Power Ranking All 32 NFL General Managers
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Being a general manager in the NFL is a dream for most personnel men. There are only 32 in the entire world. Almost all start off as lowly interns or scouting assistants. Most of the time in the infancy of their NFL careers, these individuals simply wanted to just get a foot in the door and be around a NFL team.
In their first years, getting coffee, making copies and going out to get the staff lunch was the entire job description. Most young personnel men do odd jobs all day, just to have the opportunity to watch tape and write reports at night.
If one of these guys actually got a “real” scouting position, there was nothing better in life. Heading out on the road to break down college players or scouting players already in the NFL is a man living out his dream. Every young scout, at one time or another, puts together a plan on how they will structure and run a front office.
When the call finally comes to be the lead dog and guide a team’s future, many years of watching, listening and learning have already taken place. The key is to hire the right people and surround yourself with qualified individuals who will help your vision become a reality. Sometimes the best plans and intentions do not come to fruition.
Here is a list from No. 32 to No. 1 of general managers at every level of their plan. Some are on their way up, while others are on their way out.
(For full disclosure, I have worked with or know everyone on this list. I have done my best to take emotion out of these rankings.I solely based my list on history, personnel moves and the state of the current condition of each franchise.)
#32 Former Carolina Panthers' GM Marty Hurney
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Since the Panthers do not currently have a GM due to Hurney’s firing, this selection was easy. Hurney set himself up squarely in the line of the firing squad by signing long-term deals to running backs Jonathan Stewart ($23 million guaranteed) and DeAngelo Williams ($21 million guaranteed). Neither player averages more than 40 yards rushing a game in 2012. Williams has three rushing touchdowns on the season while Stewart has zero.
Hurney is a respected talent evaluator and should not be out of a job long. Hurney can be credited with the drafting of quarterback Cam Newton and the likes of Pro Bowlers Jordan Gross, Steve Smith and Ryan Kalil. Ultimately though, the firing of head coach John Fox and the turnover on the coaching staff this season did Hurney in.
#31 Jacksonville Jaguars' GM Gene Smith
Smith is very well respected in scouting circles as a tireless worker and all around good person. Unfortunately, those two qualities are not the only ones that help win football games. Smith has been with the Jaguars in some capacity since the team’s inception but does not look to last after this season.
Smith has had some hits with the free agent signing of linebacker Paul Posluszny and the drafting of tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. But since being named the General Manager in 2009, Smith has had more misses than hits. There are only 15 players on the current Jaguars roster that Smith drafted, and one is a punter, Bryan Anger, from the third round of the 2012 draft.
New ownership and lack of production on the football field will lead to Smith’s demise in Jacksonville, but look for Smith to land on his feet elsewhere in the NFL.
#30 Buffalo Bills' GM Buddy Nix
Since being named the Bills General Manager late in 2009, Nix has compiled a 14-28 record. Nix is known as a solid drafter and with selections like running back C.J. Spiller and offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, that reputation is backed up.
Where Nix has fallen short is in unrestricted free agency. So far, the signing of high priced defensive end Mario Williams has yet to pay off, and miscalculating the worth of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hurts as well. Nix may get a chance to hire a different head coach because at this juncture, his hiring of Chan Gailey has yet to pay dividends.
Nix may be one of those great football minds that is a better No. 2 than the shot-caller. Only time will tell.
#29 Kansas City Chiefs' GM Scott Pioli
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The former Sporting News Executive of the Year has fallen on hard times in Kansas City. Pioli is already on head coach No. 2, and a team that many pundits picked to challenge for the 2012 AFC West crown has underachieved.
Pioli went all in on quarterback Matt Cassel, and that decision did not pan out the way anyone in Kansas City hoped. The signing of offensive tackle Eric Winston was a solid pickup for Pioli, but misses like former cornerback Stanford Routt and now backup wide receiver Steve Breaston have marred the Pioli era.
The best two draft picks in the four years of Pioli at the wheel are outside linebacker Justin Houston, who was a third rounder, and kicker Ryan Succop, who was Mr. Irrelevant. Pioli is on the hot seat in Kansas City and as a former Super Bowl champion in New England, knows more is expected of him. It will be interesting to see if Pioli gets that chance in Kansas City or elsewhere.
#28 Cleveland Browns' GM Tom Heckert
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Heckert is in the unenviable position of being a GM with a president that has more sway in the organization. Before Joe Banner showed up, Heckert had to answer to Mike Holmgren. That is a tough position for Heckert and surely played into many of the decisions, most poor, that have the Browns possibly naming a new head coach for the fourth time since 2008.
Since Heckert took over as the GM of the Browns, the team has an 11-30 record. Though Heckert may be on the hot seat, one thing can be said about the Browns’ general manager.
Heckert is solid when selecting draft picks. From cornerback Joe Haden to running back Trent Richardson, 11 starters for the Browns were drafted on Heckert’s watch.
