Copyright 2007 PewterReport.com
There are several paths people take to the National Football League, but one would be hard pressed to find someone who has followed the same path as Bucs senior assistant Kevin Demoff.
Demoff is one of the cast of characters that makes up Tampa Bay’s current front office and to say he has a football background and passion for football would be an understatement.
The son of NFL super agent Marvin Demoff, Kevin lived a childhood that most people could only dream of having. Not only did he find his passion for football, the young Demoff developed the tools and drive that would eventually help him clear his own career path. Ironically enough, Demoff’s career path would wind up landing him on the opposite side of his father’s practice.
While he isn’t well known amongst fans, Demoff is making a significant impact in the Bucs organization, particularly the front office, where he is playing an integral role in managing the team’s salary cap, forecasting trends around the league and negotiating the contracts for most of the team’s players, among other duties.
Thanks to his unique childhood, education, intelligence and career experiences such as being part of a start-up Internet company, working for Fox Sports Net and becoming the director of football operations for an Arena Football League team by the age of 23, Kevin managed to work his way into an important front office position with the Buccaneers.
Most Tampa Bay fans don’t know who Kevin Demoff is, let alone what he does for the Bucs. However, he is making a name for himself around the league and by most accounts is a rising star in the Buccaneers organization, as you’re about to find out.
LIKE FATHER, (UN)LIKE SON
Marvin Demoff wasn’t just any NFL agent. He was a pioneer. In fact, some of his initial success came just a few years after he and his wife Patti had their first child, Allison, and two years before the couple had Kevin.
He began representing players in 1975 and signed his first first-round draft pick the same year.
Unlike the lives of most NFL coaches and players, the life of an NFL agent doesn’t typically require packing up and moving around from place to place for work. That allowed Marvin to grow his business and family together in Los Angeles, Ca.
“We never moved and my parents have lived in the same house for over 30 years,” said Kevin. “When my father got into being a sports agent and attorney there weren’t that many, so I was afforded the opportunity to view the NFL as a business and see the business side from the beginning. I got to watch how he grew in his practice and how the NFL grew.”
Marvin was so consumed with his work as an NFL agent that it wound up becoming part of everyday life in the Demoff household.
“I was available to most of my players about 20 to 24 hours a day,” said Marvin. “There was always something going on. Like most jobs, you take your job home with you. Most of my clients were football players, so there was always something going on football-wise.”
Bedtime stories often times involved contracts and details of ongoing negotiations, but Kevin didn’t necessarily mind, especially since he was so close to the action.
“I wish my wife [Jennifer] could have seen it because it was great preparation for what I do now, but my dad was one of the first people to have their own phone line at home,” said Kevin. “When he came home the phone calls kept coming in. We talked about contracts, players and what made sense for teams and what made sense for the players. That’s what we talked about. It was always strategizing about players. As I grew up we talked about it more and he was always willing to share. What the discussions I remember now are, ‘Do you think the Broncos offering a contract to [wide receiver] Tim Brown will make the Raiders want to match it?’ I remember those discussions well. Obviously those had a more profound impact on what I do now. I always loved that.”
His hard work paid off. Although he’s not as active in the business now, Marvin represented as many as 50 clients at one time and has had approximately 200 throughout his career, including Brown and current Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher.
Two of the biggest clients Marvin ever represented hired him in the same year. That was 1983, when quarterbacks John Elway and Dan Marino entered the NFL Draft. Both players were first-round picks and went on to have historic NFL careers.
“Marvin had some of our best players with the Raiders,” said Bucs general manager Bruce Allen. “He was one of the best agents out there. When you have Marino and Elway you’re doing something right.”
Kevin was born six years earlier and had shown a fascination for sports at an early age. In fact, Kevin used sports to learn how to read by the age of three.
“When I was three or four years old people used to laugh when I came over to their house and asked to read the newspaper,” said Kevin. “I’d just read the sports page.”
While he was extremely quick in terms of learning how to read, Kevin didn’t have the same benefits when it came to genetics. He had a small frame and was a late bloomer, which in many ways meant reading about football and listening to his father’s work-related conversations was about as close to playing football as Kevin would get.
Instead, Kevin put his parents at ease by participating in other sports, including flag football, basketball and swimming.
Despite being involved in those types of athletics, Kevin’s passion still burned most for professional football. He got his football fix by watching it on television and attending USFL games on a regular basis. But being the son of an NFL agent also made it difficult for Kevin to do some things normal fans do, like cheering for a particular team.
