All 32 men leading NFL franchises as general managers (or in a role equivalent to general managing) have a great background of experience in what they do, and are among the smartest football minds in the United States.
But whether it be due to poor draft selections, misguided free-agent signings or simply bad luck, a few NFL general managers have been on a bad run in recent seasons, and their team’s records have spiraled downwards as a result.
Last year, one of the most reputable men in the business, Bill Polian, lost his job as the Colts’ vice president of football operations as a result of a poorly-negotiated Peyton Manning contract that forced the Colts to release him after an NFL-worst 2-14 record in 2011.
These NFL general managers may not necessarily be at risk of losing their jobs, but their teams are at risk of being in the NFL’s bottom barrel if they are unable to make better moves than they have in recent seasons.
Gene Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars
Gene Smith was hired as the Jaguars’ general manager during the 2009 NFL offseason, and his first draft was actually a resounding success. The Jaguars drafted a very solid left tackle, Eugene Monroe, with their first-round pick that year, and found many gems in later rounds including defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, cornerback Derek Cox, wide receiver Mike Thomas and running back Rashad Jennings.
Since then, however, Smith’s drafting has been much less successful.
The Jaguars’ only significant contributor out of their 2010 draft picks has been defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, but for a player who was considered a reach right away as a top-10 draft pick, he has been a disappointment.
In 2011, Smith reached again with the No. 10 overall pick in the draft by selecting Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert to be the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback. Gabbert had a very poor rookie season, and through the first three games of his 2012, progress has not been particularly evident.
While he has not thrown an interception yet, he ranks 30th in the NFL in passing yards, 31st in yards per throw and 31st with a 50.6 completion percentage.
The Jaguars only have one bona fide star on their roster in running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and his long-term future with the Jaguars is also in question. Jones-Drew held out for the entire NFL preseason, and if the Jaguars cannot sign him to a long-term extension that he is happy with by the end of the 2013 season, they can wave him goodbye.
Without Jones-Drew, one of the NFL’s least talented rosters would look even bleaker, and a reason for that has been the struggle for Gene Smith to make strong draft selections and bring in quality free agents in recent seasons.
The Jaguars have started the 2012 season with a 1-2 record.
Mike Tannenbaum, New York Jets
New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum made two of the 2012 NFL offseason’s most puzzling decisions, and both involved quarterbacks.
After a disappointing 2011 season in which starting quarterback Mark Sanchez ranked 23rd in NFL passer rating, only completed 56.7 percent of his passes and threw 18 interceptions, the Jets made a very puzzling decision to give Sanchez a three-year contract extension worth 40.5 million.
Then, less than two weeks after making that extended commitment to Sanchez, Tannenbaum traded for arguably the league’s most high-profile player, Tim Tebow, to create an immediate controversy in the quarterback position.
Sanchez has not responded well to the contract extension and the competition. Sanchez ranks 24th in NFL passer rating with a league-worst completion percentage of 50.5 percent. That leaves the Jets with an underperforming franchise quarterback in Sanchez, and a backup with a $4 million cap hit.
Other disappointing Tannenbaum signings leave the Jets with a bigger mess on their hands, including outside linebacker Calvin Pace, who is far from being worth his $7.3 million cap hit. The Jets still may have many areas on their roster where they are thin, including at wide receiver, outside linebacker and the entire secondary.
Tannenbaum’s team has started out the 2012 season with a 2-1 record, but unless Sanchez can fend off controversy and pick up his play going forward this season, the Jets will have a tough time staying on the positive side of that equation.
Are there other general managers you believe should be included on this list? Let us know in the comments section!