Locker-Room Culture Change Starts Now

Under owner Malcolm Glazer, the Bucs won the first Super Bowl in franchise history in 2003. (Dave Martin/AP)
Under owner Malcolm Glazer the Bucs won the first Super Bowl in franchise history in 2003. (Dave Martin/AP)

Malcolm Glazer’s quiet legacy.

Glazer, who died Wednesday at 85, was a stealth owner if there ever was one. The longtime owner of the Bucs—he bought them from Hugh Culverhouse in 1995—very seldom spoke publicly, and he’d gotten even more reclusive after suffering a stroke eight years ago, leaving the operation of the team to sons Joel, Bryan and Edward.

Tampa Bay won one Super Bowl under Glazer’s ownership, the Jon Gruden-led title 12 years ago, after Glazer made the difficult decision to fire Tony Dungy and go with new blood. But it’s Dungy who is part of Glazer’s real legacy, both to the Bucs and to the game. The Glazers, in their two decades as owners, have hired three African-American coaches—Dungy, Raheem Morris and Lovie Smith. No other owner in NFL history has hired as many African-American coaches. That should be the significance of Glazer’s run in the NFL—he was colorblind at a time when many teams, and owners, in the league were not.

“Yes, it is notable,’’ Dungy said over the weekend. “He hired me when there was still trepidation by some people. And he may not have made the final decision on Lovie, but he set the tone in the organization and he put the mindset in his sons to look at people impartially. He and I had many conversations about relationships and how you treat others. That was very important to him.”

The Glazers have hired five coaches. Dungy turned the franchise from sad-sack losers to annual contenders. Gruden finished the job. Raheem Morris largely failed, lasting three years. Greg Schiano didn’t have a long-enough chance (two years), but he failed too. Now Smith takes over. No one around the NFL will remember many impassioned speeches by Glazer. But his actions spoke louder. The league should hold him up as an example of hiring the best guy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

* * *

The graying of the league.

NFL ownership is aging. Four teams in the last eight months have had a transition in ownership with the death of principal owners. And 13 other teams have principal owners who are more than 70 years old. The recent deaths:

Oct. 21: Tennessee owner Bud Adams, 90.
March 9: Detroit owner William Clay Ford, 88.
March 25: Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, 95.
May 28: Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer, 85.

And the aging: Virginia McCaskey (Chicago) 91, Alex Spanos (San Diego) 90, Tom Benson (New Orleans) 86, Dan Rooney (Pittsburgh) 81, Bill Bidwill (Arizona) 82, Mike Brown (Cincinnati) 78, Jerry Richardson (Carolina) 77, Bob McNair (Houston) 76, Stephen Ross (Miami) 74, Robert Kraft (New England) 73 on Thursday, Jerry Jones (Dallas) 71, Arthur Blank (Atlanta) 71 and Pat Bowlen (Denver) 70.

Of course, in many of the places where owners are aging, teams have strong family plans in place. Dean Spanos is a well-respected presence at league meetings for the Chargers, as is Art Rooney II for Pittsburgh, Katie Blackburn (Mike Brown’s daughter) for the Bengals, Michael Bidwill for the Cards, Jonathan Kraft for the Patriots and Stephen Jones for Dallas.

John Mara has emerged in a leadership position in the league now, and Clark Hunt too, after the deaths of their influential dads Wellington with the Giants and Lamar with the Chiefs. It’ll be interesting to see who’s next to take power in league circles as the graying of the league continues. I think Jonathan Kraft, Art Rooney II and Blackburn—all very smart, all well-respected in their ways—will be ones to watch over the next decade.

* * *

Falcons owner Arthur Blank (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Falcons owner Arthur Blank (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Arthur Blank is very bullish on expanding the NFL’s borders.

My Q&A with the Atlanta owner:

The MMQB: What’s the short- and long-term future of the NFL in Europe?

