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Simon Veness says the Glazer family are still proving Tampa

Features Posted 30th April 2014 view comments

I have a new word for you this week - Draftesthesia.

It is the condition of putting people to sleep with too much talk about the NFL draft. And we have it right now in spades. In fact, in all four suits, plus the joker.

We are overdone, bloated, cooked, zoned out. We have had more than we can take of mock drafts, draft analysis and selection choices. It has all gone on for far too long and too deeply. We are past the point of caring. We have been draftethetised.

The Glazer brothers.

The Glazer brothers.

The simple reason, of course, is this year's New York countdown-fest is two weeks later than normal (due to the Radio City Music Hall not being available on its usual date), so we have had to endure SO much more punditry and hot air than is typically the case.

The draft should have been held last week but, instead, the league has made a point to keep the pot boiling (some would say it has dried up completely) for a full 14 days of paralysis by analysis, and grown men are throwing themselves off tall buildings at the mere mention of the No.1 pick - even if someone is referring to something you strum a guitar with.

In fact, the torture has been intensified by The Commish's suggestion last week that next year's draft could even be kept at this relatively late date - and extended to four days instead of three.

And that great crash you just heard was much of Wall Street jumping off the Empire State.

No, it is too much. We want our draft back at the usual time of year and, if anything, we'd like it spread over just two days instead of three, thank you very much. Less CAN sometimes be more, you know.

So, in deference to the fact the mere word can put people in a coma, I'm not going to write about the draft this week (I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it).

Instead, I have a story from nearby Tampa where, it seems, the Glazer family name is not the thick, brown substance (i.e. mud) it seems to be in Manchester, where the United of that parish have miserably failed to flourish under a new head coach and have missed out on the Champions League for the first time since Sir Alex of Stretford was a nipper.

Chosen one

Yes, the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the United faithful has reached these central Floridian parts (actually, with wall-to-wall Premier League coverage on NBC these days, it's hard to miss it), so I thought I would offer a comparative story of how the denizens of Tampa are coping with a similar situation.

In many ways, Greg Schiano was hailed as 'the chosen one' when he arrived to take over the Buccaneers in 2012 fresh from an impressive extended stint with a relatively minor league programme (for Everton, read Rutgers), and was ready to take the team to new heights.

Admittedly, Schiano's brief was to return the Glazers' pigskin franchise back to the play-off pinnacle they last reached in 2007 (i.e. five successive years of inhabiting the gridiron wasteland), whereas David Moyes simply had to carry on winning the league, the cup, the Champions League and everything else in between, but the similarity still holds up.

The ex-Rutgers head coach also managed to survive two years to Moyes' one (and he managed just 11 wins in total, as compared to the 18 chalked up by the ex-Everton boss this season), but the comparisons between the two are inescapable.In both cases, the Glazer family acted with swift ruthlessness to make the change and it is at this point that Man Utd fans might want to take notice. Because things in Tampa have taken a major turn for the better before we have even got to this year's draft (Damn! I mentioned it again. Sorry).

In opting for former Chicago head coach Lovie Smith, the Glazers have scored a major publicity coup with their fans, not just because Smith is 'coming home' to the Bucs, having been their linebackers coach under Tony Dungy, but because it has restored the club's sense of purpose and hope.

After five years of being the NFC South doormats, the Buccaneers are ready to set sail again in full force, with a far greater determination and direction than at any time under the Schiano regime and with the full backing of the fans, too.

I talked to Tampa Tribune beat writer Roy Cummings this week about how the Glazers are perceived in their corner of Florida, as opposed to Manchester, and was slightly surprised to hear a whole-heartedly ringing endorsement.

He told me: "I have to say, I think it is the most excited I have seen the fan base since Jon Gruden was here. That's not to say anyone thinks they'll win the Super Bowl again straight away, but people are being realistic about things and can see the franchise moving forward positively again."


But aren't Bucs fans worried their team might get overlooked in the all-encompassing search for a new United head coach?

"No," Roy insisted. "I think the way the family has been set up, with Joel having the prime focus for Man Utd and Bryan doing the same for the Buccaneers, fans realise things have been parcelled out but each organisation then comes together to make the biggest decisions.

"There has also been a long stretch of figuring things out and people now think there is a legitimate NFL head coach running the show again."

Roy was also illuminating about how quickly Tampa have regained their mojo after the wayward misery of last season's 4-12 campaign (with an 0-8 start), when it looked like they were holding open auditions to see if they could be worse than Jacksonville on the other side of the state (and more about them soon).

In his view, Smith has rapidly assembled a credible coaching staff with a no-nonsense attitude that is partly based around making the team tougher to beat, but also benefits from a more community-orientated approach from the family.

He added: "I think their reputation has improved over the years and fans are more educated now as to how these things work. The Glazers have ensured an element of respect and visibility - now it's up to the coaches to do their part."

So, United fans can at least take heart from the Buccaneer experience going forward. We are still a LONG way from being able to inspect the proof of the pudding, but the baking process is certainly encouraging.

And Tampa followers can be assured there is a lot better in store for their team in 2014. That 4-12 record told just part of the story last year as three of their first four losses were by a total of six points, while they were defeated at the hands of the all-conquering CenturyLink Seahawks only in overtime.

Players like Gerald McCoy, Bobby Rainey, Timothy Wright and Lavonte David showed more than flashes of true talent, while the free agent additions of quarterback Josh McCown - arguably one of 2013's big success stories - Michael Johnson and Alterraun Verner (replacing Darrelle Revis) all promise bigger and better things as well.

As for the draft, well, there's still another week to go before we can actually arrive at the most meaningful part of the NFL off-season, and that's another week of pointless pontificating and vacuous verbalising from the various talking heads about their mock version 223.0.

Just seven more days...if we can survive that long.

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