Dear Glazer Family,
You’ve fired Greg Schiano. May I once again, for the hundredth time so thank you, he’s finally gone. Now comes the hard part: choosing the right head coach and general manager. I wish you were doing so in the opposite order, but If you insist this is the way, so be it. Many of the fans have criticized your desire to win. Not me, I realize you badly want to win even if the execution of your plans has not worked out. My advice, STOP OVER-CORRECTING. Just as I criticized Schiano for the lack of on field execution and leadership, Mark Dominik for the lack of roster depth, the culture of the organization you own is your responsibility. For the past decade of ups and downs (with lots of recent downs) that culture has been one of over correction which created inconsistency.
Small teams (4-10 people) can be Ferraris: rapid and free to change directions. Large organizations like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with hundreds of employees and separate departments are like ships. Anyone who has ever gotten behind the wheel of a boat knows it doesn’t turn on a dime and the desire to do so has led to more than a few vessels capsizing. So Bryan, Edward, and Joel: if you want to build a winning culture that survives from coach to coach and front office to front office, stop changing directions so abruptly without applying some lessons learned.
The Glazers scream "Right Full Rudder"
It started way back in 2001. After Tony Dungy had transformed us from the Yucs to the Bucs, but failed to produce enough offensive consistency to win a Super Bowl, you made a change. Instead of bringing in an offensive coach, you brought in THE Offensive Coach. You went after the game's best young offensive mind in Jon Gruden. Gruden came at a high cost though: two #1’s , two #2’s and $8 million in cash. Gruden wasn’t to be retained by Al Davis anyway: his asking price, 5 years 17.5 million, was too high for Davis and what we surrendered was a price so lofty the league put a ban on trading draft picks for coaches. Yet it worked out, as Gruden’s offense was good enough combined with Dungy’s old defense to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Perhaps that is why you are so prone to over-correction these days, because you were quickly rewarded the first time.
Gruden’s time to go; "Left Full Rudder"
Gruden’s demise in Tampa Bay was caused by two factors, I think:
1.Some grumbling by the players including a conversation you had with then Bucs QB Jeff Garcia which suggested some of the players were tired of "Chucky’s ways".
2.The lack of a long term plan at QB. Gruden flirted with every old QB and we started the likes of Brian Griese, Jeff Garcia, Chris Sims, Bruce Gradkowski, Luke McNown, and even Tim Rattay while Gruden also pined away for Jake Plummer and Brett Favre.
To solve this you turned the ship and grabbed up a "Player's Coach" and wanted a franchise QB. So what did you do:
1.Promoted Raheem Morris before he was ready to be an NFL Head Coach. No doubt Raheem was better liked by players if not ultimately respected. The better question is, knowing his lack of experience what steps did you take to ensure his success? Did you insist on an experienced hand at Offensive Coordinator or Defensive Coordinator?Perhaps a former NFL Head Coach who could occasionally remind your young leader that he couldn’t always be friends with the players but also needed to be their boss?
2.You created a culture where we decided to trade up in Round 1 to take a second round QB. He had all the physical tools, but the decision to get someone "right now" contributed to the overall poor play of the organization the last 5 years. You wanted a franchise guy right away and failed to ask if he was "the right guy". There was only one franchise signal caller in the 2009 draft and he went 16 picks earlier to Detroit. You had, other options: Jeff Garcia could have been brought back for a season, Brett Favre unretired again and went to Minnesota, Michael Vick returned to the league. Maybe none of those moves would have happened, maybe each would have bombed in Tampa. None of them was a long term solution but perhaps they were "good enough" to tide you over for a year or two till you were in position to find and develop a QB.
"Right Full Rudder – again in 2012"
When Raheem unraveled in 2011 you decided "enough with the player’s coach" - a disciplinarian was the way to go. After getting spurned by the innovative Chip Kelly you turned to the militaristic Greg Schiano. A college coach who is now a "never will be" in the NFL. Apparently you wanted the college coach so bad you forgot to ask him how he would adjust his methods for NFL players? You failed to adequately explain that discipline was secondary to his ultimate goal of winning, as evidenced by Schiano’s quote after being fired "This is what Buccaneer Football should be". He did fix your problem of the coach partying with the players and being undisciplined off the field and in practice. Yet the product he put on the field was undisciplined and ineffective. His defense was smoked in 2012 yielding late leads and the offensive tendencies were easily diagnosed (a fact mocked by James Laurenitis).
