Glazers wanted return to their old formula
As the Bucs entered the final month of the 2008 season, Joel Glazer believed everything was falling into place. The team owned a 9-3 record, was playing for the top seed in the NFC, a chance to earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs and a hint of history in the making by hosting the Super Bowl.
But instead of confetti, there was only confusion over one of the biggest collapses in NFL history.
The Bucs lost four straight games and put coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen in the crosshairs. According to Glazer, it was a revolving door roster, poor drafts and an unsustainable plan for long-term success is what forced the firing of both men about three weeks after the end of the season.
"When the season ended this year, usually it takes a little while to recover,'' Glazer said. "It took a long while to recover this year. We were 9-3. We had everything in front of us, home field advantage and a Super Bowl at home. Then we were up by 10 points with nine minutes to go (against Oakland). Those are tough pills to swallow but we're finally putting it in the rear view mirror and looking forward to next year.''
'Really, it wasn't just one thing. You kind of look at the totality of the situation, where the team was at, the make up of our team, when you kind of have to make some of these decisions. When you put it all together, it just felt right to us that this was a natural time to make that change because a lot of player decisions were going to have to be made this off-season and directional decisions. Once you cross a certain line, things become a lot tougher to make those kinds of changes.''
Because they didn't believe the team needed a total overhaul, the Glazers hired Mark Dominik, 37, as general manager and made Raheem Morris, 32, the youngest head coach in the NFL.
"Our core belief is you've got to be patient. You've got to draft well,'' Glazer said. "It all starts there. If you don't draft well, you're just going to be piecing it together every year. If you look at the teams that have had success the last several years, Super Bowl teams, they aren't huge, splash free agency teams. They draft, develop and exercise patience.
"That is definitely a focus of ours. When we take a step back and we look at our franchise, that's something we had for many years. I think a little of that was lost. But the only way you get that is to be patient, draft, identify young players, watch them grow and people will go on the path with the player together. It's just a natural process and I know it's also our core belief in winning. I think they go hand in hand.''
Glazer took time out from the NFL's annual meeting in Dana Point, Calif., Tuesday to give a state-of-the-Bucs address.
Tough economic times have led to sagging season ticket renewals and possibly the threat of television blackouts in 2009. But the Glazers remain optimistic.
"Around the league, there's no question we are feeling the effect like a lot of other teams are feeling the effect,'' Glazer said. "We're currently going through our renewal process, but we are definitely seeing people that are affected by this economy and having an effect on their ability to renew. And what we've done and will continue to do is kind of roll up our sleeves and figure out ways to be a little more creative to help people in these tough times. But we are seeing an effect and we'll know more as we get closer to July. But I think there are a lot of people being forced to sit on the sidelines because of the situation in the economy.
"I think it's too early to tell about (blackouts). We have great fans in Tampa, so whatever tickets aren't sold to season ticket holders, we'll work very hard to make sure the stadium is always full and the fans will be there.''
There's also finally competition for the sports dollar in Tampa Bay with the success of the defending American League champion Rays.
"There's competition in the market place but I'm also a big believer that people want to see a winner,'' Glazer said. "If they're winning, they're going to want to see the Rays. If we're winning, they'll come and see us. I think it's helping. I would never shy away from a challenge and I want nothing but success for the Rays because I think it adds excitement to the community and people are excited. That's good.''
Glazer also indicated his family's well-documented ownership of the Manchester United soccer club and the debt associated with it will not affect their ownership of the Bucs. Despite near constant speculation, he said the team is not for sale.
"The thing I would say about that is we're as committed to success in Tampa as we've always been,'' Glazer said. "The losses still hurt today as much as they did from day one. The wins still feel as good as they did in the beginning and we're going to tirelessly work to build another championship team in Tampa.
"That hasn't changed, it won't change, we have a plan. We're going to be disciplined and we're going to be patient. We're going to stick to it and do what we think is in the best interest of long-term, sustainable success. I come back to the draft. You've got to succeed in the draft. Free agency is not going to solve all our problems. You have to always be in the position that once we've identified good players, that we're in a position not to lose those good players and that's the key. Winning in March in free agency, very rarely do you see those teams in the headlines in January. You have to be disciplined to resist what can lead you down a dark path.
Are Bucs fans wrong to get nervous when they read stories about Manchester U?
"Absolutely. We have a lot of other businesses, but they're not as high-profile,'' Glazer said. "So it's not easy to make connections and draw lines and all that kind of stuff. We've brought championships to Tampa and we've had successes elsewhere. But one thing that drives us day in and day out is we have one Super Bowl ring but we've got many more fingers.''