“The hard part was I grew up not being able to root for an NFL team. I was always rooting for players,” said Kevin. “I learned that from my dad. You would follow players. It was Fantasy Football before there was Fantasy Football.”
Of course, there were several perks that came with being the son of a successful NFL agent, too.
“I remember Dan Marino going to my YMCA basketball game. That’s unique,” said Kevin. “I remember being a sixth-grade quarterback and getting to tell Dan Marino what plays we ran and have him tell me the corresponding plays the Dolphins ran. Those were unique memories that I cherish and were wonderful. I think I went to my first Super Bowl at four. I was pretty blessed to grow up in a situation most NFL fans would dream of.”
Kevin has a tremendous amount of respect for his father, but living vicariously through the NFL didn’t make him want to follow Marvin’s career path at first. It wasn’t until he was in college that Kevin realized he might have a serious interest in pursuing a different type of career in the NFL.
“I was fortunate enough to be exposed to so many wonderful people who are involved in the NFL at so many different levels,” said Kevin. “Looking back I find it laughable that growing up I didn’t want to work in the NFL given the unique access that I had and the opportunities I would get because of who my father was. That wasn’t something I considered, which is funny, but it wasn’t. Instead, I had years of apprenticeship at dinner just sitting around and talking. It was great.
“I always loved that aspect of it and the deal-making side. But I always found myself more attracted to the team-building part – putting something together. The one thing I learned watching my dad was he loved his job. He was always building his own business and he never really had the chance to win or lose with a team. That was the only part I didn’t like. If I had to imagine how I would wind up on this side of it, it was because I loved working with other people to build a championship team and to have a chance to be in that type of environment. When your two biggest clients are Dan Marino and John Elway, I watched him for a number of years watch great individual success without anything to show for it. That was frustrating for him, the players and for everybody. I could see how that’s something I wouldn’t necessarily want for myself if I ever got in business.”
The Demoff home became an empty nest in 1995 when Kevin moved over to the East Coast to attend college at Dartmouth to study two of his other passions – history and journalism – through his major, Colonial Printing and Publishing.
Demoff earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth in 1999 and didn’t waste any time finding employment. He considered becoming a history professor, but opted instead to follow his love for sports.
His first job out of college was with a small, start-up Internet company, Broadband Sports, which focused in sports publishing and products. He also landed a weekend gig with The NFL Show on Fox Sports Net, where he essentially worked for Fox reporter and current Bucs preseason play-by-play announcer Chris Myers.
He enjoyed what he was doing, but Demoff realized after a year that Broadband Sports probably didn’t have the business model to succeed. However, that job still served its purpose as it ultimately put him in contact with the person that would later play an integral role in opening the door for a unique career opportunity.
Broadband Sports did newsletters, Fantasy Football information and eventually contracted with teams to build player and team websites.
One of the teams Demoff pitched was the Oakland Raiders, where then-Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen was working. Demoff had met Allen several times before through his father, but now was working with him directly on the website ideas.
Around the same time in 2000, the Arena Football League had just formed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the players had formed a union, which would substantially change the way the league operated.
Casey Wasserman's AFL team, which was based in Los Angeles, was looking for someone that could serve as director of football operations for his organization, the Avengers. He called Allen for suggestions, and Allen’s recommendation surprised Demoff.
“Casey Wasserman called Bruce and asked him if the Raiders had any young people in their front office who he’d recommend to come to L.A. for an interview,” said Demoff. “Bruce didn’t recommend anyone from the Raiders, but told Casey that he should talk to me. That came out of the blue.”
Demoff and Wasserman hit it off immediately, and despite the fact that Demoff was just 23, Wasserman, who was the president and CEO of the Avengers, hired him as the team’s new director of football operations in Aug. of 2000.
“It was an extremely lucky break for me,” said Demoff. “I don’t know why Bruce thought of my name, but he did. When Casey first called me I thought he was calling to see if we wanted to do the Avengers’ website.
“He took a huge risk in hiring me with no background and knowing my father and his history and what Bruce said. It was an expansion team the first year and then I came aboard. It was a leap of faith on the part of Bruce and the part of Casey and the part of everybody else.”
Demoff saw the job with the Avengers as a great opportunity to learn and make a name for himself, just as his father did in the NFL agent community.
