DANA POINT, Calif. — The lobby of the opulent St. Regis Monarch Resort and Spa provided a strange backdrop for Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer to defend the team's light-wallet approach to the offseason.
Sagging season-ticket renewals, escalating salaries, an economic meltdown and suffocating debt from purchasing the Manchester United soccer club have fueled speculation that the Glazers are too cash-strapped to be big players in free agency, or that they might be forced to sell their NFL team.
In his state-of-the-Bucs address at the league's annual meeting, Glazer said the team has returned to its philosophy of building through the draft, the only plan he believes leads to long-term sustainable success.
"The only 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 1. 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. … Free agency is not going to solve all our problems. 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."
The Bucs appeared headed to a division title with a 9-3 record before one of the worst collapses in NFL history. Four straight losses led to the firings of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen three weeks after the season.
Because the Glazers did not think the team needed a complete overhaul, they hired from within, naming 37-year-old Mark Dominik general manager and making Raheem Morris, 32, the league's youngest coach.
"Part of the thinking going into the situation was when you're hiring somebody, you never really know who you're hiring," Glazer said. "These are two people we know. Mark has worked here for 14 years. We know Mark Dominik extremely well. We know the way he approaches things, the way he thinks about things, his work ethic. Raheem we've known for seven years. … But also, we were 9-7 last year. We weren't 2-14 or 4-12. And sometimes you also run the risk when you go too far outside and they come in, they don't quite look at the young players the way someone who has been around them the last few years looks at them. … So why go elsewhere when you have them right there?"
Glazer said the Bucs are not immune to the economic crisis but have tried to relieve some pressure from fans by not raising ticket prices this year and allowing season-ticket holders to renew their seats in four installments.
"We are seeing an effect and we'll know more as we get closer to July," Glazer said. "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 (TV blackouts, which happen for non-sellouts). 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."
So should Bucs fans not worry that the Glazers' costly investment in Man U might affect their NFL product?
"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."