"When you have eight wins in two years, and three home wins in two years," said Licht, "I think they've been patient enough. It does take time, but I think while you're building a good football team, you can compete."
Smith's Wednesday night departure came as a stunner, but Licht on Thursday painted the picture of an ownership group in the Glazer family that grew frustrated with a late-season swoon that saw the Bucs lose their final four games to finish 6-10.
Licht confirmed that he's been "empowered" to lead the search for the team's next coach and pointed to his past experience in helping the Cardinals unearth "a pretty good" one in Bruce Arians, saying of Bucs brass: "They're confident we can find the right guy, and they've placed that confidence in me."
While Licht got along with Smith, this is his first opportunity to put a real stamp on the organization by picking his own coach. He was hired three weeks after Lovie, which is an unorthodox way for teams outside of Cleveland to operate.
So what's next for the Bucs?
Is Koetter the lead dog?
Licht -- who seemed exhausted after firing his friend -- made it clear that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is a contender for the job, saying: "I like Dirk. He's going to be a strong candidate."
While NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport noted that Koetter logically sits in pole position for the hire, Licht cited "a lot of interest already, just in the last few hours" around the Bucs vacancy, although he hasn't spoken with any candidates yet.
There's a lot of interest in Koetter, too, with Licht confirming that teams have reached out with requests to interview the talented play-caller.
Licht wouldn't come out and say it, but it certainly sounds like the Bucs want to keep Koetter tied to passer Jameis Winston, with Licht admitting: "I think any coordinator ... in that role with a quarterback -- Jameis, particularly Jameis, a young quarterback -- that's an important bond, that's a strong bond that you need to have. ... But we'll make the best decision for this football team."
Licht dismissed the idea that Smith's exit was triggered by a rush of outside interest in Koetter.
"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," Licht said. "They take in all the information."
More power for Licht
The Glazers have long been enamored with big-name coaches. They always had a thing for Bill Parcells and weren't afraid to trade for Jon Gruden.
Chucky, Greg Schiano and Smith all had plenty of power and say over personnel, but Licht announced Thursday that he now controls the 53-man roster. That said, it won't stop him from pursuing coaches who might want a piece of the pie.
"The power thing gets a little overblown," Licht said. "Who has what. You know, you work collectively. You can't force-feed a coach a player. I do have the power of the 53, but that doesn't stop us from going after a certain coach. I'm not going to cross names off because of it."
Said Licht: "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."
Is this the NFL's top opening?
Gregg Rosenthal placed the Bucs atop his list of the NFL's best vacancies, because of Winston and a talented crop of players on both sides of the ball.
"I'll start with, once again, ownership that is not afraid to spend money," Licht said. "I'll then go into a quarterback, a 22-year-old quarterback, who I happen to believe is a franchise quarterback, that's a very strong asset to have, and that's one that many teams can't say that they have."