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Did Bucs break their word with Bears?

Chicago and coach Lovie Smith believe there was an oral agreement allowing them to pursue Rod Marinelli.

By RICK STROUD
Published January 17, 2004

TAMPA - Memo to the rest of the NFL: Rod Marinelli is off limits.

Tampa Bay wants to hold on to its defensive line coach for at least one more season, confirming Friday it refused the Bears' request to interview Marinelli for their defensive coordinator post.

Though the Bucs twice had blocked the Jets from interviewing Marinelli for a coordinator's post, he may have had reason to expect this time would be different.

Marinelli and the Bears believed there was an oral agreement that would allow him toleave the Bucs if Smith was hired as head coach and wanted him to serve as defensive coordinator, several media outlets reported Friday night.

In fact, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo appeared defiant in light of the Bucs' stance and seemed confident Smith would get his man.

Smith, who served with Marinelli for four years on Tony Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay, got his shot with the Bears on Wednesday. But the Bucs apparently reneged on their promise, and Marinelli is forced to honor the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay, according to espn.com and the Chicago Tribune.

The Bears would consider re-submitting a permission slip to interview the Bucs defensive line coach if Marinelli pushes the matter. Marinelli has declined comment.

"We are pleased that we have the best assistant head coach in the NFL on the Buccaneers staff," general manager Bruce Allen said in a statement.

The Bucs also denied Marinelli's son-in-law, 33-year-old linebackers coach Joe Barry, a chance to become defensive coordinator under Dennis Green with the Arizona Cardinals.

By contrast, the Bears have been accommodating to the Bucs. On Friday, Tampa Bay announced the hiring of former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop as quarterbacks coach. Tampa Bay also hired Kyle Shanahan, the 25-year-old son of Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, as an offensive quality control coach.

The hiring of Shoop, 34, could mean the return of former Bears quarterback Jim Miller.

Two other longtime front office members were shown the door Friday.

Assistant general manager John Idzik and Nathan Whitaker, the team's director of legal affairs, were informed their contracts were not being renewed.

That came one day after player personnel director Tim Ruskell left to become Falcons assistant general manager.

"I spent 11 very memorable years here, and it's not often in life you get to be a part of something from its infancy in football terms through the championship," Idzik said, "much less doing it in your hometown, and for that I'm forever grateful. Tampa and the people in Tampa will always be special.

"I'm very appreciative of the Glazers and everything they enabled us to do and appreciative for the staffs I worked with. I leave with nothing but fond memories."

Allen has been working to find a replacement for Ruskell. But the leading candidate, Raiders personnel chief Mike Lombardi, may no longer be on the radar.

That's because the Bucs don't want to upset Raiders managing general partner Al Davis, whose team reportedly contacted NFL legal counsel Jeff Posh about a possible lawsuit over Allen's departure.

As a quirk of working for Davis, Allen never signed a contract with the Raiders, so it's unlikely the Raiders would prevail in court.

The Bucs, however, may opt not to fill their personnel post for some time. Scouting director Ruston Webster, who will remain with the team at least until his contract expires in June, may fill Ruskell's role in an interim basis.

[Last modified January 17, 2004, 01:32:39]

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