“The Arena Football League was a great place to go to get some hands-on experience,” said Demoff. “It was in L.A., which was a huge plus. It was a great way to have a direct impact on something and get a quicker feel for whether or not this was something I wanted to do rather than going to work in the NFL in a personnel department, where not only did I not have much to offer at the time, but I didn’t want to get a job because of what my last name was. I didn’t think that made sense for anybody. This was a good way for me to earn a name for myself.”
The Avengers were coming off a 3-11 season when Demoff was hired. Three games into the 2001 season, which was Demoff’s first, the Avengers fired their head coach and searched for a new one.
Demoff helped lead the search for the team’s new head coach, which eventually led them to Ed Hodgkiss, who didn’t discriminate against the Avengers’ 23-year-old decision maker.
“Pretty much everyone at that age probably gets that, whether it’s a front office guy or a coach or even a player,” said Hodgkiss. “But it’s the few people that prove their worth that are the exceptions. Kevin was one of those exceptions. He immediately earned my respect.”
Demoff’s colleagues gravitated to him almost instantly. They were open to new ideas, and Demoff had plenty of them. It didn’t take the Avengers long to realize Demoff was going to be a valuable asset to Los Angeles’ AFL team.
“I was impressed with Kevin right away,” said Avengers assistant head coach/director of personnel Brent Winter. “At our first meeting I turned my head and said, ‘There’s going to be absolutely no problem working with this guy. In fact, we need to work with him more.’”
With the organization on the same page and headed in the right direction, Demoff helped the Avengers produce a 28-18 record, the third-best in the AFL from 2002-04, and make the playoffs three consecutive years.
Demoff’s colleagues attributed a lot of the Avengers’ success to not only his eye for talent, but also his ability to work the salary cap.
“I think he personally helped us build the most talented team there ever was in Arena Football just simply because he would work the salary cap to where he could get a lot of good players here,” said Winter.
But Demoff is the first to admit that he wasn’t perfect. He said a lot of what he learned with the Avengers came from some of his rookie gaffes.
“I got to make a ton of mistakes, and they were really under the radar [as far as the NFL and the media were concerned],” Demoff said of his AFL experience. “They probably weren’t so fair to the people I worked with there, but given the age and leap of faith it was probably to be expected. We did some terrific things with the Avengers in getting that club going. I took a lot of pride in helping to build part of the team that really became a model and successful franchise in the AFL.”
Some mistakes were made, but Demoff did quite a few things right. In fact, his intelligence and ability to think outside the box helped him reinvent the wheel in terms of how the salary cap was managed and regulated in the AFL.
“They had to change some rules in this league because of Kevin’s innovations,” said Hodgkiss. “You knew early on that he was a guy beyond his years. Even though he was 23 he carried himself very professionally.”
Even with the Avengers’ success, Demoff still felt he had much more to learn in terms of managing a football team. With Demoff sure of his career aspirations to work in the NFL, he ended his tenure with the Avengers in 2004 and decided to pursue a master’s degree in business administration at Dartmouth.
“I think it’s easy for people to want to be a general manager in any sport and think that it consists of participating in free agency, hiring a head coach and making trades,” said Demoff. “That’s part of it, and you have to be competent at that. But you also have to be competent at managing people, making sure everybody in the building is on the same page and learning how to find great talent within your organization. That’s what I learned in the Arena League. I had to manage our trainers and equipment managers. I ran our trips on the road. You have to wear so many hats, but you learn the ins and outs of the franchise. That experience was invaluable.
“You have to be better at that side of your job than you have to be at picking players, being involved or doing contracts. There’s always a chance to do that over, but if you don’t get it right within your building you’re never going to get it right on the field. That’s the best lesson I learned in the Arena League. I learned each day on the job about how to get it right, but I knew I still wasn’t good enough at it after four years, which is why I went and got my MBA. I knew I could be better at that part.”
THE WIZ KID
Business school didn’t stop Demoff from working in football. In the summer of 2004, Allen thought of him again, this time offering him the opportunity to intern with the Buccaneers during training camp. Demoff accepted the invitation.
“Kevin was someone that I had followed and watched, and knew he’d fit in well here,” said Allen. “He decided to further his education even further than all of us in the building, so the first year was an intern year.”
Demoff performed well enough for Allen to invite Demoff back in 2005, this time as a consultant, where his role expanded to assisting Allen and other members of the front office, working with him on various projects and even negotiating contracts.
