ORLANDO — Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said his family's financial commitment to its NFL team has not wavered since its purchase of the Manchester United soccer club and vowed it will do "whatever we've got to do to win."
The Bucs are coming off a 3-13 season under first-year coach Raheem Morris and largely have been bystanders during free agency. Meanwhile, the English soccer team has generated headlines for incurring about $1 billion of debt since the family purchased it in 2005.
"There are a lot of owners that own a lot of other businesses. They're just not the high-profile nature that is easy for people to write about and talk about," Glazer said. "Tampa has always operated independently and is sustained. It's very healthy. Unfortunately, there are a couple of events that have been happening at the same time that give the appearance — and I can understand why people say that or think that.
"It's just that what most people like to talk about is so high-profile, it's easy to draw a parallel. But I can assure people the commitment has not lessened. It's not wavered. The depression at 0-7 was something I've never felt before in my entire life. But I also know the feeling of being on top, and I want to feel that again. We will do whatever we've got to do to win."
Glazer sat down with the Times for 30 minutes Wednesday at the owners meetings to look back at 2009 and ahead to 2010.
What's your assessment of the 2009 season?
First of all, 3-13, let me go back to 0-7, was definitely the most painful seven weeks of my NFL life. How did we get there? I start with going back further and looking at drafting. We believe that drafting is the lifeblood of sustained success long term. We have not done as good of a job as we need to do drafting over the last several years. That's the first seed that gets planted or the cancer that starts early on that you don't fully see until time goes forward.
What was your reaction to Morris and general manager Mark Dominik firing both coordinators before the season ended?
There's a few different ways to look at it. One, you can't hide from what happened. It's not very often two coordinators get hired and two don't finish the season. But what's not uncommon is that at the end of the year, a third of the coordinators (around the league) get fired. What does that say? That says sometimes during the season, people recognized these guys weren't working. You have to ask was it better to wait until the end of the season or take your medicine right there and then based it on where we're at and have Raheem run the defense for eight weeks?
What about the mistakes made in free agency with Mike Nugent, Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich and Michael Clayton?
There's no question there were people signed up that didn't contribute at the end of the season. You can't continue to have that happen. Now in all those cases, was it giant money that had long-term implications? No. Do you like to see that money go out the window without any production on the field? No. I think, again, we've identified some of the issues that happened and stick to a plan we have going forward.
ProFootballtalk.com reported if there was a salary cap, the Bucs' player cost would be $79 million. That's $30 million below the 2009 salary floor. Why not invest that $30 million in the team?
The big money for all teams is spent by re-signing your own guys. The draft picks generally come cheaper. Then you re-sign them. And those are the big contracts. Again … you go back five years and look at the drafts we had, and the lack of some draft picks a little further back. Those are all guys — four, five, six, seven, eight people — whose contracts would have been coming up in the last two or three years, who all would've gotten nice, big contracts. Contracts I would be happy to be sitting here writing because that would mean we drafted well, we had good players and we're re-signing them to long-term deals. So we have this void the last three or four years. It doesn't take very long to spend $30 or $40 million in the National Football League.
Why announce you're not going to be active in free agency?
Yes, we could go out and sign a couple of 29- and 30-year-old free agents. But I don't know what that does for us long term. That could get us back in that mediocrity of 7-9, 8-8, 9-7 and that cycle we're really not interested in. That's not going to win us a championship. It may feel a little better. I'll go through a lot less criticism, no question about that. But that's fool's gold. We're not in the business of fool's gold. We're in the business of winning championships.
Dominik and Morris will suffer some losses next year as well. Do they have any assurances they will be around to see this through?
They know our thinking. We've had long talks about this. And really, the general message is: You think long term, we think long term. It's plain and simple. You start thinking short term, we start thinking short term. Everyone buys into this plan. I always ask, "Does everyone have the stomach for this because there's a lot you've got to endure early on."