A photo caption in the Jan. 5 Sports section incorrectly indicated that Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen was with the team in 2003, when it won the Super Bowl. The general manager in 2003 was Rich McKay.
In Tampa, Allen's Future Is Now
Thursday, January 5, 2006
TAMPA, Jan. 4 -- As a child, Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen worked as a waterboy for the Chicago Bears, and once crashed George Halas's golf cart after a brief joyride. As a teenager, he helped out the Washington Redskins' equipment staff and kept statistics for his father, George Allen, the team's Hall of Fame coach. George Allen once insisted to a referee he had no idea who the kid was on the team's sideline reading the lips of St. Louis Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart in the huddle and relaying the snap count to Washington defenders.
George's son, Bruce, was a decent punter at Langley High and the University of Richmond who was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 12th round in 1978, but he never played because of leg and knee problems. At 22 he was the head football coach at Occidental College, followed by a stint as general manager for his father's two U.S. Football League teams before opening his own sports agent business.
Bruce Allen has worked in virtually every football position imaginable -- jobs as a scout, assistant coach, executive assistant to Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis also appear on his rsum -- and there isn't a day that goes by when he doesn't think about his father, who died in 1990 on New Year's Eve after a heart attack.
"When my dad died, Bruce said he lost his best friend," said Jennifer Allen, his younger sister who works for the NFL Network. Bruce's 8-year-old son is named George, and even now, George Allen's "Future Is Now" mantra flashes on a screensaver on Bruce Allen's office computer in the Bucs' training facility.
It's the same philosophy he has followed since being named general manager two years ago and joining his friend, Coach Jon Gruden, in the task of getting the Bucs back to the Super Bowl; the team won its first NFL title on Jan. 26, 2003. The two became close when both worked for Davis in Oakland, and people who know them best say they were made for each other, in a football kind of way.
"He and Gruden, what a fit," Jennifer Allen said. "They're just so very similar. Close in age [Allen is 48, Gruden 42]. Both fathers were coaches, and both have that little gleam in their eyes that tells you that the fire is burning pretty intensely, but they can still have a sense of humor."
Mostly, the two men have a sense of where they want to take the franchise. After the Bucs won only a dozen games in the two years immediately following the Super Bowl triumph, the team reversed last year's 5-11 record and won the NFC South Division title. As a result, they'll play the Redskins in a wild-card playoff game Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
Since Allen arrived after the 2003 season, he has directed a huge infusion of young talent -- 12 players from the last two college drafts are on the roster -- and has signed several talented but moderately priced free agents who are making significant contributions, including wide receiver Joey Galloway and defensive tackle Chris Hovan.
But Allen also has taken plenty of heat from the fans and the local media for not trying to re-sign two of the franchise's Super Bowl icons -- safety John Lynch, now with Denver, and defensive lineman Warren Sapp, now with Oakland.
"As a football fan, which I consider myself to be, it drives me crazy that players have to finish their careers somewhere else," Allen said. "I had a real problem with Art Monk finishing his career with the Eagles and the Jets. But unfortunately, it's the world we live in."
The business has changed dramatically since his father coached the Redskins from 1971 to '77. George Allen believed in fielding veteran, experienced players and usually traded most of his draft choices.
"But my dad would have loved this era, especially free agency," Allen said. "Two of the greatest Redskins, John Riggins and Dave Butz, both came to Washington as free agents. My father liked good football players, and I like good players. Age is not a factor for us here."