General Manager 2.0

January 27, 2009 at 5:40 am Leave a comment

scott-pioliI’ll first start out by saying that I have absolutely no experience in any kind of management field, especially that of a professional NFL franchise. I also understand that millions of people across the country log onto a computer each day and voice their opinion about their favorite teams and act like they would be the best candidate for the team’s general manager job. Consider this another one of “those”. My General Manager 2.0 theory is most comparable to those books entitled “Such-and-Such for Dummies” and it only consists of two easy rules. The General Manager 2.0 theory of building an NFL contending team is very simple, very basic, and very much to the point. If you have a couple minutes to waste, please hear me out.

The model can be used for any NFL franchise. I, however, will try my best to use the Washington Deadskins as my example of what NOT to do. Out of all the teams in the NFL, the Skins’ generate the most revenue and are second only to the Dallas Cowboys (due to new stadium) in franchise estimated value. Many people ask the same question; how in the hell are the two highest-valued teams repeat playoff absentees? The answer…money hungry owners who think they can do EVERYTHING. Because Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones and Skins’ owner Dan Snyder think that running an NFL franchise is as easy as running a fantasy football team on Yahoo.. But let’s not get carried away, here’s my take…

Rule #1 – This may not really constitute as a rule technically, but an aspiring GM has to find the job.

Owners should always hire a General Manager. Why? GM’s are an essential part of any football team that is looking to succeed. Whether a team employs a GM/Coach like Mike Shanahan or a one-job GM such as Scott Pioli, a team MUST have a GM. The GM is in-charge of the personnel, not the owner. Sure the owner signs the checks, but the GM is what essentially keeps the team oiled up and working…hence the job title GENERAL MANAGER. Owners must also be aware that they are there for the sole purpose of providing dollars and having a passion for winning. With that said, owners must also understand that their football knowledge is either minimal or not anywhere close to the football knowledge of their GM (assuming the owner hired a GM with some proven skills). Therefore, owners should not be assuming the role of general manager. Take Skins’ owner Dan Snyder for example, he thinks he’s the greatest GM in the country. Is he? Absolutely not. In fact, he is the proof in the pudding that some owners believe running an NFL franchise (the highest grossing) is as easy as a Madden video game. Look at Jerry Jones. Is his input on signing Pacman Jones necessary? No. Any GM in their right mind wouldn’t have signed that idiot. BUT, Jerry thinks he knows more than any GM and he signed Pacman anyway. And, how did that turn out? Now look at owners like Robert Kraft, the Rooney Family, and Steve Bisciotti. Those teams have had great success over the years and their players have come from effective GM’s and their expertise in the world of football. Kraft’s former GM, Scott Pioli, assembled a dynasty of the modern day. You can love or hate the Patriots, but you have to admit that the team was a damn good football team. Pioli drafted guys that no one had heard of and they turned out to be solid players in the league, if not Super Bowl MVP’s. The Rooney Family’s GM Kevin Colbert, has helped build a very solid team in Pittsburgh – a team that has had its fair share of playoff appearances and a Super Bowl win in recent years. And finally, Bisciotti understands that he doesn’t have all the knowledge necessary to build a football team, so he hires a guy like Ozzie Newsome. Newsome’s work with the Baltimore Ravens has made them into one of the most-feared defenses in the league. He has also done an outstanding job with the offensive line, bringing in players that no one thought of and turning them into Pro-Bowlers. Newsome, like Pioli and Colbert, understand that their reputation is built from the players they draft after the 1st round.

Rule # 2 – Build your team through the draft, not through free agency.

 Sure, I understand that free agency is an asset to the league and a decent way to fill a void. However, drafting your players and developing them is the most effective way to build a successful team. Referring back to Dan Snyder’s fantasy football style, he came into D.C. and brought in 800-year-old gargoyles like Mark Carrier, Jessie Armstead, and Jeff George. To put it nicely, it never worked out. Now we take a look at teams like the Patriots, Steelers, and Ravens. The Patriots made something out of nothing, seeing different things in players that no other general managers did (see: Tom Brady). The Steelers are probably the greatest drafting team in the league. Of their 22 starting players, 18 of them were drafted by the franchise. Now, take a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ history and success. The Baltimore Ravens have created a defense by drafting players like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Jonathan Ogden. Free agency is often the most entertaining talent pool to look at during the off-season because of the immediate impact a veteran can have. But one must also remember that veterans are usually late 20’s at best, they have established themselves and have developed their own attitude or play-style, and they have been accustomed to the tradition of their former team rather than yours. If every free agent could come to a new team and play with the exact same style and attitude as their new team, then possibly free agency would be more beneficial. But I believe a kid drafted out of Ohio State to play in New England would be better off in the long run than signing a 29-year-old veteran who has played in Dallas for his first six years (especially under Wade Phillips).

So what I have to say may not really matter to anyone, but that’s why it’s an opinion. The General Manager 2.0 model is short, simple, and easy so that boneheads like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder can understand it. And the next time you’re researching a successful team, look into their general manager as well.

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