Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer said team ownership took several weeks to let the emotions of the 2008 season die down before reaching a final decision on the coach and GM positions
Emotions run high at the end of any NFL season, particularly one that ends in such an unusual and disappointing fashion as did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2008 campaign.
Team ownership is not immune to those emotions; if anything, they experience them more intensely than most. It is for precisely that reason that Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer and his family waited until mid-January to make two very important decisions regarding the future of the franchise.
On Friday evening, Glazer announced that the Buccaneers have dismissed Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen. Gruden had been Tampa Bay's head coach since 2002; Allen joined the team in 2004.
"Any time a season ends, especially the way our season ended, it's a very, very emotional time," said Glazer. "One thing we always like to do is not act on emotion, let things simmer down, think things through carefully, not make any quick, rash decisions. After taking a lot of time to look at our franchise, look where it's been, look where it is and look where we want to go, we just felt this was the time for a change.
"This isn't a decision that's made on one play or one game or one week or one thing. You looked at the totality of the situation and you evaluate it; you look at where your franchise is. The goal every year is to build a championship team that can compete year in and year out. You look at the whole situation and after looking at it and thinking it through and being objective with ourselves, we just felt it that was the time for a change.
"Obviously with a lot of careful thought and consideration, you think about the future. In our minds, there's a plan of where we want to go."
Gruden finished his seven-year stint at the helm with a regular-season record of 57-55 and three NFC South Championships. His Buccaneer teams were 3-2 in the playoffs, with all three wins coming during Tampa Bay's run to the Super Bowl XXXVII title in 2002. Allen, who had previously worked with Gruden in Oakland, was in his post for the last five of those seven seasons, helping build two division-title winners.
"Jon and Bruce have been consummate professionals," said Glazer. "They have poured their heart and soul into this franchise. It's really been an honor to work with them for the last several years. They gave it their all."
Gruden and Allen had received contract extensions at the end of the 2007 season, in which the Buccaneers finished 9-7 and won the NFC South before losing in the playoffs to the eventual-champion New York Giants. Those decisions of a year ago did not dissuade the Glazer family from making the move they felt was necessary in 2009.
"At the end of every season we sit back and we look at everything," said Glazer. "We did that last year and went forward with the extensions, but at the end of the day, every year we feel we owe it to this football team and this community to do a good, honest assessment of our franchise and if at any point we feel that change is in our best interest, we feel we have to make that change. You can't let decisions you made a year ago affect decisions today. You look at the totality of the situation and you make your decision.
"It's not one specific thing or another. There's so many factors that go into an organization, that go into a team, the fundamental beliefs that you have, your core beliefs. You've got to do a check every year. You've got to do a check and say, 'Is this franchise on the path that we want it to be on and where we want it going and what we believe in?' Again, after looking at the whole situation, we thought change was necessary."
Throughout the evening on Friday, as he gave an insight into the team's decision-making process to various members of the local media, Glazer stressed that the team is committed to building a team with sustainable success, one that can be in the hunt for a championship every season. He knows that the final month of the 2008 campaign – an 0-4 finish that turned a 9-3 start into a third-place finish – was difficult for Buccaneer fans, although Friday's decisions were based on much more than one month of play.
"I know this much about our fans – we've got wonderful fans," said Glazer. "The pain they feel after a loss, I feel that after a loss. The happiness after a win is the same happiness I have. The thing about our community, this is a town that appreciates good football, wants to win, wants to win a championship bad, and once you have that in your fan base, that's all you can ask for. We feel the same way as our fans, and they want a winner. They want to win so badly and we want to help deliver it to them."