“Instantly,” Allen said when asked when he could trust Demoff to execute a contract for a player. ‘I trust several people in our building to handle contracts, but I was comfortable with Kevin’s approach.”
Although he wasn’t a full-time employee yet, Allen was open to Demoff’s feedback and ideas.
“Bruce is not close-minded,” said Demoff. “You can walk right in his office and tell him what you think. He will listen to you. He may not always agree with you, but he’ll never punish you for having a different opinion than the one he has. In fact, he wants you to do that. I think that’s great for everyone working here. Healthy debate is a good thing. His eyes aren’t closed and his ears aren’t shut to our opinions.
“He put a lot of faith in me that summer, and I hope it was justifiable. I’m still amazed to this day how much faith he puts in me and the rest of the front office. Bruce is not a micro-manager at all. I learned that quickly that summer and it’s true now.”
Demoff received his master’s degree in 2006 and immediately began weighing his options in terms of employment.
Several teams were pursuing him, but Demoff remained interested in working with Allen and the Bucs on a full-time basis.
“In my mind Bruce had given me the first opportunity, so if he ever wanted to take another leap of faith by hiring me he was always going to get the first shot,” Demoff said.
The interest was mutual as Allen offered Demoff, who was just 29 years old, a full-time job in the Buccaneers front office in 2006.
“It takes a certain mind to go from the Arena League to the NFL,” said Allen. “It’s a different type of analytical mind. The plays and talents are very different in the two leagues. I think it takes a quick mind to adapt, and Kevin has that.
“When Kevin came here I knew that in time we’d want to hire him full time. He had some other options to go to teams, but I knew he’d fit in here.”
Kevin’s job with the Bucs would entail salary cap management, negotiating contracts with agents, forecasting, determining trends as well as being involved in scouting pro and college players, among other things.
It wasn’t until after Demoff began working full time for the Bucs that he realized how much he had already learned during his internship and consulting stint with the team.
“This is a credit to Bruce Allen and also a measure of his lunacy, but what he lets me do now is exactly what he let me do as a consultant,” said Demoff. “I was shocked when I came in during the summer of 2005 with the latitude he gave me. I was involved in all of the rookie negotiations in 2005. I got to meet all of the agents and I even got to take the lead on a few of them. I got to work on projects. What Bruce let me do was unheard of for a general manager in the NFL and an intern. It was trial by fire, but Bruce is someone that is going to throw you into the fire and see how you do and see how you react.”
There was, however, one thing the Bucs weren’t willing to let Demoff do. When it came to negotiating with his father on the contracts for wide receiver Tim Brown and tight end Jerramy Stevens in 2004 and 2007, respectively, Kevin was not involved.
“The first thing is I hope other clubs don’t think it’s tampering every time I call home,” Kevin said laughing. “No, I’m just not involved. It takes a very mature player to even be involved in a situation like that. I’m out of the equation, but thankfully [my father] and Bruce have a good enough relationship where they can probably get a deal done and I don’t have to be involved.”
Marvin had been negotiating with front office executives for decades, and now his son was one of them. But he knew early on that Kevin was much more interested in working with a team of people as opposed to working on his own.
“It just wasn’t him,” Marvin said of his son not pursuing a job as an agent. “He was much more interested in building something with a team. His skill set would have made him pretty good on either side, but his personality, his interests and his passions all are on the business side of things. He enjoys working with a team of people.”
While he didn’t follow his father’s exact career path, Kevin is always quick to credit him for much of his success.
“Watching someone be able to operate in the NFL with ethics and morals, and generate such great respect from not only his peers, but NFL front office executives, that was a phenomenal experience for me,” Kevin said of his father. “No matter what I learned in L.A. or college, that is 100 percent of what I attribute to any success that I’ve had in the past or may get to have in the future. Growing up with my father as my mentor was 100 percent of what I learned coming to Tampa.”
Believe it or not, one of Kevin’s first challenges with the Bucs was coming with his own job title. He knew he was going to wear a variety of hats with the Bucs, just as Allen did with the Raiders.
As it turned out, they didn’t have to look far for the appropriate job title for Demoff.
“When I got hired I remember Bruce and I sitting at the Combine in Indianapolis as we were hammering out the details of my contract and a title, and we were having significant problems coming up with the title,” said Demoff. “We knew what I did from the first summer, but what is it that describes what I do?
