Jason Licht Has a Pivotal Year Coming in 2016

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Jason Licht put his strong stamp on the Buccaneers this offseason, firing Lovie Smith after two years and promoting Dirk Koetter to the head coaching position. This move makes 2016 a pivotal year for the young general manager.

The Buccaneers are coming off of a 6-10 season that saw the dismissal of their coach, Lovie Smith. Smith was hired before the general manager, proving that arrangement never works. Jason Licht has let Smith go, and promoted the guy they wanted, Dirk Koetter to the head coaching position. He did a great job with Jameis Winston in 2015, and now Licht has chosen him to lead his Buccaneers into the future.

Now, it makes the 2016 season a very important season for the young general manager.

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No matter what the inner workings of the decision were, the fact is the team improved under Lovie Smith. They went from 2-14 in 2014 to 6-10 last season. Much of the knock on Smith was the poor play of the defense, and that is understandable with him spending the bulk of his career working with the defense. But, the improvement of the offense gets solely credited to Dirk Koetter.

Let’s be fair, Koetter arrived at the same time as a talented young player named Jameis Winston. Koetter is a terrific play caller, and by all accounts, had a great relationship with his young quarterback, which is invaluable. But can we say with certainty that Lovie Smith wouldn’t have gotten the production out of Winston without Dirk Koetter? After all, Smith did go to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at quarterback. Shouldn’t Smith get some credit for the improvement of the offense?

It’s simply not fair to say that the improvement of the offense is all on Koetter, but the defensive demise is all on Smith. As the head coach, if you are going to rip him for the fall of the defense, he deserves a portion of the praise for the improved offense.

However, Licht didn’t see it that way, so the change was made. Right from the start, there was the opinion posed that coming off of the success of the Bucs’ offense in 2015, the team was concerned about losing Dirk Koetter to another franchise. Whether or not that was the story behind the change, we will never know. In any event, Licht made the change, holding onto Koetter and promoting him to head coach following Smith’s departure.

That, for better or for worse, essentially marries Licht’s time in Tampa Bay with Dirk Koetter.  General managers are tied to their head coach, that is just the way it is looked at.  Mike Tannenbaum will forever be associated in New York with Rex Ryan.  Many Giants’ fans from that era would associate general manager George Young with Bill Parcells.  These relationships are tied together.

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Should the Buccaneers regress in 2016, the question will come up about this move.  The question of whether or not it was too fast will resurface.  That will be on Mr. Licht.

If Dirk Koetter works out to be the wrong move, there will be only one man to lay the blame on, Jason Licht.  His success will go a long way to determining the length of Licht’s tenure as the general manager.