Blank: The games in London, I think are a tribute to the NFL, a tribute to the fans there, the quality of the game—and I think that it’s proved conclusive that fans will come out when they see the real players playing games that are really meaningful, as opposed to NFL Europe. So I think—and all three of the games for 2014 sold out immediately, 240,000 tickets—the league, as you know, has been in discussion about a fourth game, in discussion about games beyond that. There’s been discussion about potentially having a franchise in London. I’m very optimistic. The approach that the international committee and the commissioner have taken is, ‘Let’s do London right, and then move from there to potentially somewhere else.’ I’m sure there are wonderful cities in Europe, and elsewhere.

The MMQB: Is it more likely there would be a franchise in London or that there would be six to eight games a season?

Blank: I think it will lead to [a team]. I think it will start with an increased number of games. That will be translated into a very successful series of games, and eventually, I think a franchise. And maybe more than one. London’s a big city … I think eventually having that many games says that we really are playing a season in London, so we probably ought to have a team here. I think it will be a natural progression to a team.

The MMQB: In how many years?

Blank: Less than you’d think. The success has been remarkable, and I don’t see any reason why it’s going to slow down.

The MMQB: How about Los Angeles? This is the 20-year anniversary of the last NFL game there. 

Blank: I think there will be one or more teams there in the future. Clearly, in terms of the media market, it’s not made a difference. We’ve had great success—all of our media partners are thrilled with the ratings, etc. But I think to not have one or more teams in L.A., over an extended period of time, on the surface it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So I think that eventually there will be a team in L.A. It’s a matter of getting the stadium puzzle, getting the public/private partnership puzzle—getting all that worked through and worked out. I can’t see the NFL ignoring the city long-term. The public/private partnership balance in the state of California is pretty tricky these days. You talk to the 49ers. You talk to the Chargers. [San Diego president] Dean Spanos could probably write a book on it.

The MMQB: What worries you about the future of the league? Overexposure? Pricing fans out?

Blank: You have to worry a little bit about overexposure. When I grew up, it was Sunday at 1 o’clock. That was it. Now it’s Sunday at 1, Sunday evenings, Monday night, Thursday night—it’s a lot. Clearly the demands for the product are incredible, so I’m not being critical. I think the league has exposed their product appropriately and increases exposure at a reasonable rate, because of the demand. You talk to the over-the-air broadcasters and they can’t live without it. What worries me in any successful business is a word called complacency. Complacency in any organization can creep in. It depends on the leadership to make sure that it doesn’t creep in. I think that Roger will not bow down to that. I think the people who he surrounds himself with, and the owners, they feel that way. But that’s always the danger. This is a competitive world for people’s time. It’s a competitive time for their financial resources. My sense of Roger after eight years … Roger is always running scared. I don’t mean that in a negative way. When I was running Home Depot, I’d be the same way. You’re always looking for things that could be issues. It’s required even more so when the organization is doing extraordinarily well. By every measure, the NFL is doing extraordinarily well. But you can’t take anything for granted. Anything. I think the minute you do is the minute you start getting in trouble.

At Home Depot, I’ll tell you a little side story—we used to bring in people from the outside all the time. We were growing the company at an incredible rate. We’d bring in some senior executives periodically and they would always come back and say to me that you would think that this company is on the verge of bankruptcy. We were growing the company at a rate of something like 48 percent a year. We’d bring in people who’d look at us and say, ‘You guys spend all your time focusing on things that are opportunities and things that are wrong. You can’t even believe how successful this company is.’ My sense in the NFL is that there is a tremendous amount of time spent looking at things that we can do better, as opposed to celebrating the successes of the league. I think that’s healthy and required when you have the kind of success that we have.

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443 comments
Mat X
Mat X

What, no excerpt from  Barack 0bama's epic commencement speech at West Point?  Where is the love?

johng721
johng721

If Smith/Vick is over, why did you have to write 2 points on it.  Like your column but you're adding to the nonsense

BruceWayneBasa
BruceWayneBasa

"That should be the significance of Glazer’s run in the NFL—he was colorblind at a time when many teams, and owners, in the league were not" - Please don't use the phrase "colorblind", that phrase is an oxymoron and false and minority folks like myself call BS on that......talk to your friends who are minority and get educated on why that term is insulting....

