Bucs’ Licht tries to avoid Grigson’s errors

by Gary Shelton on January 26, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

It is unclear just how closely Jason Licht was paying attention last week when Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson was fired.

After all, when the prevailing opinion is “about time,” it's easy to turn your head.

Still, there are only 32 of these franchise-forming jobs (whatever title the team throws around), and I would imagine that most general managers pay attention when another one goes down. If you're smart, you evaluate the good things the guy did. You evaluate the bad things.

Most of all, you try not to walk in the same footsteps.

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Look, it's hard to compare anyone to Grigson, an arrogant soul with zero reason for being. Licht isn't nearly as fill of being Licht than Grigson was of being Grigson. Grigson seemed to think he invented third down instead of disassembling a pretty good Colt team.

But both men had the responsibility of building a team around a hotshot young quarterback. In Grigson's case, it was the abandoned Andrew Luck, who must feel as if he's on the island with Gilligan and the Skipper. In Licht's case, it is Jameis Winston.

Comparisons?

Both teams were dreadful, which got them their quarterback to begin with. The Colts were 2-14 in 2011, the year before Grigson took over. The Bucs were 2-14 in 2014, the year after Licht took over.

It's a quarterback league. Everyone knows that by now. If the Colts are going to succeed, and if the Bucs are going to succeed, it will be because the team provides their quarterback with enough weapons. That seemed to work well in Indy for three years (the Colts won 11 all three seasons) with a lot of weapons left over from the Peyton Manning era.

Both teams made mistakes with running backs. The Colts traded a No. 1 draft pick for Trent Richardson, who had already proven he couldn't play in Cleveland. The Bucs re-signed Doug Martin, who had an awful year and finished on the suspended list for PEDs. Because Martin was suspended, it meant it was his second positive test. So was the first test earlier this season, or was it in a previous season? If it was an earlier season, it was a terrible mistake.

Both general managers have missed wildly on free agent offensive linemen. The Bucs thought they had their man in J.R. Sweezy, a guard signed from Seattle. Despite criticism of the signing, the Bucs thought that Sweezy would be the rough-and-tumble guard in the manner of Logan Mankins. Instead, he missed all season with a back injury.

The Colts tried twice (Grigson was on the job five years; Licht three). Grigson signed former Patriots guard Donald Thomas in 2013 and Eagles' guard Todd Herremans in 2015. They each played two games before disappearing.

Give the Bucs the edge on finding an impact wide receiver. Mike Evans, taken in Licht's first season, has been a star. He's put three 1,000 yards seasons together — more yards each season — and he's scored 27 touchdowns.

Compare that to the Colts' Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett has 99 catches in two years, but he has a total of 758 yards...total. He's started only seven games in two years. To be fair, Dorsett was taken 29th, far behind Evans.

Ah, then there is the pass-rusher, which is always a key position for a team. And it was one of Grigson's biggest blunders. In 2013, he jumped at the chance to draft FSU pass-rusher Bjoern Werner, who stunk it (he was inactive as a rookie when the team played in the AFC Championship game.

By contrast, the Bucs took Noah Spence with the 39th pick (15 picks after Werner). He had 5.5 sacks as a rookie, one less than Werner did in three seasons.

Both teams have had their down moments in free agency. The Colts signed Trent Cole, who had only three sacks. The Bucs drafted Michael Johnson, who answered a multi-million contract with four sacks and looked like a bystander most of the season.

There were successes. The Colts found both receivers T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. The Bucs landed offensive linemen Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith. The Bucs signed defensive end Robert Ayers, who outplayed his stats, and Brent Grimes. The Colts picked up Frank Gore (who had a 1,000-yard season) and made a nice trade for Vontae Davis.

But Grigson's career was headed in reverse. His team lost more games the last two years (16) than in the first three years (15). He couldn't get along with the coach. And he sped up the clock as it ran out of time.

Licht? He isn't perfect. But he seems able to get along with his head coach. He likes his players. He gets along with his owners.

I'll say this: If Licht were to get whacked, I think someone would have something nice to say about his efforts. I don't think you'd invoke the chorus of jeers that Grigson brought.

Bottom line: The Colts were descending. The Bucs are ascending. For Licht, it's a good game plan.

This will be a tricky year for Licht. He's drafting 19th, which is hardly slam-dunk territory. He needs a fast receiver, a durable running back, an athletic wide receiver. Another defensive lineman wouldn't hurt. Neither would another pass-rushing end.

If you are Licht, how to do you avoid the pratfalls of Grigson? After all, Grigson made the playoffs in his first three seasons; Licht is 0-for-three. Licht has already done better at constructing the offensive line (Luck has been pounded). His defense has improved. He hasn't been forced by the owner to meet with a psychologist (along with the coach).

In the job of generally managing, no one bats 1.000. Teams miss on free agents. Draft picks bust. It happens. But in this job, everyone keeps score. You better win more than you lose.

So far, Licht has done that.

Grigson? Not so much.

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