Ask Gary: Could the Bucs hire a CEO to run things?

by Gary Shelton on December 22, 2018 · 6 comments

in general

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After yet another losing season, it's the time of year to speculate what the Glazers might do with their coach and GM. Is there any chance that the Glazer boys might come to the conclusion that they really don't make great decisions on hiring GMs and coaches so the best thing they could do for the organization is to bring in someone to oversee the entire football operation with authority to evaluate and determine who should be the GM and Head Coach? Or is that completely unrealistic and we should expect more of the same with the Glazersdoing what they always do and make the hiring decisions on their own? If so, why would fans have any reason to expect they might get it right this time?

Larry Beller

Self-awareness is one of the key components to being a success in whatever field you work. A former Bucs employee once told me that you could get by with not being the sharpest tool in the shed as long as you're aware of it. It's when dumb guys think they're smart guys that trouble follows.

Larry, you're right. There ix no evidence that the Glazers have any of it. They got lucky with Tony Dungy, who turned out to be a brilliant hire. And as steep as the price was, their decision to trade for Jon Gruden worked for a year. They won the Super Bowl.

But since then, they've been desperate. They feared losing Raheem Morris, so they promoted him before he was ready and didn't spend any money. Morris was

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dreadful, but his superiors were worse.They never gave him a chance. Then they missed on Chip Kelley, who wasn't good, and panicked and hired Greg Schiano, who was too concerned with making sure the team pasta all matched (true story). They gagged on Lovie Smith, and it looks like they missed on Dirk Koettert.

So, yeah, the evidence is in that this isn't working at the top level. So why not change? Why not find an architect?

The thing is, if your general manager is solid, you don't really need that position. Basically, a team CEO (or whatever the title) has the same duties as the g.m. He's just one more voice in the room, so you better make sure you get a good one with a clear designation of duty. For instance, Tom Coughlin was a breath of fresh air last year; this year, you can smell the paper mill.

If you look, there are different ways to find success in the NFL. New England does it with one special guy. Others have split duties. But you don't win unless you're smarter than most of the others, and those guys are few.

Your bottom line is perfect. Frankly, there is no reason to suspect that this time will be different from the last four times they've hired a coach. The new guy will be warm, but he'll have a shaky quarterback and a bad defense and a lack of foresight from the front office.

What's the old saying? That if you don't learn from the past, you're doomed to repeat it? That seems to be the lesson with the Bucs, who have been running in (last) place for a very long time.

If it were my team, I'd talk to some people (starting with Tony Dungy) about adding his viewpoint to the front office. I don't care about titles. I'd let hire a good g.m., and the g.m. and new guy would hire the coach. It has to work better than the last few guys have been as a g.m. (Allen, Dominik, Licht) or coach (Koetter, Smith, Schiano, Morris).

I'd also evaluate my scouting department. Couldn't someone see the flaws in Ronald Jones last year? Just asking.

All I want for Christmas is for football season to be over, or should I say the Bucs' season, and I am a die-hard football fan as well as Bucs fan.

In 42 years of "Bucdom," I've obviously seen my share of disappointing seasons but this one has been mind boggling.  I have a better chance of being head coach next season than Koetter.  That said, I think Licht remains (not saying I agree with that, but...). The Glazers have tried the college route (Schiano), promote from within (Koetter, Morris), and tried bringing back retreads from our little bit of glory days (Lovie Smith).  That leaves finding the best NFL coordinator who will be like a McVay, a Belichick, a Dungy, or a Nagy.  Do you feel the Bucs focus/target an offensive mind or defensive?  I can see a good debate for either.

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce, over the years, the Bucs have tried to do it differently. Gruden was an offensive guy. Morris was defensive. Schiano was defensive. Smith was defensive. Koetter was offensive.

This time, I'm guessing that if they hire a new coach, he'll be on the offensive side. I'll tell you why.

I expect the Bucs to try to make it work with Winston, and to do that, they'll need a quarterback whisperer. They'll need someone who can groom Winston the way Jared Goff was groomed, the way Patrick Mahomes has been groomed. Most of the new rules seem to favor the offense.

If that happens, the new head coach will need a right-hand man on his defense, the way that Monte Kiffin was when he was here. That way, both sides of the ball have a chance to improve. But a team's quarterback is its most important asset. That's why so many teams have picked offensive coordinators through the years.

But you know what, Bruce. If you get the right guy, it doesn't matter. Don Shula was a defensive back when he played, but he ended up running the offense for the Dolphins. Bill Belichick was a defensive guy. But a head coach should be every players' coach, and he shouldn't hesitate to teach if he gets the chance.

