Questioning ownership’s will to win: The curious case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

*One of the great things about running a sports website is that, every once in a while, I run into a character with something interesting to say.  Either they’ll agree with me or disagree but the interaction always leads to healthy debate.

Such was the case this week when I encountered Mark Chisholm, a Tampa native and ardent Bucs fan, in the Twittersphere.

Mr. Chisholm was impressed with the site (he’s obviously easily impressed) and asked if I minded if he contributed a piece or two.  I warned him that my readers could get a tad ornery.  He said he wasn’t scared.

So get your fangs ready, ladies and gents, as here is Mr. Chisholm’s take on your Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the family that runs them.


glazer masksAs the Buccaneers turn their attention to preparation for the start of free agency on March 11, the question most fans ask is, “How much money will we spend?”

A better analysis than stating how much salary cap room the Glazers are allotting to spend would be asking, “Do the Glazers really want the Buccaneers to win?”  Simpler.  More accurate.

If you had two professional sports franchises and one had a significantly higher potential for making money, which would you concentrate your focus on?  Consider also the one with the higher potential requires more money, time, and success on the field to reach those huge earnings while the other is the more modest, but steadier, earner.

The profit margins in owning an English Premier League club are much more volatile than in owning a NFL franchise.  Missing the UEFA Champions League tournament (as Manchester United almost certainly will this season), failing to advance in other events such as the FA Cup; these defeats result in vast amounts of lost revenue.  If a football club wants to remain among the world’s elite, expenditures are massive and a consistently maximum revenue stream is imperative.  Wages and transfer fees for the best players are the chief source of cost.  The requirements are simple: you must be completely consumed with maintenance, if you are to sustain a successful world renowned football club.  The Glazers are planning today, tomorrow and well into the future for the prospect of their ever-growing profits from Manchester United.

Anmalcolm glazer celebrates super bowl NFL franchise is not the spectacular revenue generator the world’s most recognizable sports franchise is.  However, it is a consistent one.  A team does not need to go to the playoffs to see a steady stream of revenue.  A team’s trip to the Super Bowl does not amp up profits by double digit percentage points as it does for an international football club advancing into the Champions League final.  The Bucs are a steady, viable touchstone in the Glazers’ portfolio.  The value of the franchise is five and half times what it was when Malcolm Glazer purchased the team in 1995.  Even though the Bucs had one of their smallest operating surpluses ever ($2.2mil) in 2012, it is a safe asset that needs little management.

Winning is more directly tied to revenue for Manchester United and yet even there the Glazers only authorized the signing of one high priced player last off-season.  They do not spend the most money in the Premier League, yet they make the most.

But isn’t winning tied to revenue in every professional sport?  Mostly, yes.  But the Buccaneers owners are about profit margin, not revenue.

Jason Licht, Lovie SmithWith these basic financial facts, and in light of how much money they have spent the past two years in free agency and failed coaches’ salaries, what do you think the Glazers have authorized Jason Licht and Lovie Smith to spend?

Foolish and unthinking bandwagoners will wish and hope for a big name, high dollar free agent like Greg Hardy or Branden Albert.  Just be happy money was spent to bring in Lovie Smith.

Do the Glazers care about winning?  They want to win at being profitable businessmen.  They want to win at taking financial risk and hitting a fiscal home run. They want to win at changing spending cultures among sports franchises to make profits easier.  They want to win at building the largest cash cow sports franchise in the world.

Rest assured, the Glazers do not care much about winning a Super Bowl.

It just isn’t profitable enough.

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26 Replies to “Questioning ownership’s will to win: The curious case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers”

  1. Pingback: Wild Thing Fantasy Football » Questioning ownership’s will to win: The curious case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  2. Here’s my take, Mark.

    The NFL now has a salary floor, which I believe is 89-90% of the salary cap. The Glazers HAVE to spend a set amount of money as does every other owner in the league. The NFL instituted that rule so that owners couldn’t just leave the cupboard bare or not try to win at the expense of not spending.

    So to me, the question is not if they’ll spend the money but how they’ll spend it, or rather how wisely they’ll spend it.