"Left Full Rudder for 2013"
With the passing defense so anemic in 2012 , the Glazers pressured the front office to go after the best. The front office surrendered treasure and future talent to obtain Darrelle Revis. You also outbid everyone for the services of hard hitting free safety Dashon Goldson. Again it worked somewhat, but the offense was ignored. Like most of the hard turns it partially-temporarily worked out. Revis looks stout albeit expensive and the deal may create cap issues in the future. Dashon Goldson appears penalty prone and while he’s an enforcer looks so-so in coverage. We now have two "in the box" safeties and money, will we part ways with Goldson when Barron’s contract time is due? No doubt the pass defense was highly improved but at what cost?
The cost of this myopic view was that the offense was ignored. Only a late trade in camp for the great Gabe Carimi was made and no receiver capable of taking playing time from Tiquan Underwood was signed. No scheme enhancements were made to complement the deep passing Freeman so loved. A shell-shocked and ineffective Freeman yielded way to Schiano’s handpicked QB in Mike Glennon. The team floundered to an 0-8 start that culminated with a shellacking by our division rival New Orleans Saints and a putrid, unacceptable 4-12 finish.
DON’T CAPSIZE THE SHIP
Again, thanks for firing Schiano. He was captaining the ship with all the skill of Edward Smith (Titanic) or Joseph Hazelwood (Exxon Valdez). Yet it has been 3 seasons since we had a winning record, 7 seasons since we were in the playoffs, 9 since our last division title, and 12 since we tasted the Super Bowl. The truth is with all these (over) corrections you’ve focused on what went wrong and fixed that single point but failed to build an enduring program that addressed all aspects necessary to win. So, if I may be so bold, my dear Glazers, allow me to give you some lessons learned.
1.Leave space for new ideas. Your entire staff does not need to be old hands of the NFL.
The college coach didn’t work out. I’m glad to see you hired Lovie Smith an experienced NFL level coach. Don’t overdo it though. If your entire staff is built of old NFL hands who is there to innovate? NFL titles are won by those who embrace change, not those who have been running the same program for a decade. Take the time to have Lovie Smith interview the likes of:
Ken Zampese, the current Bengals QB Coach since 2003.
John Embree, former Colorado coach who's developed some of the leagues best TE’s.
Frank Reich, former NFL QB & current Chargers QB Coach.
Sean McVay, current Redskins TE coach and one of the game's best young offensive minds.
Dave Dickenson, current Offensive Coordinator of the Calgary Stampeders.
Rocky Seto, the defensive passing coordinator for the Seahawks.
Joe Bowden, current Rams assistant linebackers coach.
Mark Carrier, current Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach.
Obviously Lovie should get the staff he really wants. However, emphasize to him that finding a blend of old hands and fresh young talent will be essential.
2.Improve the QB play at a fair price, but don’t get fleeced.
Everyone knows how I feel about Glennon (not the guy). Even those who don’t agree with me typically want more competition at the position. Find someone your OC believes in and if you can acquire an improvement at a reasonable price, do so. Do your due diligence, find out the cost with St. Louis to trade up if you believe in one of the rookie QBs. Call the Patriots & Broncos about Ryan Mallett and Brock Osweiler. Kick the tires on Michael Vick or Jay Cutler in free agency. However if the price is just too high, don’t dial up another Freeman and reach big for a guy like Derek Carr with arm talent but major issues. You have to find a starting QB eventually and we don’t want to be 1-15 to be in position to draft one. But don’t panic and make a bad choice simply to have "a guy".
3.In the face of player personnel adversity resist the "quick fix" of making a big splash acquisition. Remember the 3 Ds: "Draft, Develop, Decide"
This isn’t the NBA. One player acquisition has not brought a Super Bowl to anyone. True the Saints don’t win a Super Bowl without Drew Brees but 21 other starters and numerous reserves contributed to that. The vast majority of other Super Bowl champs got there with a team composed of 60-70% of players they drafted. Quick fixes seldom work, don’t pass on a major upgrade but focus your efforts on developing players. Lovie has done a good job developing defensive talent, making them better, find an equivalent on the offensive side and place an emphasis on developing young talent. They are less expensive, cap friendly, and if you make a mistake you can decide to release them without impairing your overall team. Teams that don’t do this have a tendency to get old very suddenly and then need a multi-season rebuild.
Above all…..don’t hire anyone you don’t trust enough to bench the starting quarterback. Also if its not too much trouble could you please ask Lovie (or whomever) not to use the phrase "well coached team" in a press conference for at least a year or so. I’m still having nightmares and getting insomnia about that one. I know your dad’s still disappointed that while hoisting the Lombardi Trophy he couldn’t get a chant of "Tampa" – "Bay" going: I promise to help out with the cheer next time if you can secure another trophy.