This year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium will open its arms to two men forever linked by the Lombardi Trophy: Malcolm Glazer and Jon Gruden.
Both Glazer and Gruden will be honored in halftime ceremonies during nationally-televised prime-time games this fall, which is fitting for two individuals who were instrumental in shaping the Buccaneers into one of the NFL's elite teams.
Glazer, who purchased the franchise in 1995 and served as owner/president until his death in May of 2014, will be inducted posthumously on October 5 as the Buccaneers take on the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football. Gruden, the Buccaneers' head coach from 2002-08, will follow Glazer into the Ring of Honor on December 18 during the team's Monday Night Football appearance against the Atlanta Falcons. Gruden, of course, will be on hand to provide color commentary on the game for the ESPN broadcast.
Glazer and Gruden will become the 10th and 11th members in the Ring of Honor. Their names will join those of Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles, Paul Gruber, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, Doug Williams and John Lynch on the stadium's façade.
Take a look at the Buccaneers' Super Bowl championship.
After purchasing the Buccaneers in 1995, Mr. Glazer revamped and reinvigorated every corner of the franchise, quickly turning a team that had gone more than a decade without a winning season into a perennial contender. Gruden, named the seventh head coach in Buccaneers history in February of 2002, took that contending team to the next level, guiding it to victory over the Oakland Raiders on January 26, 2003.
Gruden's arrival in Tampa and the Bucs' first season under his guidance perfectly illustrate the bold moves both men were willing to take to get the franchise to the pinnacle of the NFL. Glazer's team sent four draft picks, including two first-rounders and two second-rounders, along with $8 million to Oakland to acquire the coach's rights. Gruden immediately revamped the offense with a slew of free agent signings, complementing one of the NFL's best defenses. After getting his group to the NFL's biggest stage, he confidently led a 48-21 drubbing of his former team, famously running the Raiders' offense himself during a pre-Super Bowl practice.
Glazer purchased the Buccaneers on January 16, 1995. In the decades that followed, he left no stone unturned in reshaping a franchise that had last reached the playoffs in 1982 and had averaged more than 11 losses per season over the previous 13 years. By 1997, the Buccaneers were back in the playoffs, beating Detroit in the final game ever played at Tampa/Houlihan's Stadium. They were also sporting new, more aggressive uniforms that season. In 1998, the team had a brand new home, Raymond James Stadium, quickly nicknamed the Crown Jewel of the NFL. By 1999, Tampa Bay was back in the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 20 years. And, of course, by January of 2003, Glazer was triumphantly holding the Lombardi Trophy over his head during a postgame celebration at San Diego's Qualcomm Field.
The Super Bowl victory wasn't the only measure of the Buccaneers' newfound success under Malcolm Glazer. A team that had made the playoffs just three times in the 19 years before Glazer's purchase would become postseason regulars. Tampa Bay made the playoffs seven times in the 11 years from 1997-2007, winning division titles in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2007. The Buccaneers had previously won their division just twice in their first two decades.
And the franchise's improvements and innovations weren't limited to the playing field. In addition to the highly-regarded new uniforms, Glazer shepherded in change throughout the team and its surroundings. The team moved into a new state-of-the-art headquarters in 2006 and, in the years since, has tirelessly worked to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technological advancements in the league. In the decades following Glazer's purchase of the Buccaneers, the team's staff was expanded greatly in order to provide the NFL's best service to fans and season pass members. Tampa Bay has earned the top customer service ranking in the NFL in four of the past five years.
Glazer also led the franchise in rededicating its effort to make a positive impact on the community. In 1999, the Glazer Family Foundation was established; in the years since, often focusing on helping children in need, the Foundation has donated millions in programs, tickets, grants and other contributions. The Glazer Children's Museum, which now stands in downtown Tampa, was made possible by a $5 million donation by the Glazer family.
Gruden helped immensely in Glazer's quest to put the Buccaneers at the top of the NFL pack. Gruden would stay at the team's helm for seven years (2002-08) the longest of any head coach since the team's inaugural leader and fellow Ring of Honor member John McKay. His teams compiled a 57-55-0 record during those seven seasons, making him the winningest coach in franchise history. Gruden was the head coach for three of the six division titles won by the Buccaneers in their 41 seasons so far.
Gruden put his fingerprints on the team quickly after his dramatic arrival, turning over roughly half of the roster. The Super Bowl team featured 25 players who had not been on the roster the year before, and the offense in particular was transformed by the additions. Those included running back Michael Pittman, wide receivers Joe Jurevicius and Keenan McCardell, tight ends Ken Dilger and Rickey Dudley and offensive linemen Roman Oben and Kerry Jenkins.
That team went on to win 12 games in the regular season, which remains a franchise record. In the postseason, the 2002 Buccaneers outscored their three opponents – San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland – by a 106-37 margin. Tampa Bay advanced to the Super Bowl by winning the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia, notable because each of their previous two playoff appearances had ended in road losses to the Eagles. After the win in San Diego, Gruden at the time was the youngest head coach ever to win a Super Bowl.