New Personnel Executive Doug Williams brings a lengthy and impressive football resume back to his first professional stop
"I'm a firm believer that if you don't know your history, there isn't a future."
- Doug Williams
We know of two men who would agree. Bruce Allen, coach's son, football lifer, student of the game. Jon Gruden, coach's son, football lifer, student of the game. Both were on hand Thursday, and smiling broadly, as Williams was introduced as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new personnel executive.
It was no surprise, really, that Allen and Gruden, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' general manager and head coach, respectively, conspired to lure Williams back to the birthplace of his NFL career. In fact, given Williams' football resume, his history in the game, Allen was surprised nobody beat him to the punch.
"You look at his resume and its shocking someone hasn't grabbed him years ago," said Allen. "He's been a good coach, he's been a very good player and he's a heck of a person. There are no limits to his abilities. Over the next decade, there's no telling where his future can go."
Williams has been a Super Bowl hero and the focus of a fledgling franchise. He's coached at his alma maters in high school and college and is now back for a second go-around with his first pro team, a circuit he called the 'rare double circle.' He followed a legend as head coach at Grambling and paid respects to Eddie Robinson with three Black College National Championships in six years. He's recruited on the college level, scouted in the pros with the Jacksonville Jaguars and coached in the NFL Europe League.
"When you're looking for someone to evaluate talent," asked Allen, "why would you not pick somebody who was a first-round draft choice from a historic college, played under a legendary coach, was a great NFL player, played in two professional leagues, coached in high school, Europe and two colleges? Seems pretty easy picking somebody like that who is also fairly popular in this town."
Williams was engaging and funny during his Thursday press conference, and humbly thankful for this latest NFL opportunity. But he didn't hesitate to defend his qualifications for the job or the hard work it took to earn it, such as when his hiring was compared to the recent and short-lived employment of Dan Marino by the Dolphins.
"I don't think I've been 'fortunate enough' to get anything that someone has just given to me," said Williams. "I think I've earned every opportunity that I've had. This to me is an opportunity, and I think I've earned it. Coaching in high school, coaching at Morehouse College, the World League, coaching in college and being a scout, I think this is an opportunity that Doug Williams has created for himself, not just somebody who was sitting around and got a call that says, 'We need Doug in here.' That's not the way it happened."
Marino's resignation three weeks after taking the job as Miami's senior vice president makes it impossible to answer the critics who called it a 'p.r. move' by the Dolphins. Williams, who will begin immediately scouting the players on the other NFC South teams before turning his attention to the upcoming free agency period, will be worked hard enough to put any similar skepticism to rest in Tampa.
"I'll just be one of the guys that works hard to make sure Tampa Bay becomes the franchise that it deserves to be," he said. "With the coaching staff we have in place here, and if we get the players that we think we need, and put it on the field, we'll do the job. It's obvious the job that has been done, and we are still saying that we need players. If we can do the job with the players we have and (can) get the players that we think we need, there's no telling what we can do."
Still, there's no denying that his return helps to unify some aspects of the team's past and present.
It was no accident, for instance, that former Buccaneer players such as Jimmie Giles, Richard Wood and Parnell Dickinson were on hand Thursday, seated in the front row of Williams' press conference, or that long-time fans stood outside One Buccaneer place for hours holding up a 'Welcome Home' sign. At times during the briefing, Williams lobbed humorous comments towards Gruden who was standing nearby, just as he used to throw the football to a younger Gruden before games more than two decades ago.
Gruden was in his early teens when he caught sideline passes from the Bucs' starter prior to games in Tampa Stadium. Now Gruden patrols those same sidelines and Williams, in his new personnel role, plans to watch it all comfortably from above.
"I'm going to be up there (in the press box) with Bruce," said Williams. "I'm going to get out of Jon's way. I don't want Jon to turn to me and say, 'Who in the hell brought that guy in?'"
Gruden, the son of former Buccaneer coach and scout Jim Gruden, used to emulate Williams when he played backyard football with his family. One can only imagine the pleasure it gives him to bring his boyhood Buc idol back into the fold.
"There have been a lot of rumors about veteran quarterback acquisitions here in the offseason," Gruden joked. "I got my man. I'm really excited about it. I'm a strong believer in tradition. It's been well documented that maybe the Buccaneers haven't had the tradition that maybe a lot of teams have had, but Doug Williams, in all my years as a coach, ranks at the very top of my list as a human being, as a competitor, as a leader. He stimulated me and my family for years, and to be on the same team, to be reunited with Doug Williams, is as good as it gets for a head football coach or any kind of coach."
It was clear on Thursday that Williams shared Gruden's excitement. If he had any second thoughts about leaving his head coaching position at Grambling to join the Bucs' scouting staff, they likely melted against the overwhelmingly positive feedback he received walking through the airport and going to dinner in Tampa Wednesday night. To those fans who remember Williams' gritty, passionate play in the late '70s and early '80s, the sight of the former Buc quarterback linked the best parts of the team's past with their rather exciting present.
"(It is) a great feeling, to know that I'm going to be part of the Buccaneers family again," said Williams. "My job, like Bruce has made clear, is to help bring players to Tampa to get us back to the Super Bowl. That's the number one objective. I'm going to do all I can, learn as much as I can, to make sure that I become a vital part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers again."