The caution raised yesterday by Joel Glazer that Bucs fans will have to face the inevitable; Blackouts in 2010, has caused an uproar among some fans, and here on Bucem.com its no exception. Some have taken it as a slap in the face, when this is simply not the case. The Glazers are accused of many things, creating the 72 hour blackout rule is not one of them. The root cause of frustration is what the fans see as a "Chicken and the Egg" scenario; you caused this mess by not spending money on players, and now your telling us we cant watch the games because the stadium is empty, its empty because you made it that way. The only problem with that argument is..its not entirely true.
LETS LOOK AT SOME FACTS:
- People do not change- Regardless if papa Glazer ran the team back then, and Joel and Co. run it now, its still the same family, they share the same values. Also, Malcolm is not fully out of the picture.
- The Glazers Built the Bucs by drafting a core group of players, and surrounding them with talented free agents when available. Thats not to say they drafted these players and said " You are our core". No, they ones that turned out filled the roll. That holds true today too.
- This years Free Agents were older and more expensive. Because only 6 year vets qualified, that means 29 year olds were available, not 27 like before. Laws of supply and demand say the few quality FA are going to drive their price up.
WHY ARE THE BUCS IN THIS BOAT
Is it a failure by the Glazers to spend money on Free Agents? Clearly the numbers do not lie; the Bucs are one of the lowest spending teams in the last report to come out. Why is that?
For starters, since 2003, there hasn't been a Warren Sapp, Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks player on the Bucs to invest that kind of money in. Some of the biggest contracts were the signings of our own star players. The Bucs stopped restocking the talent pile with young talented draft picks and resigned them to nice lucrative long term contracts, because 1)The picks were not there for a few years via the Gruden Trade 2) the Picks did not pan out, they were not quality draft picks. You can blame the Glazers for some things, but you cannot blame them for missing on the later round picks. Cadillac Williams, Davin Joeseph, Aqib Talib, and other first round picks are one thing, but prior to last year, the Bucs simply hit duds in the later rounds. That is an important part of drafting, being able to get good talent in the middle rounds.
The Bucs were and have always been active in signing Free Agents, even the top ones, when the time was right. Not to lay down the Building blocks with them, but to augment a core group of players the Glazers signed Simeon Rice to a large contract. They brought in Keenan McCardell, Ken Dilger, Ricky Dudley, Joe Jurivicus, all when they smelled a championship on the horizon.
You can go out and spend money on Free Agents, mind you were going to talk about the kind that fans want. Impact Free Agents. But the fact is, this years crop was older, and too expensive. When you have players like this on your team, you are taking a job and experience away from the younger player that you want to groom into the star roll.
The Glazers took polls, and they saw fan interest waning, and in particular, they found fans that were not able to identify with a group of Bucs players like they had in the past. Instead of year in and year out getting MIke Alstott, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, the fans were being served a new team each year, with Jeff Garcia, Cato June, Kevin Carter.
Lets use the 2008/2009 squad as an example. If we bring back Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway, Jeff Garcia in 2009, we may have had a better team, for a number of reasons.
However, instead of Sammy Stroughter getting valuable playing time, Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway would have gotten it instead. We would have gotten some more Ws, but at what cost? The development of young players?
Derrick Brooks would have started at linebacker, but we would have no idea what Geno Hayes can do, and Geno's development would be set back by another year.
Same across the board. Free agents, especially the aging kind available in this years class would have been BandAids; covering up a wound, but not really doing much to help heal it. Younger players, guys like Lynch, Quarles, Sapp would have not developed because older players who would not be around in a couple more years anyways would have gotten all of our younger core group of players growth time.
Yes veterans provide leadership, But the Bucs team that developed in 1996/97 pretty much developed with only Hardy Nickerson. They found their own leadership amongst themselves.
THE PLAN WAS CHANGED-
I liked Jon Gruden alot, but he really changed the plan on the Bucs. Instead of taking the time to rebuild after some of the obvious losing seasons like 2004, or even 2006. But instead, Gruden wanted to put pieces on the team via Free Agency where it was needed.
The Glazers Obliged; They game him Matt Stinchcomb, Darell Russel, Derrick Deese, Todd Stussie, Charlie Gardner, Brian Griese and others. Does this sound like a boss who is cheap and not prepared to spend money on Free Agents? Gruden had the Glazers convinced that we were only a few players away from another Super Bowl Birth. He was wrong, and this was the owners first taste at what happens when you try to rebuild a team in this manner. The team had been in salary cap funk; not it was in Salary Cap Hell! ...and it took years to get out of it.
