The Buccaneers have officially signed Lovie Smith to be the team's head coach, but who will take over as Tampa Bay's general manager, and which assistants will join Smith's staff? PewterReport.com has compiled a list of possible candidates and current rumors.
Now that Tampa Bay has finalized a contract to make Lovie Smith the franchise’s 10th head coach and fill the vacancy created with the firing of Greg Schiano on Monday after a 4-12 season, the attention turns to finding a general manager that can run the personnel side of the football and manage the team’s salary cap and filling out Smith’s coaching staff.
With former University of California head coach Jeff Tedford reportedly set to take over as Tampa Bay’s new offensive coordinator, PewterReport.com has compiled a list of the various reports and rumors regarding the search for the Buccaneers general manager and assistant coaches that will serve under Smith.
As for Tampa Bay’s vacant general manager position, Washington director of pro personnel Morocco Brown and Kansas City director of player personnel Chris Ballard has been rumored on various Internet websites, as have former Tampa Bay and Atlanta general manager Rich McKay and former Tampa Bay director of player personnel and ex-Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo. Former Bucs director of college scouting and Seattle general manager Tim Ruskell’s name has also been rumored, but to a lesser degree.
Brown is an interesting name because he worked with Smith in Chicago's front office as the director of pro personnel from 2001-07. He was hired by Washington on May 20, 2008. Greg Gabriel, a former director of college scouting with Smith in Chicago, is also a name to keep an eye on.
Director of player personnel Dennis Hickey, director of pro personnel Shelton Quarles and director of college scouting Eric Stokes are still employed by the team, and Hickey, who has been on Tampa Bay’s staff since 1996, has worked under McKay, Angelo and Ruskell at One Buccaneer Place, while Quarles played linebacker for the organization when all three men were in power.
With Tedford in place to run the offense, two candidates for the team's defensive coordinator position have emerged. Rod Marinelli, who coached Tampa Bay's defensive line (1996-2005) with Smith while on Tony Dungy's staff and later with Smith as his defensive coordinator in Chicago (2009-12), is believed to be Smith's first choice to run the Bucs defense. Marinelli is currently the defensive line coach under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in Dallas.
Smith's second choice at defensive coordinator is believed to be former Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier. The 54-year old Frazier was hired as the Vikings defensive coordinator in 2007 and he would later replace Brad Childress at the team's interim head coach in 2010 before having the interim tag removed at the end of that season. Frazier, who was a defensive assistant to Dungy in Indianapolis from 2005-06, led the Vikings from 2011-13.
CoachingSearch.com listed several college coaches that have coached under Smith in Chicago, including Charles London (Penn State running backs), Torrian Gray (Virginia Tech defensive backs) and Vance Bedford (Louisville defensive coordinator). With Bill O’Brien leaving Penn State to coach the Houston Texans, London would likely be looking for a job.
CoachingSearch.com also noted that Florida State wide receivers coach and former Buccaneers wide receiver Lawrence Dawsey interned with Smith in St. Louis when he was the team’s defensive coordinator. Other possibilities for the wide receivers coaching position in Tampa Bay aside from Dawsey include former Bucs wide receiver and ex-Buffalo wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard, and former Oakland and USC head coach Lane Kiffin, who has a friendship with Tedford. Kiffin is the son of former Tampa Bay and current Dallas defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
On the defensive side, former Bucs legendary linebacker Hardy Nickerson worked for Smith as the Bears linebackers coach in 2007 before stepping down due to a family health issue. Nickerson was briefly a member of the Buccaneers radio broadcast team in 2006 before joining Smith in Chicago.
Nickerson has spent the past four years coaching the prestigious Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. where he coached his son for the first two years before he was recruited to play linebacker at Cal like his father. Nickerson resigned weeks ago on November 18 and had a 29-17 overall record and an 18-6 mark in league play with two league titles in his first two seasons.
While he stated that he wanted to leave to pursue non-football related matters, Nickerson, who was seen at One Buccaneer Place in December, told the San Jose Mercury News that coaching was still his passion. Could he be a candidate to coach Tampa Bay’s linebackers under Smith once again?
Former Buccaneers linebacker Jeff Gooch could also be in the mix for a role in the new Tampa Bay regime. Gooch once interned with Smith and Angelo in Chicago during training camp and gained some very valuable insight into football operations, which now serves him well with the Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm under general manager Derrick Brooks.
“I’m the VP of football operations,” Gooch told PewterReport.com. “Derrick and I started at the same time in 2011. It was in the spring and the season had been ongoing at that point and we took over a few games into the season. What I do is handle football operations. In the Arena Football League you do wear many hats. My responsibility is basically everything from assisting with personnel, assisting with player personnel to travel arrangements to everything having to do with our players.”
Like Brooks, Gooch’s goal is to one day be involved with a team at the NFL level.
“That’s always a goal and an aspiration for me,” Gooch said. “Having played in the NFL you definitely grow fond of it. Being in any sport you always want to go to its highest level. Moving on to an NFL team would interest me, but right now and Derrick and I are focused on the job at hand, which is bringing a championship to the Tampa Bay Storm.”
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