table of contents
- Pewter Report's 2012 Bucs 7-Round Mock Draft
- SR's Fab 5 3-8
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: QB
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: RB
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: TE
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: OL
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: WR
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: DL
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: LB
- Schiano Should Only Guarantee Two Starting Spots In Tampa Bay
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: S
- 2012 Free Agency Preview + Bucs' Best Bets: CB
- Point-Counterpoint: Which Free Agents Should The Bucs Target?
- Glazers Have One Last Chance To Win Back The Fans
- Pewter Prospect: LB Mychal Kendricks
- Pewter Prospect: OT Bobby Massie
“We are going to spend whatever it takes to win; to put the best team in the field,” Glazer said. “But I think people have to realize, the majority of spending [is on players you draft] and then you re-sign them. There has never been a player that has ever been drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that has left this organization because of money. If you are not drafting well over a long period of time, guys don’t get re-signed. Donald Penn – re-signed. Davin Joseph – re-signed to big money contracts.
“If you’re leading the way with free agents – and I think you’ve seen this over the years with teams – if that’s the way they lead the way, it hasn’t proven to be successful. We will be happy to spend in free agency, but we have got to build a team. We have to draft well and build a foundation for this team. But we’re open-minded; whatever we have to do to win. The new coach will have input of how we proceed here. If you look at the teams challenging for the Super Bowl this year, fundamentally, they were build through the draft and supplemented with free agency.”
General manager Mark Dominik has been adamant that the plan was to spend money in 2012, and hinted he is ready to open the checkbook when recently speaking to the local media.
But forgive Buccaneers fans if they snicker after these type of comments. While it very well may turn out to be true, as the old saying goes – the proof is in the pudding.
Fan frustration is at an all-time high with the front office, and the Glazers and Dominik must make good on their promise to spend money in free agency this offseason if they truly want to reconnect with the community. What was once an afterthought that the Buccaneers would always be kings of the sports market in the Tampa Bay area, cracks are beginning to show, and not only are the Buccaneers losing their grasp to the Tampa Bay Rays, they aren’t far off from becoming the third-most popular team in the Bay area – even slipping behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A recent independent study showed that the Rays have supplanted the Buccaneers as the most popular sports franchise in the area. The study showed the Rays now have 1.5 million fans in the area while the Buccaneers have 1.49 million fans. While the lead is by the narrowest of margins, five years ago it would have been laughable to even suggest the Rays would have half a many fans as the Buccaneers.
But what the Rays have figured out is that connecting with the local fan base through the community, and showing a genuine concern for their fans, goes a long way in establishing a lasting relationship.
Of course winning doesn’t hurt either. The Rays know they are at a disadvantage with their stadium location at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and price of season tickets (82 home games in baseball as opposed to 10 in the NFL), but their marketing efforts put the Buccaneers to shame.
Attending a Rays’ game is an entirely different experience than an afternoon at Raymond James Stadium. Before even getting close to your seats at least four people in the hospitality department welcome you to Tropicana Field. Friendly faces are all over the concourse ready to answer any question a paying fan may have.
At Raymond James Stadium on a Sunday afternoon it is hard to find even two people who can give you same answer to basic questions like what entrance to use. In defense of the Buccaneers, they supposedly addressed the problem and are working to make the game day experience run smoother.
But first impressions go a long way, and when last August during the preseason the credit card machines went down, the vendors ran out of ice, and the wait for the beer lines took as long as 30 minutes, many first time – and even long-time – season ticket holders were turned off.
The Rays ownership group doesn’t benefit from billion dollar TV contracts like the Buccaneers do and have figured out the way to survive is to take care of their customers.
Even the Tampa Bay Lightning has figured out how important the in-game experience is in establishing loyalty to the team. This past offseason, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik spent $40 million of his own money to remodel the Forum where the Lightning play their home games. That’s right, Vinik wrote a check out of his own pocket to improve the fan experience.