“In the end we came up with senior assistant, which is funny because that had been Bruce’s title in Oakland. But in many regards I think it’s a perfect title for what I do. I don’t just assist Bruce. I do, but I also assist [director of pro personnel] Mark Dominik, [director of college scouting] Dennis Hickey, [director of football operations] Mark Arteaga and [assistant to head coach] Paul Kelly. I try to make myself available to everyone in our office in any manner in which they think they can use me.”
Even though he was just 29 when he was first hired full time by the Bucs, Demoff wasn’t necessarily treated like a new kid on the block.
“From his first time being an intern here you could tell he got along with everyone here,” said Allen. “He was a part of every practical joke from at least the second day, but I’m not sure about the first day. His willingness to help anyone on any project made him fit in instantly.
“I think Kevin’s people skills are what set him apart from many. He cares about the players and he cares about his co-workers. He’s a great teammate. If you’re bringing someone in that you know will be a good teammate it doesn’t matter where they come from or how old they are.”
Even if there were doubts about whether he was worthy of having his job with Tampa Bay, Demoff quickly earned the respect of the Bucs front office with his performance and willingness to help and learn.
“Kevin never came in here with any type of ego and there was no silver spoon in his mouth,” said Dominik. “He came in as a very humble guy. He just tried to talk to everybody and fit in. After you spend time talking with him you’ll find that he has a complete understanding of the CBA and a great feeling for it and how it all works. I never really judged Kevin by his age or really even thought about it.”
The Bucs have been reaping the benefits of Demoff’s intelligence and analytical ability. In addition to having him provide the Bucs with current and future unrestricted free agent lists and determine the value of players, the team often times relies on Demoff to research trends and file reports that forecast future occurrences.
Having a Nostradamus at One Buccaneer Place allows the Bucs to make educated roster and salary cap decisions based on today as well as the future.
“Kevin has a very unique way of being able to present the occurrences of 2010 today,” said Allen. “It takes a lot of homework and a lot of research. It’s not just salary cap. It’s what rosters will look like in the future. He gives us the information and puts us in a position to help us create position-wise, age-wise where we should be for the 2010 season.”
Demoff also helped dig the team out of an extremely difficult salary cap situation that was created in large part by the previous regime. He joined the Bucs as an intern shortly after Allen was hired by Tampa Bay in 2004, so he saw firsthand how three straight years of average cap overages of $20 million hindered the Bucs’ salary cap situation.
Once he was hired, Allen made formulating a plan to remedy the team’s cap situation a top priority, and thanks to the help of Demoff and the rest of the front office, the Bucs are currently about $15 million under the cap and are scheduled to be approximately $30 million under the cap in 2008.
“Bruce had a plan,” said Demoff. “I was able to see that plan in 2004 and 2005. There was always a plan. There always is, but just because it’s not presented in PowerPoint [for the media] doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I credit Bruce for having a plan and following it through. He took on a very challenging situation. I think you can look at where we stand now salary cap-wise and realize we had a plan.”
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden watched Tampa Bay’s salary cap woes have a direct impact on the Bucs suffering through three losing seasons over the last four years. He said the Bucs have – and will continue to – rely on Demoff and his unique skill set to make the Bucs better and prevent the team from returning to salary cap hell.
“Kevin is a genius and his dad has really done a lot in the world of sports,” said Gruden. “Kevin understands the salary cap and the creativity in doing a contract. Any business decision we’re involved in he has the ability to brainstorm on these issues and have an opinion. Whether or not we always agree with him or not, I don’t know. I don’t sit up there with the Blackberry and look cross-eyed into the computers.
“Some of the statistical information he gathers, some of the forecasting, trends and all of these things he does are valuable. You can predict the outcome of certain teams based on their current or past salary cap situations. You can predict that these four players are going to have to go in 2008. You can predict these things if you spend the time to do it. It’s no mistake that some people predicted some of the things happening here that happened here from a salary cap standpoint. He’s one of them. But Kevin can also help us prevent from having that happen again. He’s a weather forecaster in a lot of ways.”
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
While he’s extremely talented in his ability to manage and understand the salary cap, that is not Demoff’s favorite part of working in the NFL.
