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March 8, 2012 @ 8:08 am
Current Rating: 5.00 Stars/1 Votes

2012 Free Agency Preview

Glazers Have One Last Chance To Win Back The Fans

WRITTEN_BY Mark Cook Mark Cook
Mark Cook


Pewter Report’s Mark Cook says that the Glazers and the Buccaneers need to keep their promise to spend money in free agency to improve the team or risk losing the fans forever.
When Raheem Morris was fired on January 2, Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer stood in front of the media and proclaimed that Tampa Bay will do and spend whatever it takes to bring a winning football tradition back to the area.

“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.

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 08:54

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Mark Cook

Mark Cook

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  • avatar

    Spend wisely, but spend none the less. There are a lot of free agents that can help us this year.
  • avatar

    EXACTLY!! The status of this team has dropped below that of many college teams. It will drop further if money isnt spent and improvment isnt made on the field.
  • avatar

    I posted titled "Rock Bottom" at the end of last season. I fear this ownership can overshadow that.
  • avatar

    You captured the majority of my feeling about the buccaneers and their current ownership group. I am less certain they actually have a chance to gain the confidence of the fans. Going to take a lot of winning and solid efforts at building the franchise.
  • avatar

    NEVER let a Buc go that they drafted over money? Ask WARRICK DUNN!
  • avatar

    Spend big bucks on Free Agent Guard (all pro), MLB, and DB, and also get a speedy WR to stretch the field, and a between the tackles RB to go with Blount, and perhaps a Tackle. Get the rest in the draft: Rd 1-Claibornei, Rd 2 trade down to Minnifield CB, Rd 3 Doug Martin RB, also trading down. With two extra 4th rd picks from trade downs get FSU LB Bradham and Matt Reynolds T (to push or replace Trueblood), 5th Rd Tyler Nielsen OLB, 6th Rd Emil Igwenagu FB (who could start and free up Erik Lorig to be the blocking TE as well as backup FB; and Igwenagu can also stay in on 3rd down because he is a good blocker in space and a solid perimeter pass receiver who can be somewhat elusive running the ball with power. Rd 7 Jacoby Harris QB from Miami with a strong arm to throw long and backup Freeman. Cut Kellen Winslow who has lost a step and is not worth his pay, and grab Hardy off New Orleans Practice Squad to replace him. Add a Free Agent Center/Guard and cut often injured Feine. Zutah can outplay him and Larsen can be the backup center/guard. Keep Dotson to also compete with Trueblood and be the blocking TE if Lorig should get hurt. Stocker will have to battle the latest TE free agent from Cincy for any playing time at TE. Resign Barber and make him a Safety to extend his years and build more records for the Hall of Fame and to be a leader in the locker room on Defense. Cut Jones and trade off Talib and Jackson (No More Character Concerns on the Bucs!) Ahmad Black or Cody Grimm can play the other Safety Position and Lynch and Asante can back them up and are Special Team Aces.
  • avatar

    With the Glazers holding tightly to their wallets and RahRah Fast Talker instilling an us vs them mentality on the team, the Bucs dared you to be their fans. At the Forum and the Trop there are local merchants with a local flavor where you can buy your food. The Ray Jay has that awful Levy institutional restaurant taste. The things you see on the jumbotron are generic and the music is exactly the same you would hear anywhere else. The only thing distinctive is the Pirate Ship. Everything else is a generic experience. The owners clearly don't care about the fans. After this last season the only jersey worth buying is the kicker or the punter. Seriously. Not even Freeman's jersey is worth anything. When was the last time you saw a Buc player invested in this community. You may see them at events from time to time as required by the team, but when was the last time you heard of a Buc player taking on a local cause. The only good news is the hiring of Coach Schiano. While Rah was interested in having his faced recognized at the Blue Martini, Coach Schiano has already made more of an impact in this community than Rah did in two years. I was amazed to hear Schiano's voice on the phone urging me to get my kids ready for school. His message at his inaugural press conference has been repeated time and time again and it is easy to buy into the idea that this man has a real plan for this team. Rah never had a clue. The giveaways for season ticket holders have gotten cheaper and cheesier with each passing year. The Glazers don't care about the fans. They made a coaching move because they were embarrassed on the field by a clueless and undisciplined team that quit on a coach without a plan. You are right when you say that this is the Glazers last chance. I'm ready to convert my season tickets to the Lightning if the Glazers don't show me something. The Lightning have invested in the building, the team, the experience and the community. The Glazers give out teddy bears.
  • avatar