Even in 2007 after a disastrous 2006 campaign, the Glazers were once again willing to pony up for bigger and stronger band-aids. Jeff Garcia, Luke Petitgout, Cato June, Jeremy Stevens, BJ Askew, and Michael Bennet. Again, we have forgotten the extent to which the Glazers have spent money on this team in the name of getting a better product on the field. But these experiences showed them, that using Free Agents first, Draft picks last, is a poor way of doing things, and was not how they followed their own blueprint in the past.
PATIENCE IS REQUIRED -
Its no fun watching your team lose games. As pointed out on the blog, its very frustrating to drop a few C-notes at Raymond James and they put out a NY Giants game (24-0) like they did! I'd point out however that even in our good years the Bucs have dropped a deuce at home before us;
1997 Detroit 27-9
1999 Giants 17 Bucs 10, but Trent Dilfer gave the Giants all 17 points!
2000 Detroit 28 TB 14
2002 MNF Pittsburgh 17 Bucs 7, and the score wasnt even that close.
Last year even though we were 3-13, 3 of the 7 home games were of the "I want a refund" variety. The Dallas game was exciting even though sunblock was as required as Oxygen. The Green Bay Throwback game was a huge success, and the Carolina game was worth every penny, as T-Jack ran back the tying score in the 4th.
It's clear the Glazers have realized there is a growing section of their fanbase that is upset with them. They also know full well, that when their plan comes to fruition, and this young team that will add 5 more young promising players within the month starts to come together and win, that the fans will be back in the stadium just like before. The waiting list will return, the Visiting fans will disappear, and the "Cheap" talk will go away, because the Glazers will start spending money...when its on their OWN players, and the ones who they feel are the core group of the new foundation for this franchise.
They have staked everything on this, and no matter your opinion, you have to give credit for anyone who sticks to their guns on an issue. They have a plan, and together with Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris, the Glazers are going to adhear to that plan no matter what the immediate consequences. They seem ready to take the hit at the turnstiles, ready to take the hit in the court of public opinion too, because they feel their plan is the best one for the long term best interests of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
They have no intention of throwing money or draft picks away on players that are 29 and over who will take away playing time from what is supposed to be the future of this team, and who will only be around for a short time anyways. Does this mean the Bucs wont pick up any players 29 and over? Of course they will, and they have. But not the ones who will take away draft picks, which is the way this team is clearly setting its sights on to build the next Bucs team.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN 2010?
Honestly, no one knows for sure as far as a won loss record. But expect the Bucs to really put their efforts into this 2010 draft, which is what they are basing the future of the entire franchise on. Expect the Picks to be impact ones, players that fit a need AND are regarded as great playmakers. After the draft, you will see tons of free agent pick ups coming in from colleges, and you will also see some coming in from other teams. These are the players who will create the competition in camp and OTAs, and from which a few players will turn out to be the next Shelton Quarles, David Logans, and Styles Whites.
Beyond that, the season has some positives to look forward to:
A full offseason with Josh Freeman at the helm
young players who got ample in game experience last year, Sammie Stroughter, Roy Miller, Kyle Moore, Jeremy Zuttah, Quincy Black, Geno Hayes and others. Added to that mixture the 11 players drafted, including the 3 top picks, 5 of which come from a very deep class.
A softer schedule- while we dont know which teams the Bucs will play will improve or which will fall from graces and be easier than expected. But all in all, we wont have to play the entire NFC East in the first month either! Games vs the NFC West are traditionally softer in recent years, and the two 'at large' games we acquired were also against last place teams.
After that, depending on how well the Bucs and their players do in 2010, we could see more action in a much deeper free agency pool in 2011 (Owners vs Players battles not withstanding) and perhaps less emphasis on a weaker draft.
Are the Glazers fully without any blame in this mess? In a 3-13 season, blame goes all around. They had their hands dirty in the 2004 and 2006 rebuilds by Free Agents. They knew it went against their blueprint yet they allowed it to happen.
They say they want to pay money to their core group of players, yet Barrett Ruud remains unsigned. That smells of cheapness, and is something that needs to be addresses immediately, if Ruud fits in their long term plans. If he does not, then clearly Donald Penn doesnt either. He too must have his situation looked into. If your going to tell us your not cheap, then don't show us signs that you are. It sends mixed messages and makes it hard to defend you when you are doing things the right way.