“I wish I could tell you that running the salary cap is a full-time, 100-percent, 365-day-a-year job,” said Demoff. “It’s not. It takes mongering, but that’s probably 25 percent of my job, and it’s probably the least interesting part of my job. I probably would have never taken this job if it was to be a capologist.”
Much of his job requires Demoff to be involved in the same conversations he had with his father growing up, although his role with the Bucs is much different than the one he had as the son of Marvin Demoff.
But having been on both sides of the negotiating table has given Demoff a valuable perspective when working with agents.
“I think it allows Kevin to understand that agents have a job to do,” said Marvin. “He can either make their job easier or more difficult to get to the same conclusion. Kevin’s style would be to get to the same conclusion, but in a way that’s respectful of understanding what the agent’s role is and what their job is.”
One of the reasons why Allen was attracted to Demoff was because of his diverse background. Allen, who is the son of Hall of Fame head coach George Allen and has served as both an agent and a general manager, saw the value in Demoff’s ability to appreciate the perspectives and needs of the team, the agent and the player.
“Growing up around the game helps out him out tremendously,” Allen said of Demoff. “It’s hard to believe he’s as young as he is because of his historical knowledge of the game and his appreciation for players. I like him for that. I appreciate the fact that he respects the agent community because I’ve never believed in an adversarial relationship with the agents. I believe we should all be on the same page in wanting what is best for the player. Usually what is great for the player is great for the team. Kevin’s perspective and opinions are similar to mine. Somewhere in there we both intertwined on both sides of the so-called fence. But if you’ve seen the other side of the fence I think you realize you’re all on the same teams. Everyone should be working toward the common goal.”
Demoff has been heavily influenced by his father and his career, but he’s spent the past three years operating under the influence of Allen.
“Personality-wise, we’re both very similar,” Demoff said of he and Allen. “Now, I don’t know if that’s good for either him or I, or the people we live with. But from the beginning I always had a great comfort level with him and I think it’s probably mutual in terms of he knew I could relate from some different situations that I had seen things from an agent perspective. There are a ton of similarities.
“After two years of working for Bruce I see myself as sort of a hybrid between Marvin Demoff and Bruce Allen. I worry because that’s a funny person to become. But you couldn’t ask for more from a mentor than what I have in Bruce. He’s perfect in letting you grow and letting you learn from mistakes rather than being critical. He doesn’t micro-manage and he lets you participate in things you wouldn’t expect to participate in.”
Very rarely do Allen and Demoff tag team an agent when attempting to sign a player to a contract. In fact, Demoff has grown to the point where he actually negotiates the majority of the player deals for the Buccaneers organization.
While they typically agree on a player’s value, Allen and Demoff don’t always concur on the terms of player contracts.
“There are deals he’s done that I don’t always see the merit in and there’s deals I’ve done that Bruce laughs at,” said Demoff. “When we do disagree on what a deal will end up there are usually some notes that are taken down and some pizzas that are bet on the outcome of the deal and who will wind up being right and who will wind up being wrong.”
Keeping negotiations fun is practically a trademark of Allen, who has earned a reputation around the league for his unusual methods in terms of working with agents on deals.
In 2004, Allen and agent Brian Levy negotiated running back Charlie Garner’s contract on a napkin in a sports bar. Agent Steve Baker once worked out a deal with Allen for one of his first-round draft picks on a restaurant tablecloth, which still hangs on Baker’s wall to this day.
“One great lesson I have taken away from Bruce Allen is Bruce knows how to keep negotiations fun,” said Demoff. “This is a fun job and it’s a fun game. I think some people in this business can lose sight of that sometimes. The results are important and the fans of Tampa demand that we win, which makes it even more fun. But you can have fun in the process. This isn’t a negotiation to settle longstanding land disputes or the Treaty of Paris. We’re trying to do deals for NFL players, deals that we try to make win-win and have fun while we’re doing them. I think agents tend to have fun when they do deals with the Buccaneers, and a lot of that has to do with what Bruce has instilled in all of us here.”
Allen attempted to sign quarterback Jeff Garcia for three straight years, but to no avail due to Tampa Bay’s salary cap limitations from 2004-06.
However, with more cap room to work with and a need for a veteran quarterback in 2007, Demoff and Baker finally managed to get Garcia in Tampa Bay by negotiating the two-year, $7 million contract he signed in March.
Baker, who has been representing NFL players for 21 years, sees a lot of Allen in Demoff.
