The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, like many other expansion teams were considered a joke for a long time. Then Malcolm Glazer altered the NFL world.
New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks late to the party
The idea of parity in the NFL was something desired by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue in an effort to better the product of pro football back in the 1990s. That meant making the league more competitive on a complete scale rather than a small collection of dominant teams. Such an idea meant finding a way to help the small market teams get on the same level with the big boys. Certain ways to do that included a salary cap, unrestricted free agency and finding quality owners unafraid to help their franchises win. One of the hardest jobs was ending the plight of the cellar dweller teams. For years franchises like the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were considered second class in the league, unable to build champions and interrupting years of futility with the occasional okay season or two. Now all of a sudden those teams sit at the top of the mountain. New Orleans won their Lombardi trophy in 2009 and Seattle took it home last season. In their glory, it’s easy to forget that they owed so much of their new-found hope and success to Tampa Bay.
Glazer changed the culture with Warren Sapp and Jon Gruden
After all, it was the Buccaneers who “bucked” the trend in 2002 when they overcame the tradition-bound NFC and dominated the Oakland Raiders to win the Super Bowl. It was the first time a team considered truly inferior had finally silenced the doubters, and their owner Malcolm Glazer was a crucial part of it. It all started in 1995 when he took over the team. From the very beginning things were different, and it started with the Bucs taking a gamble on a young defensive tackle named Warren Sapp, who was dogged by drug allegations that caused him to drop on draft day. Together with an undersized linebacker named Derrick Brooks, Glazer and his front office had suddenly built the foundation of one of the best NFL defenses in league history. From there it was a step-by-step process. He changed the uniforms to alter team identity from their “creamsicle” image. Tony Dungy came in and taught the team how to win. Then, when winning was customary, Glazer took that last, terrifying step and traded a respected coach in Dungy for one he felt could get his team over the hump in Jon Gruden. The results spoke for themselves as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored three defensive touchdowns in leading a 48-21 rout of the Raiders.
It was a groundbreaking achievement that ushered in an era of NFL football fans have soaked up with passion, an era of belief, hope and confidence that winning is possible if the right people, the right man is in charge. Malcolm Glazer, like any owner had his faults, but when it comes to pro football, his legacy is secure.