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07 January 2016

Transcript: General Manager Jason Licht Press Conference: Thursday, January 7, 2016

(Opening statement)
“Today and yesterday were two of the most challenging days in my career, both personally and professionally. There’s a deep, deep amount of respect for Lovie [Smith], both as a person and as a coach. We had a great relationship and he was a great person to work with on a day-to-day basis. I really appreciate – and we appreciate, everyone here – the hard work, dedication, the optimistic attitude that he brought every day to this organization. We came in together two years ago with a shared vision of winning, asking fans not to be patient, to win quickly, and we have all shared in the blame of that not happening. But today is not a day to dissect the failures, particularly of Lovie as a coach. It’s to talk about the future, to talk about the next head coach of this football team, who the Glazer family has empowered me to lead the charge and find to bring us back to winning football here in Tampa. A coach that will have a shared vision of winning and bringing the fans what they deserve to this football team.”
 
(On whether current Tampa Bay offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, is a candidate for the head coaching vacancy)
“There are a lot of quality football coaches that are going to be available. There’s been a lot of interest already, just in the last few hours. Dirk Koetter is definitely one of those. He’ll be a very strong candidate. He’s got a strong resume. I’ve had a chance to work with him day-to-day for the last year and I like Dirk. He’s going to be a strong candidate.”
 
(On what Koetter means to the organization and particularly to quarterback Jameis Winston)
“I think any coordinator, quarterback coach, in that role with a quarterback – particularly Jameis, a young quarterback – that’s an important bond, that’s a strong bond, that they need to have. That was present [between Koetter and Winston]. But we’ll make the best decision for this football team for the future.”
 
(On whether Smith’s dismissal had anything to do with pressure to retain Koetter, who has interest from other teams with available head coaching positions)
“No. The decision was made – our ownership, I commend them on the fact that they take their time, they think things through, they don’t make emotional decisions, they don’t make in-season decisions. They take in all the information. As the general manager, one of my jobs is to give them my analysis weekly, my analysis at the end of the season, of the scouting, of the coaching, of the strengths, the weaknesses. They take that information and they presented to me what their recommendation was.”
 
(On what he would say to fans who question the patience of the organization)
“I think when you have eight wins in two years – three home wins in two years – I think [the fans] have been patient enough. It does take time, but I think while you’re building a good football team, you can compete.”
 
(On whether the recent record of head coaching turnover in Tampa Bay will have an effect on drawing interested candidates)
“I would tell them that this organization has done everything it can to find the best head coach. They are committed to winning. They are committed to finding the right guy. And right now, they’re confident that we can find the right guy and they’ve placed that confidence in me. I’ve been around some great organizations. I’ve been part of a coaching search in Arizona that resulted in a pretty good head coach. I’ve had a lot of experiences with that, with good coaches, and I don’t think it’s going to deter a great coach from coming here. It’s an excellent situation. I’ve already been shown from the interest we’ve received that people want to come to Tampa and coach.”
 
(On how many candidates he’s spoken to thus far)
“I haven’t talked to any outside candidates yet. We have a plan. That plan will start going into action as soon as I’m done here. So no candidates have been talked to. We haven’t requested permission [from anyone] or anything like that.”
 
(On how Smith was informed of his dismissal)
“I had a phone call with ownership last night, and, at this point, they had gathered all their information and had made a decision and they wanted to get together with Lovie today, in person, and inform him that they were going to relieve him of his duties. Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from Lovie. As a general manager and head coach, especially with our relationship, we call each other quite a bit. During that phone call, my respect for Lovie as a friend, I let him know that ownership was planning on getting together with him today and I wanted to let him know that I didn’t think it was going to go in a very good direction and let him know what it was. He said, ‘You can just have Joel [Glazer] call me.’ Joel called him. First thing [Joel] said was, ‘Lovie, I’d like to get together with you tomorrow.’ Lovie told him that [he] understood what it’s about. [Joel] said, ‘Well, let’s just don’t talk about that, let’s get together and talk about it [in person],’ and Lovie gracefully declined the meeting. [He was] very polite, the only the way Lovie can do it, and said, ‘I would just rather do it this way.’ So this was after several attempts for ownership, Joel in particular, to fly here and meet with him, but Lovie then came last night and cleaned out his office.”
 
(On why team ownership is not present at the press conference)
“They’ve empowered me, right now, to be the face of the football operations, to run the football operations, to lead the charge for the next head coach. They have confidence in me and my group, my personnel people. So I should be the one talking about this right now.”
 (On if the team had a lack of faith in what Lovie Smith was able to do going forward)
“All I’ll say is a football decision was made that we thought was best for the future of this franchise. I understood the decision after conversations and don’t really want to get into detail on those things. But once again, a deep respect for Lovie as a football coach, but we felt this franchise needed a new face, a new coach to get us back to winning.”
 