MickPatrick
MickPatrick

This is beyond parody: The NFL's sensitivity sessions are being held in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Be nice, boys.

metalhead65
metalhead65

I know it is all about the money but wouldn't you think goodell and the owners would want to listen the fans before they make changes to the game? nobody wants to see the playoffs expanded just so the cowboys can make them or a team with a good record could not win when they should have and did not make them. nobody wants the league to turn into hockey and the nba where everyone but the worst of the worst make it. and make no mistake when they do expand and the league makes more money because of it they will do it again. fans do not care that there is not a team in la la land and could care even less about one over seas. football is a American sport and should stay they way. the games sells out because it is a curiosity for them and another excuse to get drunk for a day but they do not know what they are watching or care about it. as for the culture change that is just what the game needs to slow it down are a bunch of stupid penalties for name calling. enough of the pc nonsense and let them play football! they are grown men and if someone is bullying them then stand up for yourself! it used to be if you stood for yourself even if you got your butt kicked you stopped being picked on.

ianlinross
ianlinross

Teams in Europe? Gimme a break. Can Goodell just maintain what's there? Does he have shareholders to answer to? Leave it alone.

wlewisiii
wlewisiii

Re: the greying of the league.


Green Bay. All teams should be owned that way. 

skanee00
skanee00

American football is an uniquely American experience. Keep the NFL in America. Let the foreign countries start their own leagues if they want teams.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

he couldn't have included people erick legrande.  also most nfl fans if you ask them, why do you care about growing the game in london, as i bet you ask these owners that have the london game there fuming because they lose a home date, and this year you're going to ask lions fans get up at 6 am to watch your team

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

I predict the Raider defense will be a top 12 defense this year go Raiders.

EmmettJohnson
EmmettJohnson

So what your telling us is that 2 of the best coaches in the game, Belichick and Payton, have no respect for you, yet the problem lies with them and not you. Peter, i think you needed a longer look in that mirror.

John4
John4

The number on the Giants player's helmet does not match his jersey.  Why is that?

gary7
gary7

This how I like my Peter King, great 25....not the GM King or the Anonymous Source King

TomTofTampa
TomTofTampa

Peter,  Re your list of Classiest NFL people?  I know you say you missed some.....but no Tony Dungy???? Here in Tampa there's nobody in the NFL more deserving of the title "CLASSY".  Ask Derrick Brooks or Warren Dunn, two guys (deservedly) on your list, if they'd give up their place to have Tony on your list. No doubt in my mind on that question.


riverotter1968
riverotter1968

Love how Arthur Blank totally dodged the question of pricing fans out.

connorjohn508
connorjohn508

want to watch football players play football, and I could care less if they drink beer, smoke pot, or eat pancakes on their off-time. If they are a habitual user and risk taker the law will catch up to them and punish them accordingly (and the NFL can follow suit). It's tough to lose some of the most exciting players in football because of an issue that has more to do with an outdated moral system than harm to the game (or, arguable, to anyone). People justify the punishment by saying that "you have to be an idiot to fail a drug test in the NFL", shifting the culpable act from the recreational activity to the act of being simple minded. Since when has the NFL punished dumb players? I could really care less about the intelligence of Josh Gordon or Daryl Washington so long as they are not injuring innocent people... I mean, Ray Rice SLUGGED A GIRL IN THE FACE AND KNOCKED HER OUT but instead of a per se suspension (i.e., second time positive test), we wait for it to play out... as if some magical reason to justify punching a woman's brains in will arise in Rice's defense. I am not a Browns fan, nor am I a Cardinals fan, but I am a fan of the game and 2014 is now a year that those teams can never get back.... all because of a harmless recreational activity. It just doesn't seem right, and it doesn't help provide the product we as fans want to see. Peter King often makes connections between the NFL and broader society to show the leagues role beyond the hash marks.... Here is another opportunity for the league to affect social progress, because here, like in broader society, it is the drug policy and not the drugs that are doing the most damage.