    Hopefully, Lovie and Company now roaming the grounds of One Buc will help provide some well-needed insight as to how to properly spend those dollars.

    I hear this argument a lot, particularly from Bucs fans, but I just have a hard time believing that owners of sports teams don’t want to win, as if losing were profitable. Most owners obviously want to turn a profit and I don’t fault them for it.

    I don’t know how much money the Glazers made on the Bucs the last few years but I don’t think putting a shoddy product on the field is sustainable in the long term. They can’t possibly think that either. Look how long it took them to finally fill the stadium back up.

    Fans ride Tampa Bay sports ownership pretty damn hard, perhaps rightfully so. Maybe it’s the idealist in me but I just think that some of it is unwarranted. I could give a flying fuck about Man U (SACRILEGE!) but I trust the Glazers put enough competent people in place to make the Buccaneers a successfully run, and profitable, franchise. If those people aren’t doing their job, which they weren’t, then get rid of them, which they did.

    Look at the Rays. They consistently put out a winning product on a limited budget. They’re doing something I never thought they’d be able to do which is compete with the major markets under an entirely different set of circumstances.

    Winning and/or losing and making money are not mutually exclusive.

    I do think your sentiments echo most of those Bucs fans who are pissed ownership isn’t giving it their all because they own another team, as if other sports owners don’t have other businesses whose success, and profits, they’re also concerned with.

    If I asked a member of the Glazer clan whether they wanted to win a Super Bowl and they earnestly told me “Yes,” I’d have to believe them. It’s more a matter of whether the pieces are in place to make that happen.

    Here’s hoping the recent moves they made are a step in that direction.

  3. Having followed the Buccaneers after living in the Tampa area and attending several games at Raymond James, I have to agree with Mark and it’s a damned shame but the Bucs’ owners aren’t the only ones in the NFL just worried about showing up for their paychecks… These types put on a good show to hopefully fill their stadiums but ultimately winning it all is way down their list of importance. The NFL rewards their owners through shared revenue and that’s enough for many…

  4. Welcome Mark, and congrats on getting me to read about two teams I don’t care about. I know, it wasn’t really about the on-field product of those teams, but I read on anyway.

    Interesting premise on Bucs/ManU spending. You won’t mind if I steal this theory and use it to excuse my Jaguars pitiful performance year after year.

    I’m convinced that the NFL has already approved Khan’s move to London with his American football team as to allow both Khan’s teams to play on the same pitch.

  5. Dwin…

    Isn’t there some sort of protocol when it comes to interviewing new NFL owners? I’m pretty sure both baseball and the NBA have that in place to ensure the best interest for its fan base.

    Actually, I’d be interested in seeing a list of every NFL owner and how long they’ve owned the team.

    Let me know if you find something like that online.

  6. So, Han, in following up with Dwin’s comments, what do Goodell and the NFL make a guy like (The Wrath Of) Khan do before buying a franchise?

    Do they make him jump through hoops or is it just like, if you can afford it, where’s your checkbook?

  7. Per Wikipedia

    Franchise Owner Year
    Arizona Cardinals Bill Bidwell 1 1972
    Atlanta Falcons Arthur Blank† 1 2004
    Baltimore Ravens Steve Bisciotti† 1 2004
    Buffalo Bills Ralph Wilson2 1959
    Carolina Panthers Jerry Richardson††† 2 1993
    Chicago Bears Virginia Halas McCaskey† 3 1983
    Cincinnati Bengals Mike Brown3 1991
    Cleveland Browns Jimmy Haslam 2012
    Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones 1989
    Denver Broncos Pat Bowlen† 1984
    Detroit Lions William Clay Ford, Sr. 1964
    Green Bay Packers Green Bay Packers, Inc. 1923
    Houston Texans Robert C. McNair† 2 1999
    Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay 1997
    Jacksonville Jaguars Shahid Khan 2012
    Kansas City Chiefs Clark Hunt†† 3 2006
    Miami Dolphins Stephen M. Ross† 2008
    Minnesota Vikings Zygi Wilf† 2005
    New England Patriots Robert Kraft 1994
    New Orleans Saints Tom Benson 1985
    New York Giants John Mara (50%)4
    Steve Tisch (50%) 2005
    New York Jets Robert Wood Johnson IV 2000
    Oakland Raiders Carol and Mark Davis† 5 2011
    Philadelphia Eagles Jeffrey Lurie 1994
    Pittsburgh Steelers Dan Rooney3 1988
    San Diego Chargers Alex Spanos†1 1984
    San Francisco 49ers Jed York 1 2009
    Seattle Seahawks Paul Allen 1997
    St. Louis Rams Stan Kroenke 1 2010
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers Malcolm Glazer 1995
    Tennessee Titans Estate of Bud Adams3 2013
    Washington Redskins Dan Snyder† 1999

