Who Will Join Lovie Smith as GM in Tampa Bay?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got their guy in new head coach Lovie Smith, but the team still has a vacant general manager spot. On Thursday afternoon, I joined Jay Mariotti on The Mariotti Show to talk about Smith’s hiring and to discuss possible candidates for GM.

A name I mentioned to Jay, and from what I am hearing, he is one of two candidates the Bucs are strongly considering, is Chris Ballard.

(You can listen to today’s audio below. We also talk about what the team does at quarterback with Mike Glennon and what the team does with Darrelle Revis, but keep reading after that as I’ve added some more nuggets of GM information).

Ballard is currently the Kansas City Chiefs director of player personnel and previously spent 12 seasons in Chicago, working his way up from area scout to the director of pro scouting in 2012. He has been credited with drafting Matt Forte, Johnny Knox and Charles Tillman, to name a few.

He also has seven years of college coaching experience at Texas A&M Kingsville (he coached DBs, wide receivers and was defensive coordinator) meaning he’s got a football mind and is considered a tremendous talent evaluator by those around the league.

Another name, and he hasn’t been mentioned much (heck, I didn’t mention him when I was on with Jay as I didn’t realize he was a serious contender) is Washington Redskins director of player personnel, Morocco Brown.

Brown has spent the last six years in Washington, providing advance scouting and evaluating potential free agents.

Before that, the former NC State linebacker spent seven seasons as assistant director of pro personnel in Chicago (2001-2007). Like Ballard, he was part of the Bears’ 2006 NFC Championship and enjoys a close relationship with Smith.

Last year, Brown interviewed with the Arizona Cardinals for their GM opening, a job that ultimately went to Steve Keim, who was promoted from vice president of player personnel. He’s made no secret that his goal is to run his own team.

In Ballard and Brown, the Bucs could get a jolt of new, fresh energy in first-time GMs, or they could opt for experience, going with a guy like Jerry Angelo, who served as Chicago’s general manager from 2001-2011. Prior to that, Angelo spent 13 years as Tampa Bay’s director of player personnel.

Former Seattle Seahawks president of football operations, Tim Ruskell, is also an option. Ruskell worked with the Bucs starting in 1987, working his way up to director of player personnel in 2001 and moving to Atlanta in 2004 to become assistant general manager under Rich McKay. He moved to Seattle in 2005, where he guided the organization for four years before he was forced to resign.

Whether the Bucs choose to go with a first-time GM or opt for a more seasoned leader, it’s clear that Smith will play an integral role in the selection process and it’s highly likely that whoever wins the job will be someone he’s worked with before.