P.S., an example of how other industries are struggling/adapting to the changing moral system, the FBI just went to Congress about the difficulty of hiring the best and brightest because many of those individuals indulge in the recreational use of marijuana. (http://fortune.com/2014/05/28/does-the-fbis-marijuana-policy-breed-dishonest-applicants/)

DickKeefe
DickKeefe

Peter - you forgot to include commencement speech remarks from Condoleezza Rice.  Oh wait...


Dan Hodous
Dan Hodous

6 pages - 25 years.. congrats but without one mention of anything for the Chicago Bears my proof of BIAS against them has now been proven beyond a shadow of any doubt.

vspoke
vspoke

Nice pic of Pete pressed up against a bent-over ball player.

Dani
Dani

'dumb story of this offseason' ! Yep ! For sure. Smith will be the starting QB. Why ? Vick does not getting  younger. And on the first injury ( it's gonna happen ) there will be no doubt on who will be the starting QB.

guykingii1
guykingii1

I have a problem with the Saints'   "bounty scandal" not being regrettable... when even PK recognized that many teams ran their own versions of the same effort.  Leaving out context details makes it easier to pick highlights and lowlights.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

I still don't get how Peter calls the Saints the best story of the last 25 years.



Pat Tillman's selfless decision to serve his country and turn down a million dollar plus contract to join the military was my favorite.  He paid the ultimate sacrifice for it.  Although he was killed by friendly fire, it does not diminish the role that he played or the inspiration he is to so many Americans.  In a time in our culture when the sports world stories are dominated by greed and bad behavior, this one made many of us proud.


The Saints story is murky at best.


JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@metalhead65


I don't think racial slurs have a place anywhere and whether you like it or not NFL players are looked up to by kids.  Parenting can only go so far, but I don't want to be at a game when someone on the field is slinging that cr^p out of their mouth around the kids.  It isn't all about the players.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@metalhead65


I disagree.  We have all seen too many times when a cr^ppy team wins their division with an 8-8 record only to have a 10-6 or 11-5 team not make the playoffs because they were in a tougher division.  Look at what happened to Arizona last season.  They went 10-6 in a division with Seattle and San Francisco and don't make the playoffs.  Green Bay gets in at 8-8-1 because they win the North.  Both teams deserve a shot in the playoffs.  I don't have a problem with a slightly expanded playoff to eliminate these kind of problems.  


I think most football fans don't care about this particular expansion as much as they care about having an expanded playoff format in college football.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@ianlinross


I don't care for the teams in Europe deal because we already hear too much about jet lag from coast to coast.  

olmanwinter
olmanwinter

@EmmettJohnson Yeah, because Belichek and Payton (Spygate and Bountygate, respectively) are the kind of stand up, morally sound fellas you hope for approval from.

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

@TomTofTampa Tony Dungy is to religious for a liberal moon bat like Peter King but I agree very classy guy should have been mentioned

John4
John4

@Dan Hodous Yes, BIAS.  After all, the Bears were great for ONE SEASON.  

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@guykingii1


So you are saying because other teams did it then it was ok?  That's stupid!

olmanwinter
olmanwinter

@JimSmith4 Tillman's story is not really a football story though is it? The politics surrounding it are messy. 

The Saints, and their impact on the city of New Orleans post-Katrina is an amazing story. 

guykingii1
guykingii1

@JimSmith4 The murky part is how everybody forget other teams had their version of a bounty on opposing teams.  Highlights are easy to pick out when journalists leave out any semblance of detail in the context.  But "best" and "worst" are absolutes which are impossible to prove.

