The Buccaneer ownership group has had a polarizing, tenuous relationship with fans of Tampa Bay. For years the late Malcom Glazer was beloved in the area, a brilliant breath of fresh air that rescued fans from the nightmare years of Hugh Culverhouse. When Malcom got the team a Super Bowl trophy he could have been canonized in the Bay area. Malcom eventually grew older and sicker, and passed the mantle to his children, Joel, Bryan, and Ed who rule his empire today.
The Glazer boys quickly fell out of favor with Buccaneer fans after countless losing seasons and relentless accusations of frugality and overall lack of interest. The 2005 purchase of Manchester United combined with multiple future Bucs games in London contributed to a great deal of distrust between the owners and the fans. As a result, fans stopped buying tickets and many season ticket holders cut bait, ultimately triggering the NFL’s [insane] blackout policy. Fan support continued to dwindle and Glazer ownership hit rock bottom.
In recent years however the sons of Malcom have begun to make an effort towards repairing their image by making strides on and off the field. First and foremost they did away with the blackout policy (I cannot reiterate enough how despicable a thing blackouts are) and promised that every game would be televised. They also promised that no more games in the near future would be played in London, putting to bed fears that they may be plotting a permanent pilgrimage overseas.
As attendance continued to be an issue, the Bucs made many-years-too-late plans to renovate Raymond James stadium and drastically improve the fan experience on game day. As a former season ticket holder I can attest to how badly this was needed, the video boards in particular. To combat the age-old problem of summer rains disrupting offseason workouts and training camp, the Glazers recently announced plans for an indoor practice facility, which will hopefully contribute in some unmeasurable way to the teams conditioning.
To go along with their off-field efforts, the Glazers have made some of the necessary moves to ensure that the product on the field improves as well. Most notably they found a franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston. Nothing hastens the rebuild of a team quicker than a star quarterback, and Jameis appears to be just that.
One of the prevailing criticisms against Buccaneer ownership has been that they’re cheap, but they’ve proven in recent years that they’re willing to spend money when it’s called for (re-signing Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Doug Martin and a slew of expensive veterans), as well as show relative restraint when it’s appropriate, like this current offseason.
Perhaps the most important sign that the Glazers are turning the corner as owners is their sacrifice of power to general manager Jason Licht. Across the NFL the clearest distinction between good and bad owners is made by those who meddle in football affairs, and those who let their paid experts work with minimal interference. The Glazers swallowing their pride and handing the reigns over to Licht could be what we recall in future years as the true turning point of the Bucs franchise.
Overall, the Glazers efforts to win back the trust of fans has been admirable, and they seem to be on the right track. The final step is that elusive thing known as “winning”.