Joel Glazer has been reading all week about how "lucky" he and the rest of the family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were to land Jon Gruden as their coach last February, a move that has paid off in the team's first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
"We've been hearing about being lucky all of our lives," said Glazer, one of principal owner Malcolm Glazer's six children. Joel, 35, and his brothers Bryan and Edward are each team executive vice presidents. "The way we look at it, hard work and dedication generally brings good luck."
All this good fortune also came at a considerable price. The Bucs gave up two No. 1 picks, two No. 2 picks and $8 million to compensate Oakland owner Al Davis for letting Gruden out of his final year of his contract to coach their team. The family also was portrayed as a collection of rank amateurs in football matters who fortuitously bumbled into Gruden, but only after Bill Parcells backed out of a contract and a coaching search directed by General Manager Rich McKay was totally ignored by the owners.
McKay wanted to hire then-Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, and also had been talking to San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci. But the Glazers essentially eliminated McKay from the search process, and at one point he even interviewed to become the Atlanta Falcons' general manager.
McKay, a Tampa native whose father, John, was the Bucs' first coach, eventually came back into the Bucs' fold "because it was the only team I'd ever really known." When asked today about what appeared to be a fiasco of a coaching search, Joel Glazer said only: "We view that as all in the past. It's not what we're thinking about right now. We're focusing on Sunday. We do feel fortunate to have Jon Gruden. He's one in a million, everything we ever hoped for."
Did they pay too much for him?
"You can't judge these things today, just like you can't judge a draft the day it happens," he said. "I'd say the early returns are favorable. At the time Don Shula went from Baltimore to Miami [in 1969], they gave up a number one choice which was worth five times what it is now because you built your team through the draft, and had no other choice."
The Glazers also took considerable heat last year when they fired popular Tony Dungy to set off the bizarre events that followed. Dungy transformed this once woebegone franchise into a consistent playoff contender over his six-year tenure, but never was able to get the team into a Super Bowl.
"It was one of, if not the toughest things we had to do in our lifetime," Joel Glazer said. "He's a huge part of the reason we're where we are here today."
The Glazers also are here today because they paid $198 million to purchase the team from the estate of original owner Hugh Culverhouse. Over the last seven years, father and sons have kept a mostly low profile in league meetings, and virtually nonexistent profile with the media covering their team. Today, Bryan and Joel each handled a series of 15-minute one-on-one interviews with various publications in separate hotel rooms at the Bucs' team headquarters in La Jolla. Malcolm was not involved.
"They're businessmen, not football men, and this is a hobby to them," one NFL team executive said of the family. "You'll never hear them talk about football issues at league meetings. They want to know the bottom line."
Still, according to Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Malcolm Glazer has been "a godsend to us. He put us in lovely uniforms. He took us out of icicle orange. He built us a lovely stadium to play in and the whole city is crazy for him. . . . You have to realize some of the people that were there before he took over. Culverhouse took the profits of the Bucs and put it into every business he had.
"One day he walked into the locker room and said he'd just found some money. What do you mean, found some money? You should have been putting it into the program a long time ago, and you would have had a better product."
Malcolm Glazer, a native of Rochester, N.Y., is president and CEO of First Allied Corporation, which serves as a holding company for the family's widespread and extremely lucrative business interests. According to the Bucs, he owns, controls or is the largest shareholder of companies with $1.5 billion in sales and more than 17,000 employees in businesses ranging from food service and packaging companies to broadcasting, real estate, health care, banking, natural gas and oil.
Malcolm lives in Palm Beach; Joel and Bryan essentially are in Tampa running the Bucs day to day, with Joel serving primarily as the family's football liaison and Bryan handling the business side. Edward lives in Los Angeles and coordinates the team's and family's philanthropic arm. Joel went to American University in Washington, and lived in Montgomery County for 10 years until his father bought the team. His wife, Angela, is a Potomac native.
Joel and Bryan "are involved in everything," Joel said today. "We all know what's going on, and we oversee all aspects. We handle the day-to-day operations, but my father knows everything that's going on. We're all very involved."