(On what the new coach needs to bring that Lovie Smith did not)
“Lovie had a number of great intangibles. Once again, I don’t want to dissect Lovie and the negative things of Lovie that are perceived, that some people think. Every person has strengths and negatives and weaknesses in their personality, but we’re just focused on the next head coach. We’re focused on who is going to be the best head coach. We’re not focused on one attribute of a head coach. We’re focused on bringing winning back to Tampa Bay.”
 
(On if there is a timetable for hiring the new coach)
“We would like to be fairly quick with this, but we’re not going to sacrifice thoroughness for it. We’re going to move as swiftly as we can, but also be relentless with our research and make a smart decision.”
 
(On if the team wants to have a coach in place by the week of the Senior Bowl)
“Don’t want to put an exact timeframe on it. Ideally, that would be great, but don’t want to put an exact timeframe on it.”
 
(On what Licht would say to a fan that are frustrated by Lovie Smith’s dismissal)
“I’ll be happy to shake his hand when he comes back to purchase his season tickets, when he sees the winning football that’s going to come back.”
 
(On if the team is looking for someone that has previous head coaching experience)
“We’re going to look at several different candidates from several different backgrounds and make the decision based on our feel for them, what we think they can bring. There’s no drawn-up, certain details of a person that we need, [whether] he’s been a coordinator for X amount of years or he’s been a head coach, it’s going to be the best football coach that we find.”
 
(On what make Dirk Koetter a strong candidate)
“He’s put a good resume in front of him for this year. Historically the best offense we’ve had here in Tampa Bay. He’s a good communicator. He’s done great things with Jameis. There’s a lot of good football coaches out there. Dirk’s one of them.”
 
(On if the team will retain Koetter, if he is not hired as head coach)
“You know, when we zero in on the candidate, whether it’s Dirk, or whoever it is, we’re going to have conversations with him. Usually, you let the coach pick his staff. There’s not going to be any stipulations on this coach.”
 
(On if Tampa Bay is in a ‘tug of war’ over Koetter’s services)
“I don’t know if we’re in a ‘tug of war,’ he deserves the recognition that he’s gotten. I’m not surprised that a lot of teams are wanting to talk to him. I don’t know if you can classify that as a tug of war. We’re just beginning the process.”
 
(On what he learned from being part of a front-office staff that hired Arizona Head Coach Bruce Arians)
“That great coaches come in different shapes and sizes and personalities. You look for a guy that’s very authentic and honest and can tell you the truth – sometimes that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.”
 
(On why the team chose to dismiss Lovie Smith on Wednesday night)
“I’m no different than any GM with their ownership. You get a lot of questions asked, they want your analysis, you’re prepared for it, towards the end of the year. What you think you need to do better, what you think the coaching staff needs to do better, all those things. They collected their thoughts, they collected my thoughts [and] they made a very thoughtful decision. They didn’t want to rush to a decision and once again, the phone call, the conference that we had, culminated in the decision to relieve him of his duties.”
 
(On if there was an inciting incident since Monday that led to Lovie Smith’s dismissal or if it was part of due process)
“It was a process. Nothing that we do is made instantly and quickly. It’s a process. It’s several conversations on their part, conversation with me, thoughts are shared.”
 
(On if the next head coach will have a say over the roster, similar to what Lovie Smith had)
“I’ve never been one – and this is my philosophy and personality as a general manager – the power thing gets a little bit overblow. Who has what – you work collectively. You can’t force-feed a coach a player. I do have the power of the 53[-man roster], but that doesn’t stop us from going after a certain coach. I’m not going to cross names off because of it. My job is to bring the best football coach to this football team. What kind of power they get, what kind of tweaks we have to make, it doesn’t matter. I want the best football coach. You want a good working relationship with the coach. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are the best of friends, but you just want a good solid relationship. Whoever has the power has the power, but together you’re going to make decisions.”
  
(On the way that players and coaches were informed about Lovie Smith’s dismissal)
“Well, it came out last night, obviously pretty late. A lot of people were already home, in bed. It’s been a long season. People are exhausted. This morning, I came in, I met individually with each Coach. I met with staffs, informed them of the decision. I’m still, at this point, going to be reaching out to members of the team. They’re going to be coming in, I’m sure. I just want to make it about right now. It was about Lovie at that point. It’s not about anybody else. At that point, it was about Lovie.”
 
(On if other teams have requested to interview Dirk Koetter for head coaching vacancies and if the team is obligated to oblige such requests)
“Yes, you are obligated. It’s a notification that they tell you, that they want to interview him as a head coach. Yes, there have been teams that have contacted us. I won’t get into detail of what teams, but there have been.”
 
(On what makes Tampa Bay a promising destination for a coach)
“I’ll start with, once again, ownership that is not afraid to spend money. I’ll go into a 22-year old quarterback, who I happen to believe is a franchise quarterback, that’s a very strong asset to have. That’s one that not many teams can say that they have.”
 
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