Scramble
Scramble

@JimSmith4 If someone had attacked us and he was going to defend our country, then it is a great story.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@olmanwinter


The Saints and their story comes with baggage.  Bountygate swept under the rug to try to dog and pony a feel good story.  


The circumstances surrounding Tillman's death were cloudy until the investigation was finished and I believe that it was important to display those facts of what happened that day.  


Friendly fire does occur on the battlefield, but it in no way detracts from the service and ultimate sacrifice made by that individual.  The public needs to understand this about war.  I am not going to argue about what war is or about what that war was or what it was about.  I am going to support those serving us in the military because ultimately they do not make the political decisions.  The serve when called and I am grateful for that.


Regardless of how he died what mattered about this story was the choice he made to serve his country in a time of perceived need and that he walked away from a profession that by all accounts he loved dearly because he felt it was his duty.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@olmanwinter


Completely disagree with that point.  The politics are not messy.  He chose to serve his country regardless of any political leanings.  


He was a highly successful pro football player that passed up a contract worth millions to serve his country.  It is absolutely a football story.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@guykingii1


So you are saying because other teams did it then it was ok?  That's stupid!

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@Scramble


I am supportive of our military personnel without the right/left leanings.  They serve when called.  Period.

Mike26
Mike26

@MickPatrick @olmanwinter @EmmettJohnson They might be really bright guys but it's hard to respect them with the garbage they've pulled over the years - or garbage they've ALLOWED over the years.  Both deserve disdain for their arrogance in that regard.  Payton has won ONE Super Bowl in 7 seasons and hasn't sniffed it since.  Belichick has dominated a mostly-weaker division for a decade but hasn't won a title since Spygate FOR WHATEVER reason.  They are both good coaches/strategists but as management types aren't overwhelmingly effective.

arthur3
arthur3

@JimSmith4 @guykingii1  It's not that. It's that the whole thing turned out to be crap, seized upon to prove the NFL's concern for it's players (I mean dollars).. 50,000 pages of so-called documents; film of the "give me my money" clip; etc. etc. Mary Jo White impaired her integrity by declaring that they had it locked. What did they come with? About 5 handwritten pages from a coach that was fired and an audiotape of Williams the loudmouth before a game in which NO had no penalties and the only player knocked out was Pierre Thomas on a helmet to helmet hit by Whitner. It was so worthless that Goodell's patron Tagliabue threw out all the charges and held specifically that no money ever changed hands nor was there any evidence of a deliberate attempt by any player to hurt anyone. But he couldn't humiliate Goodell completely and the season suspensions were already up for everyone except Payton, so he let that slide. Peter King bought the whole thing hook, line and sinker, and now says he was justified in doing so.I like King's work, but it's no wonder Payton has no time for him.

duder
duder

@JimSmith4 @Scramble of course they deserve support and sympathy -- but the wars themselves are immoral and imperial. 

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@arthur3 @JimSmith4 @guykingii1


Oh please with the nonsense already.  The reason the suspensions were allowed to "slide" as you put it and the supposed lawsuits from players didn't materialize is because the NFL realized that they could be opening up a Pandora's box due to the rumors that a few other teams did the same.  


No matter what the NFL always spins it just like King for the survival of their enterprise.  


If you believe there were no bounties you are just another Saints fan drinking the Kool-Aid. 

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@duder


That's your opinion.  Regardless of your political views, it does not change what kind of character Pat Tillman had that has made many of us proud.

arthur3
arthur3

The player suspensions did not slide. They were OVERTURNED. No money changed hands means Tagliabue found no evidence of bounties being paid. You need to get your facts right. Or maybe you can prove Tagliabue was on the take.

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@arthur3


All to preserve the NFL.  Just like concussions and every other laughable thing that they do.  Its all about the money.  They know public image doesn't mean squat to most of their fans.

arthur3
arthur3

Oh I can agree with you there. We have common ground and that was my point.. They had to get rid of the concussion lawsuit so they tried to prove their bona fides.

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