BY IRA KAUFMAN
The NFL owners meetings are slated for next week in Phoenix, where Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer is expected to discuss the state of the franchise with local media.
Things have changed markedly from 2020, when the Tom Brady era began in Tampa and ownership charged GM Jason Licht with an aggressive approach that would maximize the club’s chances for a Super Bowl title. Licht responded in kind, trading for Rob Gronkowski, adding Leonard Fournette as a free agent just before the season opener and signing Antonio Brown in midseason as he was finishing up an 8-week NFL suspension.
Back in 2007, Glazer sat down with me in Phoenix during a gathering of owners. The Bucs were coming to the end of a cycle and had just endured a 4-12 season with Bruce Gradkowski under center. The defense wasn’t very good and the offense was awful, averaging 13 points per game.
Although Jon Gruden would go 9-7 the following year, good enough for first place in the NFC South, the Bucs needed to get younger and faster.
By the end of the 2008 season, Gruden and GM Bruce Allen would be dismissed and ownership ordered a veteran purge that included franchise icon Derrick Brooks.
As Todd Bowles heads into Year 2, this is also a Buc team in transition. Brady has thrown his final pass, at least as a Buccaneer, and let’s not forget Tampa Bay finished 8-10 with No. 12 taking all of the snaps.
It was perhaps the most devastating season experienced by the Glazers, who purchased the franchise in 1995. In some ways, it was far more disappointing than the 4-12 finish in 2006, when the Bucs lost their first seven road games.
There are plenty of parallels between 2007 and 2023, including the uncertain future of the head coaches. During that 2007 interview, I asked Joel Glazer whether Gruden was on the hot seat.
“The NFL is very unforgiving,” he said. “Look at the turnover rate for coaches — it’s unbelievable. Every year, every coach in essence is on the hot seat. But one has to take a step back and be realistic about where the team is. We’re never going to be owners who draw a line and say this is what has to be accomplished.”
The Glazers always remembered they gave up a bounty in prying Gruden out of Oakland. That could serve Bowles and Licht well going forward because there’s no question the Bucs mortgaged a good bit of their future in signing veterans to surround Brady for the past three years.
“Every franchise has a cycle,” Glazer said in 2007. “We had an extremely long cycle, which was a great cycle. We got to the end of that cycle and we gave up a lot to excel. In the NFL, there’s not always a quick fix and you have to be realistic about it. I keep getting back to being realistic about what we had to give up and what we had at our disposal to refuel the fire.
“We had a lot of great players that we kept together for a long period of time during a salary-cap era. It’s all behind us. Now is the time that the team should be improving and we expect the team should be improving. Build the right foundation and be patient. Sometimes you have to ride through the rocky times and not overreact.”
I asked Glazer in 2007 for his message to fans.
“Our standards have never changed … and they never will,” he said. “If you’re involved in the NFL, you have to expect the best. It’s incumbent on us to have our finger on the pulse of the whole team, make sure things are headed in the right direction and not be overly emotional. You have to look at the factors that have led to where we’re at. You have to look at the circumstances. You can’t overly defend people but sometimes people are victims of circumstances.”
Like Buc Nation, the Glazers want to see improvement this fall. They want to see young players develop under Bowles and his coaching staff. Which way if the arrow pointed?
Remember the 2021 offseason, when the Bucs returned all 22 starters from a championship club? Now, like then, change is in the air.
“When you have a lot of players that you keep together for a long time, your bear the fruits,” Glazer said in 2007. “But then toward the end, you bear the burdens. We had a long run. We popped out of a valley for a year in 2005 but we’re really coming to the end of that road.”
The upcoming season also marks the start of a new path for this organization. The Glazers will be patient — unless ownership loses confidence in coaches and management. One cycle ends and another begins. The people who write the checks are watching closely.
The word of the day swirling around One Buc Place is the same as it was 16 years ago, when George W. Bush resided in the White House and Spider-Man 3 was raking in $336 million at the box office..
The word is progress.
Ira Kaufman Talks Baker Mayfield Signing, Free Agency Moves/Non-Moves, How Many Wins Todd Bowles Needs To Keep His Job, Insider O-Line Chatter, And Much More
This content was originally published here.