In two years under Jason Licht, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won just eight games. In two years, they've spent large amounts of cap space on free agents, most of whom turned out to be horrendous busts. In two years, they've cut and traded many players who went on to be productive elsewhere, only to replace them with inferior free agency pickups. And in two years, they drafted six starters with eight selections in the top four rounds of the draft.
Licht was directly responsible for all those movies: he had final say over free agency and the draft, although Lovie Smith had the ability to cut anyone he wanted as well. In practice, both Licht and Smith emphasized that every personnel move was collaborative -- which is how any team works in the end.
Somehow, a consensus has emerged that Licht was responsible for all of those draft picks, and few of the free agency pickups. I'm not sure how that works: it seems to me that a general manager has to bear at least some responsibility for the personnel moves his team makes. Ultimately, he signed off on all those moves.
And those moves are in part what doomed Lovie Smith, too. Despite two years of free agency spending and trades, the Bucs couldn't find a functioning pass rusher. The defensive backs they brought in failed. The linebacker they paid $4 million per year was benched before the season even started. Mark Barron, Donald Penn, Jeremy Zuttah, Darrelle Revis -- all cut or traded to be replaced by inferior free agents. Part of that is the adjustment to a new regime that looks for different things in players, part of it was the price tag of some of these players, and part of it was poor evaluation. Whatever the reason, though, these moves look like a disaster in hindsight.
And now, Licht gets to run the team again. He has final say over the draft, free agency and the 53-man roster. He headed the search for a new head coach. Everyone seems optimistic about the Bucs, and with good reason: there's a franchise quarterback in place, there's talent on this team, Licht has done great work in the draft and Dirk Koetter looks like he'll be a very good head coach with a quality staff in place. But we mustn't forget that Licht was part of the reason for Lovie Smith's downfall, too. Just like Mark Dominik was part of the reason Raheem Morris got fired. Licht is going to have to prove that he can actually do well in free agency this offseason. And he really hasn't shown that yet.