TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to be at the forefront of the NFL's push to hire women. After hiring female assistant coaches Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar during the 2019 offseason, the Bucs have hired Jacqueline Davidson, previously the New York Jets' director of football administration, to serve as the director of football research.
"She's brilliant. She's brilliant with a lot of things, but she's really brilliant with numbers and analytics," general manager Jason Licht told ESPN. "It was very important to get her in here. You can't have enough smart people. ... She's gonna help us integrate analytics into our overall football decisions."
Davidson had been with the Jets from 2007-2018, becoming one of the highest ranking women in the NFL, and one of the few Black women working in an NFL front office and in an analytics role.
"It's incredibly humbling, and at the same time, I do recognize the importance of it," Davidson told ESPN. "It was important to me when I was younger, thinking about things that I wanted to do, to see people that look like me, not only in jobs that I knew existed, but in jobs that I didn't have any idea about."
"One of the things that, particularly for women and people of color, there are a lot of jobs that I think people close themselves off from because I think they just don't know about them. So it's important to bring a certain awareness to it, and it's something I take very seriously."
Davidson got her start in the league office as a legal intern in 2004. She spent the past two years working as a consultant for NFL teams and with agents.
Licht told ESPN that this hire was less about having a position open and more about acquiring top talent.
While Davidson served as the chief negotiator of contracts with the Jets -- including rewarding Darrelle Revis with a $70 million contract in 2015 -- her job in Tampa will be to oversee research and analytics, although it won't be exclusively analytics -- she's savvy with X's and O's and she will assist Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg with the salary cap and with contracts.
"I don't really always like the word 'analytics' because people think it's numbers that you put into a program or put into an algorithm, and it spits out what you should do, and teams have been using analytics for years when breaking down tape," Licht said. "But now sometimes you get caught up in, 'It's the trendy thing to do.' We just want to do it the right way."
Davidson previously worked with Greenberg, also a Cornell graduate, when he interned with the Jets in 2008 and 2009, regarding her as a mentor. She also worked with Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who previously was the head coach of the Jets.
In addition to Locust and Javadifar's hirings last year, Licht hired a female scouting assistant, Carly Helfand, who had worked in recruiting at the University of Pennsylvania.
"It's super important to me," Licht said of helping woman land opportunities in football. "Obviously with Bruce, you know how he feels about it. But what I'm really proud of Jackie for -- and along with all of our other [female staffers], but we're just talking about Jackie here -- that it never even really occurred to me about her race or her gender. It was, 'I want the best. And it just so happens that she is a Black woman.'
"That's awesome for her. That's awesome for the organization. But it wasn't about that. It was about hiring the right person. It just happens to be a woman and a minority. I'm just proud of her, of the success that she's had, the opportunities that she's had -- and she's gonna make an impact on our organization." She will work not only in football administration, but alongside the college and pro scouting departments and the current Bucs' roster in an unprecedented year where college football may come to a halt and scouting access may be limited.
"This is gonna be a year of studies because who knows where the college football landscape is. Who knows when it's gonna start? She's gonna help us find the best ways to identify talent and the best ways to find them. Just with her background, she can help all of us. She can help in every area."
While Davidson's current focus is on improving the Buccaneers and making them one of the top analytics departments in the league, she acknowledged that long term, she has thought about one day becoming a general manager.
"I think everybody thinks about it because we're all -- from the time we're in school, we're always taught 'short-term' and 'long-term' goals. So yeah, I've thought about running a team one day. My immediate focus right now is this, but I don't think I'd be a good planner, to a certain extent, if I didn't think down the road. But right now I'm just happy to be Buccaneer. For right now I'll leave it at that. I'm happy to see if we can't hoist the Lombardi, and we'll think about the future tomorrow."
Licht's 9-year-old daughter, Zoe, has aspirations of working in the NFL one day, too. She has a passion for football just like her two brothers, Charlie and Theo, and they often play together as a family in the front yard. Licht said he thinks of her when seeing women like Davidson continue to shatter glass ceilings.
"I hope she becomes a GM," Licht said of his daughter. "My boys, right now at their age, of course they want to be NFL football players. My daughter -- she says she wants to be a coach or a GM. As a father, it's a great feeling that my daughter, when she comes and she sees the staff and she sees the coaches -- she's 9 years old and doesn't really understand the hurdles that they've had to go through and the hurdles women and minorities have had to go through in the past."
"But when she sees it and we talk about the hires that we've made and she looks through the website and stuff -- it's more of the norm and it's no longer a hurdle. I think that that's awesome that this next generation of young girls and minorities will grow up thinking, 'It's not impossible. The deck won't be stacked against me.'"
When asked what she would say to young girls and young people of color who want to follow in her footsteps, Davidson said, "Always think outside the box. I think a lot of times, we see players, we see coaches and we put football in this box of, 'You have to play and you have to coach.' There are a lot of different components that go into sports in general -- football specifically -- and just, you can make, especially now, you can almost craft a lane for yourself out of whatever you're good at it. That attaches itself to sports just like anything else. Don't pigeonhole it to certain things you see on TV because that's not all that our occupations and our jobs are all about."