Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer said ownership must take responsibility for the franchise’s 10-year stretch without a playoff win, praising second-year head coach Greg Schiano as the right man to “reverse that trend.’’
Speaking at the NFL owners meetings Tuesday, Glazer said ownership remains fully committed to quarterback Josh Freeman, pointing out several late defensive lapses that cost the Bucs during a 7-9 season marked by a December slide.
“We still have great confidence in Josh,’’ Glazer said. “Quarterback is a critical position, but quarterbacks can’t do it alone. There are a few games you can look at last year when we were in a comfortable position and defensively, we may have let down.
“Josh had some great moments last year – and some moments he’d like to have back. We want to take the pressure off of him defensively, and that’s what we’re working on. Nobody works harder than Josh Freeman, and he obviously has the talent. He threw for 4,000 yards and had a lot of big games. Let’s play some better defense and take some pressure off of him.’’
The Bucs haven’t won a postseason game since the 2002 club hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII, matching the Lions as the only NFC clubs with a current streak of futility lasting a decade.
“To me, one year without a playoff win is too long,’’ Glazer said. “Ten years is extremely disappointing, but I have great confidence we have the people in place to reverse that trend. It’s tough to win in this league, but it’s within everyone’s control to change their course. Ultimately, it falls on our shoulders as owners. We’re not going to hide from our responsibility. All we’re going to do is work our tails off that it doesn’t continue.’’
Schiano turned in a very solid first season on the sidelines after he was hired out of Rutgers, Glazer said.
“When you get a job that late, it’s a whirlwind,’’ he said, “even more so for someone coming from the college ranks. I thought he handled himself extremely well and he has an excellent relationship with (general manager) Mark Dominik. That’s critical for success. They’ve earned each other’s trust and respect.’’
The Bucs have been plagued by a string of home blackouts in recent years. Glazer said it was too early to predict how many home games will be televised this fall, although he described ticket sales as positive.
“We’ve been working very hard to get fans into the stadium,’’ he said, “but there are tough circumstances in Florida and the economy is not great. It’s a changing world and we have to adapt. I think we saw some progress last year.’’
The 22-17 victory at Atlanta in Week 17 that snapped a five-game losing streak was significant in Glazer’s eyes.
“The one thing I’m most proud of was our final game,’’ he said. “It could have gone a very different way after that very difficult spell. Give credit to Coach Schiano, how he got that team up and ready to play against the best team in the NFC. We played our hearts out to the final whistle when a lot of other people would have had their bags packed, thinking about their vacations.
“I think that speaks to how our players respond to our coach, and that will be a good launching pad for the upcoming season.’’
Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer spoke with Tribune reporter Ira Kaufman on Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. Here are the rest of Glazer’s remarks:
Q: Assess Greg Schiano’s first year on the sidelines.
A: I think Greg did a great job. When you get the job in January-February, it’s a whirlwind. You’ve got to get to know your team, get ready for the draft and free agency. It’s a whirlwind for anybody, even more so for a person coming from the college ranks. I thought he handled himself extremely well, doing a great job of earning the respect of players quickly. He put a plan in place and had a solid first season.
Q: How about his game management?
A: That’s not easy in the NFL, but I thought he handled a lot of difficult situations very well. Overall, I’m very pleased. Our players responded well to the way he coaches, the structure he put in place and what he demanded. They embraced his coaching style.
Q: Describe his personality.
A: Greg’s very intense and focused, extremely organized and I think that’s critical. You have to manage a lot of things, on and off the field, and you either have that ability or you don’t. He’s extremely gifted in that area. Anytime you come in from college, you have to earn respect and I think he did that quickly from his peers.
Q: Mark Dominik is 24-40 in four years. How patient will you be with your general manager?
A: We’re patient. Every team has to win, that’s not just Mark Dominik or Coach Schiano. Ultimately, you’ve got to win. The NFL has become a league where every year, teams pop up or go down. It’s a bottom-line business and the bottom line is winning. The last few years we haven’t been doing that and I can assure you there’s a lot of attention and awareness that it’s time. There’s nothing worse than losing. We’re as competitive as the next person. Mark and Coach Schiano have an excellent working relationship. They’ve earned each other’s trust and respect and that will pay dividends over the long term.
Q: Is this the best offense on paper since the Glazers purchased the team?