“Kevin once put some numbers on a napkin and I actually did a deal with Kevin last year where I was literally negotiating the deal for four hours at the top of a ski lift,” Baker said. “We then named all of the clauses after lifts at the ski resort. That’s definitely the Bruce Allen influence.”
But Demoff is the first to admit that he has a long way to go before he perfects Allen’s art of negotiating contracts.
“I have had deals that were completed on a napkin, and in fact, I lost a napkin that had a deal on it this past year,” said Demoff. “I was scrambling to recreate it and had my wife going through my luggage to see if it was in a pocket.”
The agent community can appreciate the Bucs’ attempt to keep negotiations fun, but they also know that both Allen and Demoff come to the negotiating table, wherever it might be, prepared.
“I’ve dealt with Kevin enough to know that he’s extremely bright,” said Baker. “It’s certainly a challenge negotiating with him. I make sure that I get a good night’s sleep on days before I’m going to talk to Kevin. He’s very smart and he knows this business. I know that when I’m working with him I need to bring my ‘A’ game.”
Agent Ben Dogra, who currently represents six Bucs players, agreed with Baker’s sentiments regarding Demoff’s ability to negotiate contracts and said the way he carries himself throughout the whole process makes it easier to actually get deals done.
“He’s a firm and tough negotiator, but he has the ability to listen and reason,” said Dogra. “He never gets confrontational. I think that helps out quite a bit. A lot of times when you’re tied up in high-level negotiations there is a lot of tension in the air and people fighting hard for their positions, so if you can get someone that can listen and use strong rationale without losing their cool, I think that’s incredibly helpful.”
What also makes Demoff effective is his willingness to be open to different ideas.
“I think Kevin is an extremely bright guy,” said agent Brian Mackler, who represents Bucs linebacker Cato June and former Bucs defensive end Dewayne White. “He’s very well prepared. He’s open to different ideas, not just his own. He’s pretty good at what he does.”
One of Demoff’s best qualities is his genuine care and concern for players. The agents appreciate any information they can get from teams in terms of how their clients are performing. The fact that Demoff makes himself accessible even after contracts are signed, sealed and delivered doesn’t go unnoticed.
“When [running back] Cadillac [Williams] took a pretty good shot to his ribs during the Seattle game I sent Kevin a text message during the game and Kevin was kind enough to respond to me right away and give me an idea of what was going on,” said Dogra. “It’s little things like that and the track record and history that help you get deals done. How do you get any track record or history? To me it’s based on credibility and Kevin has a lot of it.”
Even though most agents have not dealt directly with Marvin Demoff, his name certainly is one that is familiar and respected by the agent community. Many of them believe Kevin possesses a lot of the same traits that made his father extremely successful.
“His father is probably the most respected agent over the last 20 years,” said Baker. “What you always hear about his father is that his father, through a combination of relationships, a very thorough understanding of all of the deal issues and he was always very creative in finding ways to make solutions go quick for both sides. Kevin is the same way.”
Demoff was one of Tampa Bay’s best-kept secrets, but word of his abilities and the manner in which he interacts with agents is working its way around the league.
“I think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a rising star in Kevin,” said Mackler. “That’s my honest opinion. When you take a combination of his level of intelligence, his backgrounds in being on the business side and also on [the agent’s side] of things it gives the Bucs a pretty impressive package.”
Demoff is making a name for himself around the NFL decades after his father initially started to pave a different path to and through the league.
“Maybe he’ll keep hearing it for years, ‘He’s Kevin Demoff, the son of Marvin Demoff,” said Dogra. “But I don’t think it’s too far away where people will say, ‘There he is. That’s Marvin Demoff. He’s the father of Kevin Demoff.’ I think it’s Kevin’s time right now. He’s had some big footsteps to follow, but I think he’ll fill those footsteps and continue to do a great job for the Buccaneers for years to come.”
Demoff has a healthy respect for NFL agents, and the feeling is mutual. While Marvin Demoff has had a lot to do with that, being the son of an NFL agent isn’t always beneficial, as Kevin can attest.
“If I had a dollar for every time an agent told me that my dad wouldn’t do the deal that I’m proposing we’d be pretty wealthy,” said Demoff.
While not all contracts come to fruition, Demoff prides himself on finding win-win deals for everybody involved.