  8. I’m humbled by the welcome Mr. Humpherys. Thank you too for letting me have the vine. I didnt write it with malice toward the Glazers. I wrote it as a caution to those fans that believe the Glazers are doing every thing possible to bring another Championship to Tampa.
    They are businessmen and damn good ones. That’s all. Do they WANT to win? Sure. They are competitive people. The question is, which win is more important to them: do they want to win at dying with more toys than every person they know or do they want to win another Super Bowl?

  9. Mark…

    After doing a little research, I found out that Malcolm Glazer is the third richest owner in the NFL. Guy’s got more friggin’ money than Jerry Jones. Who knew?

    I guess Wayne Rooney and soccer balls are good investments after all.

    Here’s the thing about sports that makes this argument so interesting: Owners are selling the intangible to customer bases that are loyal to a fault.

    If I don’t like a particular brand of toilet paper, I can always wipe my ass with another. Bye bye Cottonelle, Hello Charmin!

    Okay, so perhaps that’s a poor comparison but it’s not really. I’m a Bucs fan and I’m not gonna jump to another team because I like their owner more.

    Perhaps it’s time we start.

    Ah, fuck it, who am I kidding? It’s a Buc’s Life. Now I know why we get so drunk at home games.

  10. It is definitely hard for hard-core fans to accept the fact the first goal of sports owners is to get as big a return on their investment as possible. If a title comes along that’s a bonus without focus. People still want to believe in the tooth fairy, that college football isn’t semi-pro football and that all pro owners want first and foremost is to be called champion. Quite frankly, fans in a lot of cities should just be happy their team still exists there. Selling the intangibles. So true. Heck, Philly almost lost the Eagles years ago. And for sure, every year there are still fans accusing Ownership of not trying to win a title, forgetting they are fortunate to even have a team to follow. The requirement to win has long ago been replaced by the requirement to ramp up the P & L. Winning on the general ledger is the general premise of successful pro sports ownership.

  11. This is what happens when sports owners look at this more as an investment than as a sports franchise. What the English Premier League is pulling off is remarkable considering is sure as shit isn’t the best soccer league in the world.

  12. All I can say about the Bucs , is with the hiring of Jason Licht to replace Mark Dominik .,

    Will it be once again be open season on stupidity when it comes to the Bucs’ draft picks as have been witnessed in recent seasons ? Never mind the fact that the Glazers have shown about as much business acumen with regard to both of their sports’ interests in recent years to have impressed the Senate Finance and House Finance Committees , collectively . If they have no idea concerning the economy and financial matter , then why would anyone believe that this family (Malcolm Glazer and his children) would appear to be any better ? Need we also be concerned by the continuous claims by the family about their familial business concern and ownership of First Allied Corp & Realty ? A claim that is now proving to be bogus and completely asinine, considering the health of the economy and the evidence of less interest in big box stores at major malls and commercial real estate in general .

    Lovie Smith will have his work cut out for him , because the Bucs are and will remain the fourth best team in the NFC South this upcoming season . The Panthers , Saints and Falcons are likely to improve , even if there were major slip ups with Atlanta based franchise . GM Thom Dimitroff is likely to be on the outs with the Georgia based franchise with team President Rich McKay either returning to the GM chair or hiring someone who shows a great deal more acumen than Dimitroff .

    tophatal …………

  13. Chris, I doubt the NFL made Khan jump through hoops… more likely, the other way around.

    Khan: I have cash and want to buy the Jags, do as little upgrading as possible, keep losing, and move them to London in 3-4 years. I know how much the NFL wants the league’s brand and souvenir sales in Europe, and here I am with pro facilities already in place over there.