A: No doubt we have a lot of talent on offense. Doug Martin was an exciting, explosive addition to the team, a real spark. There’s nothing more exciting than drafting a player and seeing him blossom in his first year. Unfortunately, Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks were hurt. You can’t say enough about Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.
Q: Were you pleased with offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan?
A: He did a tremendous job. He had never been a coordinator before and made a great transition from quarterback coach. He’s creative and I expect even more success in the second year. He’s also a good, quality person.
Q: Can you win in the league today just by outscoring people?
A: The league has changed. It’s really become an offensive league, but the two teams in the Super Bowl had sound defenses, as well. At the end of the day, you have to win as a team.
Q: You’ve gone 10 years without a playoff win. Don’t Bucs fans have the right to deserve more?
A: To me, one year without a playoff win is too long. Ten years is extremely disappointing. I have great confidence the people we have in place will reverse that trend. After Dan Marino was in his first Super Bowl, I don’t think he ever dreamed he wouldn’t be back. It’s tough to win in this league, but it’s within everyone’s control to change the course of where they’re headed.
Q: What responsibility should ownership take for that lost decade?
A: Ultimately, it falls on our shoulders. We’re not going to hide from our responsibility. All we’re going to do is commit to work our tails off to make sure it doesn’t continue. Overall, I’m very excited about the direction we’re headed. I sit today with great optimism about our future.
Q: If attendance doesn’t improve, would you consider relocating the franchise?
A: That’s not even an issue. We have worked as hard as anybody to get tickets sold. It’s tough circumstances in Florida. The economy’s not great and it’s a changing world. We have to adapt to that changing world. I think we saw progress last year and fans are enthusiastic about the upcoming season.
Q: How are things shaping up at the box office?
A: It’s early, but things have been positive. We’re always optimistic about avoiding blackouts, but we’ve got some work to do. Blackouts are never ideal. You want to keep your fans engaged every week. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to avoid blackouts. Some hard times have hit, and we understand that. I don’t think you reach a point where you’ve done everything you can. We need to do it on the field and I have great confidence in this team.
Q: How do you respond when you hear comments that the Glazers are not fan-friendly?
A: I’m proud of what we do in the community and I think people recognize our commitment. Responses from our fans to our in-stadium initiatives have been tremendous.
Q: Did Josh Freeman take too much heat last year?
A: The heat is on everybody when the team doesn’t win. The quarterback is the highest-profile position and the heat is even hotter. Josh has great confidence in himself and he’ll be back this year more committed than ever. Winning always solves that problem.
Q: You may not have a player on the 2013 roster that played on the Super Bowl team. How close are you to developing a young core of players for another championship run?
A: If you look at Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Mark Barron, we’ve brought in some good young players. Greg talks about Buccaneer men and we’re proud of the players we’re bringing in. We’re getting that nucleus of talent for the long term and drafting is critical. Last year was a draft we can really build on.
Q: The Bucs have had their share of off-field incidents in recent years. With all the talk about character, does the franchise have to do even more due diligence in researching players?
A: That’s a tremendous focus for us and nothing disturbs us more than an incident with a player. It puts a bad shine on the organization. It’s not good for the player and our tolerance has definitely gotten shorter. We just can’t tolerate role models not upholding the highest character of our community.
Q: Last year’s draft was dynamic and Greg Schiano was in the house. Is that a coincidence?
A: The more smart people you can have around, influencing a decision, the better. Coming from college, I thought he brought a great perspective that helped our scouting department. The way he defines a person is very specific and, working together, you saw the results. It helps the scouts find what he is looking for.
Q: The last time you clinched a playoff spot, George W. Bush was in the White House. What are your expectations for 2013?
A: I’m very excited. Every year you want to win a Super Bowl and I feel we have a playoff-caliber team. Everyone in the organization feels that way. The first objective is getting in the playoffs and we’re confident.
Q: Will you be attending Warren Sapp’s Hall of Fame induction in Canton this summer?
A: Absolutely, we’ll have a contingent up there. It’s really an unbelievable honor for Warren. He was our first draft pick as NFL owners and anytime one of your players goes in the Hall, it’s special. I’m happy for Warren, knowing how hard he worked as a player. It’s an exciting moment for him and the franchise. When you look back, we had a special group of Hall of Fame players. It’s great knowing you had the privilege of watching them play in Tampa.
Q: What have you learned about competing in the NFL over the last 18 years?
A: It’s a privilege to be part of this league. Everybody wants to win, so if you want to succeed, you’ve got to work that much harder.