If the Buccaneers ownership group truly wants to reconnect with the community it must start by showing a commitment to improving the quality of the team on the field and in the community. A Tampa Bay Times column last season posed the questioned of whether the Buccaneers were even a likeable football team. It asked where are the Warrick Dunns and Derrick Brooks on the current roster?
No one is suggesting that the Glazers become Daniel Snyder or Jerry Jones, and frivolously spend money in hopes of buying a championship. But you have to admit Redskins and Cowboys fans aren’t questioning the commitment of their owners the way many Buccaneers fans are.
The Glazers in the past have, and are currently showing signs of commitment to turning around the franchise. As much as everyone loved Morris as a person, the bottom line is a change at head coach had to be made. For those who question the Glazers’ money motives, they could have easily sat back and left Morris in place for one more season until his contract ran out. The same thing applied to Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen. Those two firings cost the Glazers nearly $10 million dollars in deferred salaries starting in 2009. Those are good starts.
The willingness to shell out a reported $6 million to try and attract Oregon coach Chip Kelly should be proof that they Glazers may be serious about winning again. Even Greg Schiano’s deal was for five years, guaranteeing nearly $15 million dollars in salary to the new coach. That doesn’t includes a robust coaching staff with several of assistants and advisors.
But it can’t stop there. The commitment must continue not only by spending money to attract talent through free agency but also a commitment to the fans, which they have done somewhat by lowering ticket prices. Of course after the most embarrassing season in franchise history I’m not sure they lowered them enough.
The Glazers could turn a profit even if not one ticket was sold in 2012 thanks to the NFL’s current TV deal. And when the new Fox TV deal kicks in during the 2013 season, the profits made will require several armored trucks to be backed up to the front door of One Buccaneer Place.
Obviously, I am no astute businessman or else I would be independently wealthy and looking for my own franchise to buy. But I do know if you want to make even more money, getting fans in the seats will do just that.
Selling $6 Cokes to 65,000 fans will earn a lot more money than selling them to 38,000. So again, as an old saying goes – it takes money to make money. Hopefully the Glazers will see the benefit of a packed stadium, even if they have to purchase unsold tickets for .38 cents of the face value as they had to in 2008 and 2009 to prevent TV blackouts before stopping the practice in 2010. That also would go along way in patching up the divide between many cynical fans and the current owners.
Besides the goodwill it would foster in the community, it would also put the product back on television where it belongs. A few more seasons of local home blackouts, and the Buccaneers will lose an entire generation of young potential fans and future season ticket holders.
This isn’t meant to be a bash-the-Glazers column. The Glazer family’s philanthropic efforts in the community rival that of any NFL ownership across the country. The Glazer Children’s Museum is just one example, and several times a month PewterReport.com receives press releases about money being shared in the community.
But to the hardcore Buccaneers fan, whose tax dollars every day fund Raymond James Stadium, the bottom line is the product on the field and the perception that the Buccaneers are strictly a moneymaking source. While there have been plenty of examples of spending money by the Glazers to upgrade the Buccaneers over the 17 years of ownership, the last few seasons have left much to be desired.
The Glazer family didn’t become wealthy by being dumb, and I’m not saying they owe me or anybody anything personally. I do know however they are on the verge of losing the community for good unless things change this offseason. I do think Bucs fans should give them the benefit of the doubt one last time in 2012, and let the dust of the upcoming season settle before completely jumping ship.
But if opening day comes and the Buccaneers still have in excess of $40 million in salary cap room, then there can be no defense. It is time the Glazers make the commitment to the Tampa Bay community who has certainly been somewhat responsible for their financial success, and they can prove the cynics wrong.
The ball is now in the Glazers court as the NFL’s version of March Madness – free agency – is upon us. Will the Bucs sink a winning three-point shot or dribble the ball off their foot out of bounds? Only time will tell, and the shot clock is winding down.