    Goodell: <> Welcome aboard Mr Khan

  14. Attitudes and Mark…

    Do you think it would be different in Tampa Bay if we saw Malcolm in the box like we do Jerry Jones and Jeff Lurie and Bob Kraft every Sunday or, based on his moves, do we just not want him meddling any more than he has to? he he

  15. He he…

    I knew Al would get fired up about this post. He’s been bitching about the Glazer family for so long, he might as well as written this himself.

    So, Al, tell me. What are the Bucs most glaring needs to address in the draft, NOT free agency?

  16. Khanahan…

    That’s a shame if that’s the case.

    I haven’t heard much about a potential move lately. Do you think London is a more likely landing spot for the Jags than Los Angeles?

  17. Interesting comparison but the NFL and Premier league are dramatically different in financial structure too.

    While NFL owners compete with one another in a sense, they’re also very much colleages at the same time, since they all operate under the salary cap structure. Premier league owners on the other hand have no such boundaries which is both good and bad. The Glazers can spend lavishly to assure themselves a position in the Champions League most of the time while other premier league teams cannot. The result is an imbalance of power where the same 4 to 5 teams are the only teams with any chance of winning the league title or going to Champions League in any given season. So essentially the rich get richer.

    Alternatively another group of clubs is challenged financially and the real struggle is simply to survive and remain in the premier league to avoid relegation to the second division.

    I like the NFL since it gives even small market clubs a chance to compete from year to year if they’re successful in terms of the draft and with free agency. The problem is once these guys become fat cat NFL owners, they’re sometimes more worried about hanging aroung the frat house with their other owners, with no real incentive to go out and build a stronger team if it doesn’t motivate them financially.

  18. The issues with the Bucs , Chris ? You tell me ? I mean who’s said to be the vocal leader on that team ? In his last season with the Bucs , Ronde Barber was about as useful as a used tampon .

    Coming into 2013 , there was absolutely no one on the team stepping up to the plate to assume any sort of leadership role . The best player on the roster last season may well have been Vincent Jackson , but where was he, as a seasoned veteran in terms of providing guidance to the younger players ?

    If all you can determine beyond the Glazers without adding to the fact that Greg Schiano and his coaching staff were so damn clueless last season . It simply adds to what I have reiterated about the Buccaneers and their fans .

    Buccaneers’ team stats (2013)

    Buccaneers’ payroll (cap-hit)

    Buccaneers’ free agents

    Bucs’ draft history

    Buccaneers’ transactions May 2013

    NFL team offense and defense (2013)

    Buccaneers’ schedule (2013)

    NFC East standings


    League standing

    tophatal …………..

  19. The vocal leader on the defense, Al, was supposed to see Revis. Not sure he stepped into that role.

    On the offense? V-Jx I guess but he also dropped a lot of balls.

    Let’s see how things progress next season. I can really see Lavonte David stepping into that role.

  20. Chris

    I think my e comments on the Buccaneers are pretty much sound ! Now let’s see any Bucs’ fan try to take contrary view . Lavonte David is going to step up and do what ? Anchor the defense and then lead by example ? It didn’t happen last season as can be borne out by the team’s overall defensive stats in the NFC and league as a whole . What makes you believe that there will be a marked improvement ? Are you basing that on Smith’s credentials ? Asses his coaching staff and tell me what you see by way of its makeup ?

    If Jackson has Mike Glennon and Josh Freeman throwing to him what did you expect was going to happen ?

    Lovie Smith and Jason Licht have their work cut out for them beyond the NFL Draft .

  21. Keep in mind, Al, David is only 24 years old. He has plenty of time to flourish into the leader of that defense if Gerald McCoy doesn’t want that role.

    There’s no saying they can’t both do it just like Sapp and Brooks did back in the day.

    I will agree with you that ‘throwing’ that sort of money at Darrelle Revis was probably not the right thing to do but it was the first time in a while that they had even done something like that so I think Bucs fans were just impressed they were spending money.

    Almost reminds me of when the Msgic spent all that money on Rashard Lewis, no?

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