After 14 seasons as the Buccaneers' Director of Player Personnel, Jerry Angelo was hired by Chicago on Monday to be the Bears' general manager
Once again, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are learning the price of success.
After a period of almost ludicrous stability from 1996-2000, the Bucs' football offices have experienced a 2001 offseason of constant change. It began shortly after the season when Offensive Coordinator Les Steckel was relieved of his duties in January and continued into early June on Monday when long-time Director of Player Personnel Jerry Angelo was hired by Chicago to be the Bears' general manager.
There were other upheavals on the coaching staff in between, all of them prompted, as Angelo's move was, by opportunity. Lovie Smith's departure to become the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, Herman Edwards' head coaching opportunity with the New York Jets and now Angelo's defection to the Bears are all symptoms of the Buccaneers' remarkable turnaround over the last five years.
Tampa Bay's recent success – three playoff berths in the last five seasons after the franchise had just three postseason nods through its first 20 campaigns – has illuminated the talents of men such as Angelo. Once famously snake-bit in draft and player-acquisition decisions, the Buccaneers are now known for their shrewd personnel maneuvers, the result of which, a deeply talented roster, is now on display on the practice field behind team headquarters.
"I think it was Jerry and Rich at the very beginning deciding what direction they wanted the team to go, then hiring a coach to be part of that and implement it," said Dungy. "Jerry had a big, big part in that."
The realization of this fact around the league created a long overdue opportunity for Angelo this offseason.
"It's always nice when someone you like and care about does well," said Pro Bowl S John Lynch. Angelo, who has held his post at One Buccaneer Place for the past 14 seasons, was there in 1993 when the team decided to risk a third-round pick on Lynch, a minor league baseball player at the time.
"I can't tell you how happy I am for Jerry and his family," Lynch continued. "Not only are the Bears and the fans of Chicago getting a great talent evaluator, they're getting a guy who is a worker. Jerry is tireless. He knows football and he knows how to build a team. We'll miss him, but I've got no doubt that he'll be successful in Chicago."
Angelo had been considered a candidate for the Bears' G.M. opening for weeks, and was reportedly one of three finalists for the position over the last few days. He did not, however, receive confirmation that he was Chicago's choice until late in the afternoon on Monday. Head Coach Tony Dungy knew what Angelo was going through.
"I actually talked to him a lot yesterday," said Dungy, who didn't get an opportunity to congratulate Angelo before he left for Chicago. "We were in and around the office waiting for the call. I went home about 4:30 and hadn't heard yet. I told him that I kind of remembered the feeling. You're sitting there and you think you've got a good chance to get it, but you're waiting for the call. It can be a long time, anxious moments."
Dungy could have also been describing his own wait on word from the Buccaneers in 1996 when he said of Angelo: "He has very much wanted the opportunity. I think he believes he's prepared for it. He's got a philosophy in mind of what he wants to do, and I think he's going to get a chance to implement that. I think they'll do well."
Since Dungy's Buccaneers will be leaving the NFC Central in the hands of the Bears, Vikings, Packers and Lions after the 2001 season, the coach and Angelo's other friends at One Buccaneer Place can more openly hope for his success in Chicago. Dungy thinks the Bears will find it with Angelo pushing the buttons.
"Moving out, we'll be able to root for him," said Dungy. "One of the things I think the Bears probably realized is that, as much as study as we've done on the division in order to beat people, that obviously helps him. He does have a good feel for the division and what has to be done."
Perhaps Angelo will implement some of the Buccaneers' directions in the Bears' front office, just as Smith is likely to import much of Monte Kiffin's defensive philosophies in St. Louis.
"One of the things I think the Bears realized is that a great deal of our success was bringing young people into the system and developing them," said Dungy. "That was Rich and Jerry's way of doing it, and I think that's what he's going to take to the Bears.
"It's our belief that, if you're going to be successful in this system, you always have to have young talent coming. That puts a great deal of pressure on the scouting department, on the college scouts, but our guys like it that way and they've excelled at it. Our coaches have been good at taking those players and developing them and building into our style of player.
"You've got to bring in the players that can do it, then you've got to have the philosophy that that's what you're going to do. You're going to use the draft choices, bring them in and give them a chance to play, be patient with them and see guys like Ronde Barber develop into what they're going to be."
Dungy believes Angelo has both the scouting eye and the organizational know-how to make such a scheme work.
And the Buccaneers? Will their roster-building efforts continue as successfully without Angelo? Though recognizing the loss, Dungy believes that his team will continue to thrive.
"We've got to make some personnel changes, but I think the basic philosophy is in place," he said. "To me, that's the great thing that we've had. Rich has a plan of how we're going to do things, and we've had a great deal of success working that plan together. Now we've got to get somebody to take Jerry's spot, but I don't think we'll change what we're doing, and that's a nice thing."