I want to preface this whole diatribe with a small caveat. There is a huge difference between supporting a team through good times and bad times as a fan, and monetarily supporting a team through good times and bad times. I’ve been getting hammered a little bit on boards for the Bucs by people claiming those who want to give up our tickets are fairweather fans. There is nothing that could be farther from the truth. You could love a company, but feel the way said company is being run is one that you wouldn’t want to support it by say buying stock for that company. This is the same principle.
I went to at least half of every home Bucs game from 1998-2002. In 2003, I procured my own set of season tickets, and until this season, had only missed 2 home games. One was because of the death of my grandfather, and one was due to a close friend getting married. During that time, I saw my ticket prices raise from $69 to $99. I also saw my parking rates rise from $10 to $25. If we take the average of those two costs, I have shelled out over $11,760 for my two seats, and $1,225 to park my vehicle @ Raymond James. That is almost $13,000. I had no problems paying the ticket prices coming off of a 7-9 campaign in 2003, a 5-11 campaign in 2004 and a 4-12 campaign in 2006, so slow down with the fairweather fan comments. I came back the next seasons, took my increase in parking and ticket prices, and went about being one of the most knowledgeable financially supportive fans this city has.
At the time, I felt the organization, at least at the GM spot and the Head Coaching position, was being run by very capable handlers. The Glazers at the time were still on a disturbing trend of spending less money every year on players, but even still, Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden were producing Division Titles and competitive teams. Besides the season that we had so many injuries that a rookie 6th rounder ended up being our leading passer (this was only because every QB in front of him got hurt), we had no seasons with less than 5 wins. The organization got a pass from me during that 2006 season, because every once in awhile in the NFL, luck is just not on your side.
After losing the last 4 games of the 2008 season, and ending up with a 9-7 record, it didn’t appear that there was going to be any change at the head coaching position. Monte Kiffin was leaving to become the Defensive Coordinator for his sons’ Tennessee Volunteers team, and we were going to promote a young and highly thought of defensive assistant to the Defensive Coordinator role. Over the years, the Bucs had lost a few valuable assistants to other teams during Jon Gruden’s regime. Joe Barry, Rod Marinelli, Tim Ruskell and Jerry Angelo (front office) and finally Mike Tomlin went on to coach or run front offices for other teams. The loss of Tomlin had to have been the one that hurt the Glazers the most, as he went on to win two Super Bowls with the Steelers. Here is where the problem truly arose. The Broncos decided they wanted to interview Raheem Morris along with Josh McDaniels for their head coaching position. The combination of his youth, his defensive mind, his future in the NFL as a probable hot name and the Rooney Rule, Heem was a perfect candidate to bring in and interview. The Glazers overreacted to this, fired Jon Gruden and hired Raheem Morris, so they wouldn’t lose him to another organization. This is what I like to call, excuse my language, shitting the bed. Nothing worse than overreacting to something in the business world, and that is exactly what the Glazers did.
From the start of his tenure, I was a little perturbed by Morris’ public speaking skills. The job of NFL head coach is certainly not one of public speaker and lecturer, but you can generally judge someones intelligence by listening to them speak. Heem didn’t have skills in this particular field. I won’t kill Morris for cutting all the veterans (Brooks, Galloway, Dunn, June) for two reasons. First, this was part of him taking the job, I’m convinced of this. The Glazers wanted to save some dollars, and Heem had to take the sword on this one. Secondly, none of those guys play anymore. So for all the stink everyone has made about those guys not being here anymore, none of them are playing in the league. Galloway is on the Pats roster, but, he doesn’t play, he doesn’t have it anymore. So the Morris regime had to take the sword for the Glazers and cut some beloved vets. I got it, most people didn’t, but I did.
I didn’t think that Josh Freeman was the answer, but then again, I’m not a scout, don’t get to watch film and don’t get to work guys out, so I always give the people in charge the benefit of the doubt on draft picks. I didn’t think that we needed to trade up to get him, I just didn’t see any team that needed a QB in front of us, but once again, I’ll give them a pass on this one. After the draft, the Morris regime proclaimed themselves “married” to Freeman.
I went to a lot of training camp. It was obvious, this team was going to be a below average team, just from watching them practice. Not enough run stoppers on the dline, not enough pass rushers on the dline, not enough dynamic playmaking weapons on offense. This was obvious to me at camp, but apparently not Morris. He thought we had such a chance to compete, that he decided to run with a veteran in Byron Leftwich as the QB, as he felt that the veteran gave us a better chance to win games. No marriage annulment or anything, just not ready for Freeman I guess, too worried about his psyche.
11 days before the start of the season, he fired an offensive coordinator, Jeff Jagodzinski, that he and Dominik hired in the offseason. They cited a difference of opinion on philosophy!!! This is hilarious to me. Isn’t this something that you might want to discuss and agree upon before HIRING THE GUY.
So here we go into the season, with a QB who is not good, a QB who were supposed to be married too on the bench, a new offensive coordinator (a holdover from the Gruden regime) and a new defensive scheme. Three games in, 0-3 out goes Leftwich in comes Josh Johnson. This was a waste of time because Johnson was never going to get a real shot at the spot. At the end of week 7, in England, Josh Freeman was inserted into the starting lineup, and was proclaimed the starter for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, we waited 7 weeks to put the highest ceiling QB behind center. We won our first game in week 9, with Freeman at the helm, then proceeded to lose our next two games, to end up 1-9 in our first 10.
Next came another firing of a coordinator. Jim Bates, another hire from Dominik and Morris was fired citing the exact same reasons as the firing of Jagodzinski, and leaving me with the exact same feelings, YOU HIRED THIS GUY.
In our next 6 games, we won the grossest game ever vs the Seahawks, got lucky against the Saints, then lost the second ugliest game ever at home to end the season. That left us with a 3-13 record.
The next day, even with the greatest slate of available coaches I can ever remember not coaching football teams, we told Raheem and Dominik that they could be lame duck coaches and fulfill their contracts which run through 2010.
The reason for this in my mind is for one reason and one reason only. With the potential for a lockout in 2011, it seems almost inevitable at this point, and Raheem’s contract running through only the end of the next season, there was no real intention of bringing in another coach. Damned the product on the field. You couple that with the fact that Jon Gruden wanted to stick it to the Bucs (I don’t blame him) for firing him; the Glazers still must pay Gruden his 2010 salary, and you have your reason why we’ve been told as fans that the Glazers are going to continue what they started with Raheem Morris. They didn’t want to pay Morris, Gruden and coach X who undoubtedly would have been signed through a season that the owners lock out the players. Why not just let our lame duck coach, the one who finished 3-13 finish out his contract, go into the lockout with no coach, thus no salary to pay, and move on after that?
Well enough is enough for me. Cheapness, mishandling of situations, and the total disregard for the product on the field has me fed up. Barring a significant drop in my season ticket prices (currently $99 p/game) I can’t come back. It’s fiscally irresponsible. I got friends who scalp tickets to every game for no more than 15 bucks, and they sit right around my $99 dollar tickets. I can’t do it. I won’t even go scalp tickets next year to be honest. It’s the same principle. If I go scalp tickets, I’m still contributing to the pockets of owners who don’t care about us fans anymore.
Goodbye RayJay. You used to be my escape from reality, the thing I looked forward to most all year long. My 10 dates with you per year were always a special experience. I will miss you.