championship team for the future through the Draft. So that’s where we are today.”
 
(On Lovie Smith’s comments that at this stage in the process he would be comfortable with Jameis Winston being the face of the franchise)
“We’ve done a lot of work on all the players in the Draft this year so far, some more than others, and we’re very pleased with things that we’ve found out about all the players that we have under consideration. So that’s where we are.”
 
(On when he anticipates knowing who Tampa Bay will draft)
“All options are on the table, in terms of trading the pick, taking the pick. Right now, we’d probably lean towards using the pick, but we’re going to let it play out here. We have over two months yet, so it would be a little ridiculous to come out and say, ‘Well, this is who we want right now.’ We want to use every avenue that we have, every resource that we have in the next two months to make the final decision. But it would be an insult to sit here after two rounds of Draft meetings and watching every play of Lovie and I, or Jon Robinson, our personnel director, Mike Biehl, our college scouting [director], all of our scouts, to watch every play and say that, ‘Okay, we have two guys tied at the top.’ We have a favorite, but we want to let the process play out.”
 
(On what positions are deepest in this Draft)
“Well, I think there’s a lot. It seems wide receiver again, a lot of good players. Running back, offensive line – there’s a lot of depth there. Pretty excited about those positions, in terms of the Draft here and how that will play out for next year.”
 
(On evaluating receivers and how inconsistent quarterback play can impact that evaluation)
“Well, the way that we evaluate and scout receivers, are they fast? Are they quick? Do they have great hands? Do they make the play when the situation arises and do they play well under pressure? Do they block? You can still see that if you have inconsistent play at the quarterback position.”
  
(On his impressions of guard Logan Mankins and if he sees him having a future with the Buccaneers)
“Yeah, we think the world of Logan. He’s part of the solution, wasn’t part of the problem. Having him for another year, the full offseason which he’s already told me he wants to be there for the whole offseason, and having him in the room – I think it’s going to be extremely valuable to this football team moving forward. Yeah, he has a future with us.”
 
(On plans to meet with either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota)
“Yes, yes. We’ll have plenty of meetings with them. I don’t know if 15 minutes will be enough for either of them. We might get through an incident or two, but we need to dive pretty deep and continue the process on both quarterbacks, and all quarterbacks in the Draft and all players.’
(On if he’s referring to Winston and not Mariota when referring to an incident)
“Every player has some things that we want to talk about.”
 
(On the steps he is taking to vet Winston’s background)
“We are using a lot of resources – a lot – to dig into every player’s background, some more than others. I don’t want to get into the whole process here, but the fans can know that we will have – for lack of using the cliché – crossed every ‘T’ and dotted every ‘I’ before we make the decision. And keep in mind, our head coach is one of the finest human beings I have ever met, inside or outside of football. Character is very important to him, it’s very important to me, so we will make sure that the decision we make is best for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
 
(On the importance of position drills at the Combine)
“We put some value in it. For me and for most of my scouts - and this goes for scouts in general - the tape is the majority of the body of work that you go off of. But, the drills here and the measurements, the 40 and the vertical, they all can kind of cement our feelings about the player, good or bad.”
 
(On the timeline of deciding who to select with the first overall pick)
“Perhaps, but I don’t want to set a deadline here, put a false deadline in place right now. We’re still two plus months out, so we have a lot of time yet.”
 
(On being cautious about the emphasis of workouts and pro days leading up to the NFL Draft)
“It’s always a trap. A lot of mistakes have been made over the past in the league with the fast risers, the guys that come out of nowhere this time of year. We like to- usually your purest evaluation of a player is what you’ve seen during the fall. You have some juniors or underclassmen that came out that you’re behind the 8-ball a little bit on. You’re trying to catch up with the rest of the class, but your most pure evaluation comes from what you saw in the fall or on tape.”
 
(On the philosophy of taking a quarterback with the first overall pick regardless of where that player stands on your draft board)
“I don’t know about moving him up 20 spots, but if you have a player that you feel is a franchise-level player - quarterback especially - it’s tough to pass on, but you have to make that decision. You have to collectively really feel that that player is a franchise-level player, whatever that definition is for you.”
  
(On the challenges of projecting whether or not a quarterback will be a franchise player)
“There are always challenges. Not to be broad here, but every player is a projection in the draft. There is no sure thing. You can kind of rate them, who’s the more sure of the group. Sometimes we do an exercise of ‘Which five guys do you know are going to be playing 10 years from now? Like who would you bet on?’ But there are no sure things. So they are all kind of projections.”
 
(On weighing the competition of players from non-FBS programs)
“At the core you are still scouting and evaluating his quickness, his feet, his balance his athleticism, his hands and his ability to block. I mean, certain things don’t change. It’s not his fault he’s playing against whatever small school it is. At the core, you still scout him as an athlete and as a football player.”
 
(On why he feels it is uncommon for running backs to be drafted in the first round)
“You know, there’s a myriad of reason, probably. The shelf-life has been a concern, I think. You draft a player in the first round, you ideally probably want to get to a second contract. There just haven’t been a whole lot of those types of players that teams felt were worthy of that.”
 
(On whether he believes there are any running backs in the 2015 draft worthy of being first-round picks)
“There’s some talent there at that position.”
 
(On quarterback Mike Glennon’s future with Tampa Bay)
“We like Mike Glennon. We want him to be part of the future. We like Mike Glennon a lot.”
 
(On what he finds most important in evaluating team building for Tampa Bay)
“Well, I’ve said it a few times before, but the first thing that comes to my mind is that we need to find the right 53 [players], not necessarily the most talented 53. So we need to find the right 53. Sometimes you get a little enamored with talent as opposed to what the complete body of work is in the player: how he is in the locker room, intelligence, all those things. We need the right 53.”
 
(On what he would like to see if both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota go through drills at the Combine)
“I don’t want to get specific on a player right now. I think it’s really cool, though, that there’s chatter now that they are going to both work out and I think it speaks to their competitiveness and things that we know about both of them. As different as those two are, there are a lot of similarities in terms of their winning pedigree and the Heisman, obviously, but they are both ultra-competitors, so it will be cool just to see them compete against each other.”
 
(On whether the draft process is any different in Tampa Bay than in previous organization in which Licht has worked)
“In our case, we [Licht and Head Coach Lovie Smith] make the decision together, but, no. We’re still working our tails off and trying to do everything we can to make sure that we make the right decisions for the organization. There is no selfishness at all. That’s what I love about this place.”
 
(On any special process a team uses to look into the background of potential draft picks)
“We feel like we have a good process. I feel like we are doing some unique things, but I don’t want to get into them, because I don’t want the other 31 teams thinking that they – I’m sure that every team is unique and is trying to be on the cutting edge, so we’re no different.”
  
(On if Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter’s relationship with University of Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich has benefitted Tampa Bay’s scouting of Mariota)
“Yeah, it has. We also have a lot of coaches that have long-standing relationships with other players in the draft, too. So it’s helpful, but it wasn’t necessarily, it absolutely wasn’t the reason we hired Dirk Koetter. We hired him because we thought he was the best offensive coordinator, and not just at the time, but one of the better ones in the league. We are really excited about him. That was our biggest offseason acquisition.”
 
(On what he views as the most important traits for a quarterback)
“Mental toughness, football intelligence, decision-making.”
 
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