The last laugh


Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, left, holds the George S. Halas trophy as quarterback Brad Johnson, center, and owner Malcolm Glazer, right, watch in the locker room after the Bucs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10, in the NFC Championship game.

Published: Friday, January 24, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 23, 2003 at 10:33 p.m.
San Diego Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer and his two sons were a laughingstock last year, frantically trying to find a coach after firing Tony Dungy and watching Bill Parcells back out of a deal. Now they're having the last laugh.
Their Buccaneers, for years a woefully inept NFL franchise, have made it all the way to the Super Bowl. And it's all because the Glazers wrested a high-octane taskmaster named Jon Gruden from the Oakland Raiders, which just happens to be the team the Bucs will play Sunday.
It cost the Glazers plenty - four high draft choices and $8 million, a bargain in hindsight. But Gruden's success also allowed the Glazers another luxury: obscurity. They can stay out of sight, which they prefer.
"Our goal is a championship," Glazer's son, Joel, said Thursday. "Once we were sure we were on the way there, we backed off and got out of the way. We leave the football to the football people."
Malcolm Glazer bought the Bucs in 1995 for $192 million, a value that's at least tripled since. Among the things he did was get Hillsborough County to build a new stadium and then he changed the Bucs' uniforms from putrid orange to cool pewter and red.
So symbolic of losing was the old, ugly color that when it was suggested this year that the Bucs wear the old jerseys for one game, the idea was immediately vetoed by the five players left from the old days - John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Karl Williams and Mike Alstott.
Papa Glazer made his money in a variety of ways, starting at age 15 when he took over the family watch business after his father died. Now he runs First Allied Corp., a conglomerate of businesses with an estimated worth of $1.5 billion.
For Joel, 35, and brother Bryan, 37, coming to work is a blast. They are lifelong NFL fans living their dream as owners of a franchise they helped turn around after their father bought it.
Growing up rooting for the Miami Dolphins, they used to hide behind trees to watch Don Shula run his team through practices. When they lived in Rochester, N.Y., they would brave the wrath of the Dolphin-hating fans of Buffalo by wearing Miami's colors there when their team came to town.
But unlike other owner-fans, notably Daniel Snyder of Washington and Jerry Jones of Dallas, they've refrained from meddling in personnel matters.
"They're the perfect owners," said general manager Rich McKay, one of the most respected and influential executives in the NFL. "They never dabble in personnel except where a budget decision of some kind is involved. They let Jon and I handle the football operations."
That wasn't the case during a six-week period last January and February when the Glazers fired Dungy, the first coach in Bucs history with a winning record, then went hunting for a big name to replace him. McKay was ignored in both the Dungy firing and the attempts to hire Parcells, who signed a contract, then backed out.
In fact, McKay was so upset he was left out of the loop that he almost quit to take the general manager's job in Atlanta.
McKay's attempt to hire Marvin Lewis from Baltimore was vetoed by the Glazers and he was not a major part of the dealings with the San Francisco 49ers regarding Steve Mariucci or the eventual deal to get Gruden.
He now says he understands what the Glazers were trying to do.
"It was a choice of either moving ahead or starting to rebuild," McKay said. "I think the Glazers thought we were treading water. In hindsight, they probably were right."

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