Bucs Fans Reward Glazer Family with TV Blackout-Free Season
NFL NEWS: The Glazer Family
The Tampa Bay community has finally forgiven the Glazer family for an offseason job well done with a TV blackout-free season by going back to their roots.
The Buccaneers announced Monday tickets are projected to reach the required 85 percent threshold to avert local TV blackouts for the 2014 season. You can say they've come a long way since 2008 when fan frustration reached an all time high.
To remember what caused the outrage, you have to examine the 10-year contract the team made fans commit to when they signed up for season tickets. When Tony Dungy started making the team successful each year, fans bought the season tickets to the point where there was a waiting list. The waiting list continued through the Jon Gruden years.
Unfortunately, their success tapered off following the 2002 season when they won the Super Bowl. Sporadic playoff appearances sputtered without a victory since. Management and personnel continuously clashed and the key figures of the franchise departed. Gruden's aliened general manager Rich McKay, son of first franchise coach John McKay, who departed to the Atlanta Falcons. Gruden systemically disassembled the Super Bowl team shutting down top receiver Keyshawn Johnson in 2003 before trading him to the Dallas Cowboys.
Bruce Allen, McKay's replacement, announced the team wouldn't resign Warren Sapp and John Lynch in 2004. Lynch's departure was shocking to the community.
The final straw may have been in 2008 following the firing of Gruden and Allen, new head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik released Derrick Brooks, the 11-time Pro Bowler and unquestioned leader of the team. By then many of the season ticket commitments were left to expire and not renewed. You could say, the dark ages began.
Brooks and Lynch were among the most popular players in franchise history and leaving the team with the uncertainty of the inexperienced Morris left a void of identity the Glazers sought to replace. Morris, who never held a coordinator position in the NFL, lead the Bucs to a combined 17-31 record with only one winning season before being fired following the 2011 season.
Going from one unproven NFL coach to another further alienated fans in Greg Schiano, whose rise in Rutgers didn't equivocate to NFL success. His 7-9 record in his debut in 2012 lead to an even worse a 4-12 record the following year. Morris lost the locker room for not being disciplined enough while Schiano's discipline failed the players.
Who did the Glazer family turned to next? They turned back to the old drawing board for someone who can tap to their earlier successful glory years when Dungy started to make the fans believe again. Was it Dungy? No, he's finished coaching in the NFL after finally winning a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts against Lovie Smith's Chicago Bears in 2006 before retiring in 2008.
They picked Smith, who was a year out after being fired from the Bears in 2012. This is the same Smith who helped find Jason Licht, their new general manager, who saw successful stints in management with the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots. During his span on those teams, he was on staff for four conference championships and one Super Bowl title.
Smith and Licht remained among the most active players in free agency signing the likes of Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner and the highly-touted former Cincinnati Bengal defensive end, Michael Johnson. To top it off, the front office did something no other Buc team did in history, draft all offensive players.
The fans rewarded their offseason efforts by giving them the biggest bode of confidence not seen since the days of Gruden, a TV blackout-free season and they didn't have to spend a dime to make up for it.