Redskins name Bruce Allen, son of their former coach, their new executive vice president/general manager
Friday, December 18, 2009
Standing behind a lectern at Redskins Park, Bruce Allen sported a smile and a tie striped with burgundy and gold, the hues that colored his atypical youth and that will tint his professional future.
"If you told me 35 years ago I'd be standing here at new Redskins Park, I don't think I would have bet on it," said Allen, hired Thursday to serve as executive vice president and general manager for the Redskins, the team he grew up loving when his father, Hall of Famer George Allen, coached in Washington from 1971 to 1977.
Charged with returning the Redskins to their glory years, Allen, 53, comes to the struggling franchise having posted mixed results at his previous NFL stops. Those who worked alongside him in Oakland, where he served in the front office from 1995 to 2003, and Tampa Bay, where he was general manager from 2003 until he was fired in January, reveal a complex portrait of an executive who's great with people and even better with numbers.
"Bruce is a guy who's hard not to like," said Doug Williams, the former Redskins quarterback who is the Buccaneers' director of professional scouting. "One thing he does have is people skills. Bruce has a good knack with coaches and a great knack with agents. He has a real presence. Bruce could sit down and talk with the best of them, smile at you and then tell you, 'No.' But he tells you no, and you're still going to like him."
Allen's chance for future success could largely hinge on his relationship with owner Daniel Snyder. In Oakland, Allen thrived and was considered the right-hand man to Al Davis, an owner known for putting his fingerprints on most decisions. Those familiar with those days say Allen's role was largely on the business side. He had little to do with the team's personnel decisions but was considered essential in contract negotiations and juggling salary-cap numbers.
"He's just a natural people person," said Ken Herock, who also worked alongside Allen in Oakland's front office. "Part of what he did for us was making sure the relationship between the coach and the owner was working well, making sure the players were tended to. He was always seeking the input of people around him."
Jon Gruden, who coached in Oakland and Tampa Bay during Allen's tenures, expressed optimism Thursday afternoon about his chances for success in Washington.
"His background and understanding of the Washington Redskins' tradition will be a huge asset to the Redskins," said Gruden, now an analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football," in a prepared statement. "He is a leader and a great fit for this job. He's a big reason why I had any success in coaching."
Allen cut his teeth in the NFL working in Oakland's front office, eventually winning the George Young Executive of the Year Award in 2002, the season in which the Raiders reached the Super Bowl.
"The Super Bowl year was a great year," said Michael Lombardi, a former NFL executive who worked with Allen in Oakland. "There was a lot of pieces that had to fall together -- signing Sam Adams in training camp, Rod Woodson -- there was a lot of elements that had to come together."
When Bruce Allen arrived in Tampa, Gruden played a central role in many of the Bucs' personnel decisions, but Allen was the one who moved the pieces around to create flexibility under the salary cap. Under Allen, the team parted ways with Warren Sapp and Jon Lynch, icons around Tampa Bay, and awarded big contracts to veterans who didn't pan out, such as running back Charlie Garner and offensive lineman Todd Steussie. His draft classes weren't well regarded, either: wide receiver Michael Clayton was a first-rounder in the 2004; defensive end Gaines Adams, since traded to Chicago, was selected with the fourth overall pick in '07; and wideout Dexter Jackson, Tampa Bay's second-round pick last year, still hasn't caught an NFL pass.