For Winston's sake, I'd go offensive. You?

As other MLB teams embrace the “opener” concept going into the 2019 season, will the Rays competitive advantage diminish?

Scott Myers

It might. There aren't a lot of teams that can afford a lot of starting pitchers. The opener concept is a good way to maximize the back end of your rotation instead of asking an average pitcher to face hitters three times in a game.

But for whatever advantage the Rays had a. year ago, they did spend $30 million on a pitcher in free agency. They like the plan, but they don't want to use it full time. You're asking a lot of pitchers to be sharp on the same night and to take advantage of matchups.

I want to see it another year. Can Ryan Yarbrough have the same results? It's doubtful, even with a year's improvement. Can Blake Snell be such a workhorse again? It's possible, but wouldn't you expect some leveling off? Will the lack of a great closer hurt the Rays more this year than it did last year?

Don't fool. yourself. There are economics at play, too. So I'd expect the A's and Twins -- more than the Red Sox and Yankees -- to use the strategy.

Still, it gets down to getting the right pitcher against the right hitter most nights. It's like the strategy of using a closer -- which everyone does these days. It still matters how he's used before he can be effective.

Yeah, other teams will try it. But will be as committed to as the Rays? We'll see.

It's nice to see the Rays, coming off a 90-win season, spending free agent money. But Charlie Morton? A 35-year-old, injury-prone Charlie Morton? What gives?
Peter Kerasotis
Peter, most of us were thrilled to see the team finally spend some money. They didn't have to. They just wanted to make the team better, and for most fans, who don't feel the cost, that's enough.
But even a casual observer has to realize that age and injury are the risks that the Rays are taking. They need the guy who won 15 games and struck out 201 batters, not half of that.
As you know, however, there are often risks with free agency. You're talking about an older play with a possible history of injuries.
Will it work out? We'll see. But even if Morton spends some time on the DL, he'll be valuable if he's healthy enough to eat innings and stabilize the staff. That way, an opener may have to go 40 percent the time rather than 60.
Hey, it isn't my money. If he pitches, I'll watch. I'd rather this team take the occasional chance than sit pat.

It is so good to see the captain starting to find the back of the net again. The Bolts are very deep and every line can score, so its nice to see the first line coming back to life.

Richard Kinning

I know what you mean, Richard. It doesn't matter how often Yanni Gourde scores, or J.T. Miller. There is something right with the world when Stamkos is filling it up. For a long time, I thought he was content to be an assist guy to Nikita Kucherov. I wondered aloud how many of his skills that injuries had taken.

Lately, though, he looks close to the same old Stammer. And I think the rest of the team draws confidence from that. They know that in the big games, the ones that are so tight you can barely breathe, Stamkos will have a lot to say about who wins and who loses.

He'll never be a 60-goal-a-year scorer again, but he can be dangerous. He can make a difference.

I still remember the Christmas columns with rhymes to famous songs and your work with John Romano. Good stuff. Any particular memories from writing those? Happy Holidays.

Carlos Ubinas

Carlos, in all my years as a journalist, I never worked with anyone I like and admire more than John. He's a terrific guy and a terrific talent. I hope you've heard that he's coming back to sports, which is a very good news item for the Times.

John and I wrote in tandem. By that, I mean that if we were both in town, we always bounced our graphs, our thoughts, our approaches off of the other one. We did a podcast together. We traveled together. We went to concerts together. We were in a Michael Connolly novel together.

What I remember the most is the process in which we wrote those Christmas pieces. We'd pick out a Christmas song and start noodling and trying to make each other laugh. We had twin cubicles at work, mini-offices I guess, and you'd hear the other guy snicker at what you'd written. It was always snarky, and it was often funny. It made us laugh, anyway. No one was off-limits. We'd make fun of anyone. Especially each other.

Both John and I are huge music fans. So you'd come in and think of the song "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" and you'd twist the lyrics around and come up with "It's beginning to look a lot like draft picks." And then when it was the other writer's turn to write his couplet, he'd pick on the general manager. Or last year's draft pick.

Once, my friend (and John's) Tom Archdeadon of the Dayton Daily News and I were at the Olympics. Now, you have to understand the dynamic of being a co-columnist at a major paper. There is infighting for assignments, and for story positioning, and for travel. John and I decided early we weren't going to do that. No event was worth it.

Anyway, Tom turned to me once and said, "Just so you will know, I've never heard John say a negative word about you." And my response was "and I hope you never near me say a negative word about him.

It was fun to do those pieces, Carlos. I wish I had them on CD, by someone with a better voice than I have.

