Tom Gamble, pictured here in 1992, first joined the Eagles four years earlier as a player personnel assistant. (Photo courtesy of the Eagles)
Howie Roseman’s year-long quest to replace Ryan Grigson, the former Eagles director of player personnel who last year became the Colts’ general manager, ended Wednesday with the announcement that longtime NFL executive Tom Gamble had become the No. 2 man in the team’s front office.
One year after unsuccessfully trying to lure Gamble away from an eight-year stint in San Francisco, Roseman landed his man by ponying up a catchy new title. Gamble, whose father Harry once served as Eagles president in the Buddy Ryan era, will be the team’s vice president of player personnel.
The title encompasses myriad responsibilities, not the least of which is heading the college and pro scouting departments. More importantly, Gamble’s presence relieves Roseman of the added responsibilities he shouldered after Grigson bolted last January for Indianapolis, a departure that left the general manager without his right-hand football man.
“He’s got extensive experience both in college and the pro side,” Roseman said in a conference call. “He’s been on the road, developing relationships with people at college campuses across the country. He’s also been in the office. He’s been part of successful winning organizations.
“He’s a guy that’s seen it all and been around great people. We have other good people on this staff. We have their expertise as well. But I’m excited to get him next door and be connected to his office and go from there.”
Gamble’s NFL resume is equal parts extensive and accomplished and not relegated to the front office.
After four years as an assistant in the Eagles’ player personnel department, Gamble spent two seasons with the Jets as a defensive quality control coach before heading to Baltimore in 1997 for his first pro scouting gig.
He then spent seven years as a college scout under Bill Polian in Indianapolis before moving onto the Bay Area, where he helped rebuild the sagging Niners franchise into NFC Champions.
Teams that Gamble has worked for have made the postseason 11 times, and San Francisco went to the NFC Championship and Super Bowl in Gamble’s only two seasons as the club’s director of pro personnel.
"Tom Gamble is one of the finest people I know, in or out of the NFL," Polian, now an ESPN analyst, said. "He is an excellent judge of talent and excellent administrator." Polian added that the Eagles were fortunate to bring him over.
Almost all of Gamble's experience is in the scouting sector, an area the Eagles can’t claim as their strength after the team’s free-agency blitz coming out of the 2011 lockout backfired and compounded draft mishaps made in 2010 and 2011.
Gamble joins a front office that endured major turnover recently, with the departures of former general manager Tom Heckert, Grigson, senior advisor Phil Savage and some scouts over the past three seasons and the additions of senior advisor Tom Donahoe, assistant director of pro scouting Ed Marynowitz and some other scouts and lower-level front office executives.
Roseman ducked the issue of final say, but Gamble clearly wasn’t brought here to be the general manager’s “yes, man.”
“We want to find good players,” Roseman said. “And we want to find good players in the draft. We want to find good players on the street. We want to find good players in free agency. To be really good, to get back to where we need to be, we can’t have egos involved in this.
“It’s going to be about putting together a bunch of good drafts, building on it and build a core together that can make this city proud and get our football team back.”
Roseman didn’t offer much detail as to why Gamble left behind a prestigious front-office job for the Super Bowl runner-ups and an office in one of America’s most scenic cities to move laterally for a rebuilding franchise on the East Coast or why talks between the two last year fell through.
Gamble, who had been a hot commodity recently for some general manager vacancies, wasn’t made available for comment. He still has family living in the area and Roseman mentioned that Gamble’s decision involved family influence.
“Last year we did talk to Tom, with Coach [Andy] Reid,” Roseman said. “We thought it was a great fit then as well. He just wanted to make sure the time is right. Now is a good time for him. His family was kind of raring to go as it was.”
Gamble’s track record of draft and development is another clue that Roseman is intent on gutting the 2012 roster and ushering in a wave of younger, fresher players for new coach Chip Kelly after the Eagles went 4-12 last year to follow up an 8-8 campaign that put Reid’s job on thin ice.
The Niners in 2010 added college scouting to Gamble’s job requirements even though they had hired him to oversee pro personnel. In 2011, they promoted him to the more comprehensive position of player personnel director.
In those three years, the Niners drafted several players who would help compose the centerpiece of the team’s back-to-back NFC West championships and first Super Bowl since 1994.
Rising star quarterback Colin Kaepernick (second round, 2011), Pro Bowl defensive end Aldon Smith (first round, 2011), Pro Bowl offensive lineman Mike Iupati (2010 first-round selections) and Pro Bowl linebacker Navarro Bowman (third round, 2010) were all drafted in that time frame. In total, the Niners sent an NFL-most nine players to this year’s Pro Bowl.
"I would like to thank Tom for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the past eight seasons," Trent Baalke, Niners general manager, said in a statement. “He has played an instrumental role within our personnel department, and is a true professional in every sense of the word.”