    Mark , you make great points about the Glazers. If I were them I'd hire a top notch PR firm to get a fresh brand campaign and do an all level overhaul of the stadium experience, half time experience, a before and after experience, and community fun events in addition to their charitable events. On their own, its evident that the Glazers are clueless in terms of marketing the franchise. Also since they themselves are somewhat reclusive, they need to find a respected sports personality to step in for them and do what it takes to get the Bucs "out there". Finally as some have said, vis a vis FA, spend wisely and go for bona fide qualityu players....avoid the Talibs rehab project types, and avoid the Brian Prices and Luke Stockers injury prone players....get some genuine stars from FA and future stars from the draft....do not hope your seventh rounders and undrafted FAs will turn into diamonds before your eyes...the odds are solidly against this Blount's success notwithstanding. If they take the less expensive long shorts ini FA , then the Bucs will be doomed for many many years to come and hopefully the Glazers can be persuaded to sell the Bucs....
  • avatar

    I want to believe but as a 50 something loyal fan I am sceptical! The Rays and Lightning get my money right now! (see playoffs)! Cheap is cheap and that is what we have been presented with for several years. SO...I will be cheap and save my money unless I see with my fan experienced eyes some real football players signed to contracts. I think the coaches will be fine with a lot of experience. Now show me some free agents who want to win, and lead youth and I'll show you my money again!
  • avatar

    Season ticket renewal is due in May, that gives plenty of time for the Glazers to show me the money before i decide whether to give them any of mine.
  • avatar

    Perfect offseason tell me what you think lofton,nicks finnagen,tracey porter royal and draft t rich at 5 and stephen gilmore in round 2 nick toon in the 3rd
  • avatar

    -Glazers Have One Last Chance to Win Back the (Fair-weather) Fans-
  • avatar

    yea you have that right fairweather fans are what they are.hey you guys that keep talking about cutting winslow you will be kissing his feet once they install this new offense.with vjax opening up the field its going to leave big holes in the middle of the field for winslow to eat up yards watch.and he hasnt lost a step either.i hope they can get lofton and one of those LB from AL upshaw or hightower and grab lamichael james, nicks and brandon carr is still out there. so the glazers like i said you should have your hand in every cookie jar out there trying to prove to the tampa fans that you want to win and not worried about playing kickball.
  • avatar

    "There has never been a player that has ever been drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that has left this organization because of money." liar! Warren Sapp, Warrick Dunn, Donnie Abrahams, that safety who was superbowl mvp and has the most common name in football, john Lynch, Jimmy Wilkerson, Dave Moore, Hardy Nickerson, Eric Rhett, Thomas Jones, that running back who drove over his wife with a hummer (well maybe thats a bad example) but still.
  • avatar

    What upsets me more than anything is there willingness as owners of the Manchester United no expense was spared in bringing some of the worlds best soccer players too play on the team! Show me one example of them doing the same in 17 years as owners of the Bucs! Yes they paid to keep some defensive guys during the Dungy/Gruden era but have not done much more to improve the team since. Sadly as a 31 year old lifelong fan the only owners we have had are not known as good owners Culverhouse and the Glazers have been a joke! Its about time they sell the team to someone who cares. The fans of the Bay Area deserve better. Hopefully the additions of VJax and some other free agents will bring our team back to respectability and help erase the memories of last seasons complete embarassment! If not they will continue to lose fans year after year.
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