“I usually know going in what an agent is going to need to get out of a deal,” said Demoff. “I usually ask them up front. I try to find a way to make the deal a win-win. Not all of the deals are going to be win-win. Sometimes the club is not going to win and sometimes the agent is not going to win. That’s based on the player more than it usually is the deal. I try to craft a deal from that point as opposed to starting far apart. I don’t believe in, ‘I’ll start low and you start high.’ You try to start off in an educated position and go from there. I’ve had agents aggressively take our first offer and be enthused about it. I understand what the agents are going through with their players. I’d like to think I have a decent understanding of the agent side of things, but what I think is more important than that is I have a very healthy respect for the role agents play in the process and the job they need to do and all outcomes need to be fair.”
That type of approach helps explain why some agents feel Demoff has already established himself as one of the league’s top front office executives.
“Kevin is very smart and he does a great job of listening and trying to see both perspectives,” said agent Mike McCartney. “He’s right there with all of the top guys in this league in my estimation.”
But Demoff hasn’t let any of his success go to his head. That’s because the Buccaneers as a team have not been that successful on the football field, having posted three losing seasons over the past four years.
Demoff feels that his success should be measured by Tampa Bay’s win-loss column. No matter what his past accomplishments have been, Demoff takes more pride in the fact that the Bucs have gotten off to a favorable start and are atop of the NFC South division midway through the 2007 season.
Winning games is more important to him than winning deals.
“I think for whatever reason he ended up with a great value system,” Marvin said of his son. “Someone pretty high in the league office ran into Kevin at the Super Bowl and they said, ‘Gee, we hear you’re doing a great job.’ Kevin’s response was, ‘Yeah, we won the division [in 2005] and then I came here and we’re 4-12.’ That’s how he thinks. How the team fares on the field is clearly a measuring rod to him. There are things out of his control, but he’s much more excited about a winning record than he is getting six or seven good contract deals. There are a lot of people out there that are keeping their own score in terms of doing player contracts, but Kevin is about as far from that as I can think.”
Tampa Bay has lost its fair share of front office executives and assistant coaches to promotions thanks in part to the Bucs winning Super Bowl XXXVII.
With word of his abilities spreading around the league, it won’t be long before another team comes along and offers Demoff a general manager job. That’s a scenario the Bucs expect to unfold.
“I think people around the league have learned about Kevin,” said Allen. “I don’t think he’s a secret around the league and I know he’s not a secret in the building. We have a lot of young people in our building that will advance and will do great things. Kevin is one of them.”
Once his contract expires and he becomes a free agent, several agents believe Demoff will have the opportunity to land a general manager job in the NFL.
“I don’t think there’s any franchise tag for executives,” Baker said in regards to the difficulty the Bucs could have in keeping Demoff. “I absolutely believe that Kevin will be running a team. I don’t think – I know. There’s no question in my mind.”
However, just because he could one day receive offers from other teams around the NFL doesn’t necessarily mean Demoff would accept them. He is very loyal to the Bucs and particularly Allen, who is one of the main reasons why Demoff has gotten to where he is at the young age of 30.
“I see Kevin being extremely appreciative and extremely loyal to the Bucs for the opportunity given to him,” said Marvin. “It will be a lot harder than people think to get Kevin to leave the Bucs.
Kevin believes that everyone in the Tampa Bay organization will have the opportunity to move up the NFL ladder as long as all of their hard work translates into success for the Bucs on Sundays.
“This is a team sport. Where I am in 10 years will depend on the success of the Buccaneers,” said Demoff. “That includes the success that Bruce, Mark and Dennis have. I don’t share the opinion that I’m fast rising. I’m young, but I haven’t risen anywhere. I was fortunate enough to have a name that opened some doors. I took advantage of some of those doors being opened and had some success given an opportunity that most people would never get. Certainly that helped get me to where I am now.
“But in 10 years if I have the same job and the Buccaneers have won eight or nine Super Bowls, I wouldn’t trade this job for the world. I have no need to do anything but help the Buccaneers win. Would I love to become a general manager? Sure. I don’t think anyone who works in the front office wants any differently. Do I need that to happen in the next 5-10 years? If it happens I would hope it’s because the Buccaneers have had great success and we’ve all enjoyed the fruits of that. Winning makes you look pretty smart. In the pecking order I hope I’m third in terms of getting an opportunity like that. Mark and Dennis have been with this club a lot longer. They deserve it more than I do. Hopefully the future holds good things for all of us, and hopefully that means great things for the Buccaneers.”