Commentary | Legacy of Tampa Bay Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer open to interpretation

Dungy firing, Manchester United purchase dim glory of world title

adell@bradenton.comMay 28, 2014 

TAMPA

The life of Malcolm Glazer will always be an enigma.

He will be remembered as the man who rescued the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the Hugh Culverhouse estate.

But many will never forgive him for firing head coach Tony Dungy, one of the most beloved individuals ever connected to the franchise.

Glazer bought the Bucs in 1995 for a then-NFL-record purchase price of $192 million. He turned the organization into a winning franchise that won its only Super Bowl in 2003.

Malcolm Glazer died on Wednesday at the age of 85. He suffered the first of two strokes in 2006.

The last time Malcolm Glazer saw the Bucs in person was in September 2007 in the Bucs home opener against New Orleans. He was given a game ball by then-head coach Jon Gruden after the game.

Gruden had many reasons to love Malcolm Glazer. The owner gave the coach his best opportunity to win a Super Bowl.

With Glazer's sons Joel, Bryan and Ed responsible for the daily operation of the franchise, the Bucs produced multiple winning seasons and went from laughingstock to model franchise.

But Malcolm Glazer also riled many feathers when he fired Dungy following the 2001 season. Dungy was the winningest head coach in franchise history.

Glazer hired Gruden to head the team the following season, and the Bucs won the Super Bowl.

The Glazers spared no expense in getting Gruden to coach their franchise, paying the Oakland Raiders $8 million and giving them four draft picks to get Gruden.

"He came from heaven and he brought us to heaven," Glazer said. "We were waiting for the right man and the right man came -- Jon Gruden," a statement that to this day does not sat well with part of the Tampa Bay community.

Despite the historic triumph, many longtime Dungy followers have never forgiven the owner. Arguments that Gruden won with Dungy's team still have plenty of life.

"Malcolm Glazer was the guiding force behind the building of a Super Bowl-champion organization. His dedication to the community was evident in all he did, including his leadership in bringing Super Bowls to Tampa Bay," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "Malcolm's commitment to the Bucs, the NFL and the people of the Tampa Bay region are the hallmarks of his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Linda, their six children and the entire Glazer family."

Glazer further angered Bucs fans when he purchased the Manchester United soccer club for $1.5 billion in 2005. It upset Manchester fans who felt their franchise would be financially short-changed, claims both fan bases have clung to.

It would be hard to argue that the reign of Malcolm Glazer was a failure. How much his career can be called a success is open to interpretation.

Glazer showed the courage of his convictions, which is no small thing.

The city of Tampa played host to two Super Bowls during his time, and he turned the franchise into a winner following nearly two decades of losing.

The Glazer family fired Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen after the 2008 season when the team went through a late-season collapse and has continued to slide under head coaches Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano, both of whom have since been fired.

The hiring of Lovie Smith this offseason is a sign many see that the Glazer family is dedicated to turning the franchise around.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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