A long-term relationship helps Agnone guide and support Bowles in his surprise new role


With Tom Brady returning for one more season, Bruce Arians was ready to hand over the reins to Todd Bowles and retire.Images: getty

OAnd the last weekend of Marchveteran NFL agent Tony Agnone received a call from the client he has represented the longest – 36 years. “Something weird is going on here” Todd Bowlesthen defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Agnone told.

Agnone has represented Bowles since 1986, the first nine years as a player and the next 25 years as a scout and coach. He represented it for eight years as a safety in the NFL, including seven with the Washington Redskins, where he won a Super Bowl. He represented him for two seasons on the player staff with the Packers, then as defensive coordinator at Morehouse College and Grambling State, and as defensive coordinator, assistant coach, head coach and defensive coordinator again in seven NFL teams.

Throughout this time, Agnone and Bowles have become always-talking friends. “He’s super creative, very astute and always reads the piece well,” Agnone said of his client. So when Bowles told Agnone over the weekend that something was wrong, the agent knew it was.

“And then on Monday he called me and said, ‘Bruce called me and said I’m going to be a new head coach.’

The news that the Buccaneers coach Bruce Ariens was retiring and Bowles was named his broken replacement this Wednesday, March 30, after all other coaches were told the news.

It took two days for Agnone to negotiate a new contract. He declined to provide details other than to say it was a five-year contract with the head coach.


The sports industry is all about relationships, and Arians has known Bowles even longer than Agnone – 40 years. Arians coached Bowles when he was a player at Temple. When Arians was the Cardinals head coach, he hired Bowles as defensive coordinator and hired him, again, in the same position with the Buccaneers. Arians’ decision to step down and hand over the reins to Bowles came as a surprise to Agnone and Bowles, but not a complete shock.

“He never said directly: ‘You’re going to replace me'”, says Agnone. “But he always said, ‘Next time you take a job, you have to make sure it’s a good job. “”

Bowles was a head coach before, for the New York Jets from 2015 to 2018, but it wasn’t the best situation. His freshman year, the Jets posted a 10-6 record, narrowly missing out on the playoffs with mate Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. But the next two years, the Jets went into rebuilding mode and Bowles was fired.

by Tom Brady The surprise decision not to retire on March 13 led to the surprise hiring of Bowles as head coach, Agnone said. The Buccaneers have a tough schedule this year, and until mid-March they had a question mark at quarterback.

“So Bruce didn’t want him to take the job this year, he didn’t retire because he felt they weren’t going to get a quarterback,” Agnone said. “And you and I both know that if you don’t have a quarterback, you go 5-12 and everyone would be like, ‘He was a failure in New York; it’s a failure here; we gave it a second chance and that was it.

But having the greatest quarterback of all time at the helm is a complete game-changer. “So when Brady decided to come back, Bruce said, ‘You know what, now I can retire. Now I can pass it around. He has a good team.

The Buccaneers’ schedule this season has them playing against a trio of Super Bowl contenders in the Bengals, Packers and Rams. They also have two west coast trips, as well as one in Germany.

“With this killer schedule, if they win 11 games they should still win their division and we’re good to go,” Agnone said.

Agnone, a lawyer who is a past president of the Sports Lawyers Association, founded his agency, Eastern Athletic Services, in 1978. He has represented many good and great players, including Michael Strahan. EAS currently represents approximately 20 NFL players, including the Chargers’ first-team All-Pro center Corey Linley. It’s good for Agnone to see Bowles — a client who became a close friend — become head coach of a Super Bowl contender, a position Agnone has long felt he deserved.

When Bowles was first signed by Angone, his future in the NFL was in doubt. He was a great college player, but he broke his wrist and only used it 70%, which is why he didn’t get drafted. Agnone brokered a deal for Bowles to join Washington. He won his first Super Bowl ring as a starting safety two years later. He went on to be part of two more Super Bowl winners, first as a scout for the Packers and then as defensive coordinator for the Bucs two years ago.

Agnone is white and Bowles is black. The NFL has faced even harsher criticism for its lack of black head coaches after the former Dolphins head coach and now Steelers assistant coach. Brian Flores filed a racial discrimination complaint against the league.

When asked if the run had anything to do with Bowles’ situation, Agnone said, “I think it’s still playing out. I can not lie. There are definitely issues we need to address here. I think that’s one of the reasons he wasn’t selected. [as a head coach] earlier.”

Bowles will also buck the league-wide trend of hiring younger head coaches who come from the offensive side of the ball.

“The fact that the trend is towards young offensive coordinators; they all want what it looks like Sean McVay“, said Agnone. But he is not worried about his longtime client.

“Like I tell him all the time, ‘How did it work for Tomlin? How did it work for Belichick or Parcells? … I think he’ll do just fine.

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Liz Mullen can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.


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