Who is it that thought all these secondary bowl games was a good idea? I would rather see teams that had at least 9 wins -- not 6 -- and I don't want to see teams that have lost 5 straight. Do you like the current setup?

Jim Willson

Of course not. It's devolved into just another gameshow for TV. These days, all it takes to get to a bowl game is six wins, and three of those can be against the Little Sisters of the Poor (they went to the Independence Bowl, I think).

There are too many bowl games, and sometimes, they come across as if they're playing an exhibition game for a studio audience. Have you seen the empty seats at some of these?

On the other hand, Jim, there have always been lesser bowls that have nothing to do with the National Championship. I covered a lot of bad Peach Bowls in my time. I covered the Belk Bowl and the Liberty and the Astro-Bluebonnet. (Remember them?)

They didn't seem quite as empty in those days, however. For one thing, there weren't as many of them. They're like insects these days. You cannot avoid them.

I also think the college playoffs changed things. These days, you have three teams that deserve to be in, and about seven that want to howl about it. So you have a lot of dissatisfaction to start with. No one is happy with a trip to Orlando. Heck, a lot of stars don't even play.

Honestly, I think we have changed more than the bowls. Again, there have always been bowl games that barely mattered. But if this year's USF team deserved a bowl game, well, we're inviting too many. I say we forget about expanding the playoffs and limit the bowls to, say, 20. Maybe 16. What do you think? That way making a bowl game would be something to be proud of, something to embrace.

As it is, the players are only there to sell Dr. Pepper.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Kinning December 23, 2018 at 12:06 pm

The college bowl system is just another game show for TV. Exactly! Wish the fans could do something about it.

Wish fans could do something about the Bucs ownership whose football intellect only goes to wins and losses then directly to the balance sheet. At least you would hope they would admit that they are not good judges of football front office talent and hire someone who is.

Merry Christmas Tampa Bay sports fans!

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Gary Shelton December 23, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Would it be wrong to say “bah, humbug?”

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Larry Beller December 22, 2018 at 7:58 am

There’s another old saying that applies to the Glazers – “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result”. That’s how the Glazers operate.

Malcolm Glazer hired Tony Dungy and Gruden so give him credit for that. I believe the Glazer sons made the other hires. Is that not correct? Certainly after Makcom’s stroke and death no good hires have come from this ownership.

Now we are in for another round of look at how new and shiny this coach or that GM is. Everyone will write and talk about how smart they are and how things will soon chance at One Buc. But then the losses continue to pile up and nothing changes.

And so it goes. Tampa Bay is a place where new head coaches come to fail. Will it always be so? The human condition says there must be hope but history says the guys making the decisions don’t have a clue. Something is rotten with this franchise and I think it’s sitting in the owner’s box.

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Gary Shelton December 22, 2018 at 8:22 am

Malcolm Glazer made a lot of money in his life, but he didn’t know football. His kids were right there in the decision making. You can’t separate one from the other. If you recall, Dungy wasn’t the popular choice. It was after Steve Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson said no.

No one is going to argue that the Glazers aren’t a huge part of the problem. Look at the tone that was set by the Rooney family in Pittsburgh, by Robert Kraft in New England. You have to be smart, and you have to hire smart people, and they have to draft smart people. See a trend? Not a lot of smart going on.

IF I were the Glazers, I’d study my past hirings, and the past hirings of other teams those same years. I’d find out where I went wrong. If it took another voice to straighten things out, I’d get him. If it took a better coach, I’d get him.

But I’ve written this before as coach after coach was canned. It wasn’t all those guys. It was the front office, and it was ownership. You and I both know, Larry, that if you put these comments in a time capsule, they’d be accurate in 10 years.

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Larry Beller December 22, 2018 at 2:55 pm

Well then I guess my theory of Malcolm running the show well when he was around and the kids running it into the ground after Malcolm’s stroke / death is incorrect. Maybe it was a “blind squirrel” thing that got us 2 good coaches (or 1.5 more accurately) when Malcolm was around.

My reasoning for wanting to hire a CEO type is that if there was another experienced, smart person in the organization guiding things along it would make for a better run team. Someone like Tony Dungy wouldn’t want the GM job but may be interested in providing counseling or top level guidance. The Glazers can’t do that. They don’t hire good people so we don’t get a strong GM you described who could turn the team around.

Something does need to change. The coaching / GM merry-go-round the team has been on in recent years is definitely not working.

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Gary Shelton December 22, 2018 at 10:34 pm

Dungy would be the perfect addition. He doesn’t step on toes. But the scouts used to complain that he would fall in love with guys who didn’t fit his scheme. He’d have to be careful of that. But a logical, reasoned, bright mind? I’m all for hiring that guy.

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