Ultimately, the overall team success determines a GM’s fate, and though Heckert has made some right moves, finishing three years in the basement of the AFC North may seal his fate.
#27 New York Jets' GM Mike Tannenbaum
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Tannenbaum was the go-to GM as early as two seasons ago when his Jets team was coming off back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship game. My, how the mighty have fallen! From trading for quarterback Tim Tebow to the circus that is the Jets locker room, Tannenbaum is at the center of the storm and may not make his way out.
Though injuries can be partly to blame for the Jets demise, the lack of true young talent also hurts this club. Tannenbaum has had some major scores as a draft picker from cornerback Darrelle Revis and offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. But Tannenbaum is also at the center of losing valuable veterans like Jason Taylor, Tony Richardson and Damien Woody.
Tannenbaum is good with the salary cap and understands how to function in one of the NFL’s toughest markets. But the Jets need to perform better if Tannenbaum expects to stay in that market much longer.
#26 San Diego Chargers' GM A.J. Smith
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Smith is a former road warrior who earned his stripes to get the top spot in San Diego. His no-holds barred attitude is a blessing and a curse. Smith is highly respected in football circles but how the Chargers finish this season will determine his fate as the Chargers' GM of the future.
Smith put all his cards on the table when he decided to keep Norv Turner as his head coach when fans called for his firing. That decision alone binds the two men like none other in the NFL. To try and help Turner succeed, Smith went all out this past offseason in the free agent market. The Chargers added linebacker Jarret Johnson, receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, running back Ronnie Brown and safety Atari Bigby.
The personnel move that hangs like an albatross around Smith’s neck is the loss of Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson. The Chargers offense does not function as well without him and quarterback Philip Rivers is struggling this season. Barring a Chargers playoff berth, Smith may be working elsewhere in 2013.
#25 Cincinnati Bengals' GM Mike Brown
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Since taking over control of the Bengals after the 1990 season, Brown has led the Bengals to three playoff appearances. Though the Bengals made the playoffs last season, the club has also had many off-the-field issues with players, and former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer forced his way out of town.
By drafting players like quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and defensive tackle Geno Atkins, Brown has shown an acumen for acquiring good young talent. But Brown has also shown that he can be out of touch at times with the handling of free agents and an unwillingness to spend on high priced players.
The Bengals employ the smallest scouting staff under Brown in the NFL. Since Brown, like Jerry Jones, is the owner, there will be no firing of the GM. But unless the Bengals win very soon, the idea of hiring a separate one may not be a bad idea.
#24 Dallas Cowboys' GM Jerry Jones
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A man of many hats, Jones has said recently that he will not give up the title of general manager. With the state of the Cowboys today, that decision may be a huge mistake. Jones is no doubt one of the best business minds in the game, but being able to find and evaluate players at a high level is a different talent all its own.
Having a buffer between the owner and head coach is a good thing. That is not the case for GM Jones. Jones has shown the willingness to pay big bucks for marginal talent. Both offensive guards are questionable free agent acquisitions. The team lacks depth in the offensive line and wide receiver corps.
Jones seems to truly love his players, which as the owner is fine. But as the General Manager, Jones has to view the players completely different, and until that happens, the Cowboys will always be average.
#23 Philadelphia Eagles' GM Howie Roseman
Roseman is the wunderkind that inherited a talented—but young—Eagles team. While head coach Andy Reid still has tons of power in the organization, Roseman will be counted on to possibly find and hire a new coach in 2013.
Giving Roseman a partial pass until he can put his ideas and plan in place, many fans will be calling for his head if his vision does not turn the Eagles around quickly.
Roseman showed very good draft acumen in 2012, selecting the quarterback of the future, Nick Foles, as well as starters Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle and Mychal Kendrick at linebacker. The next six months will greatly determine if Roseman is on this list next season or not.
#22 Arizona Cardinals' GM Rod Graves
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Graves is a solid GM who has really surrounded himself with quality scouts. Guys like Steve Kiem and Jason Licht are future general managers in their own right.
Graves' downfall is not addressing the quarterback and offensive line issues the club has had since Kurt Warner retired. The trade for Kevin Kolb is starting to look like a major mistake and the lack of depth on the offensive line is getting the quarterbacks killed.
Graves hired a heck of a coach in Ken Whisenhunt and is only a few years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. But without a solid 2013 draft and free agent period, Graves may not be long for Arizona.
#21 Tennessee Titans' GM Ruston Webster
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The long tenured NFL scout was named the Titans GM in January. A solid showing in his first draft at the helm produced starting linebacker Zach Brown, quality backup receiver Kendall Wright and defensive tackle Mike Martin.
The Titans did not make a lot of headline signings in free agency, and their lack of depth is a concern moving forward. Webster will be given free rein to improve the roster moving forward. The offensive line, once a strength, has taken a major hit over the years.
Webster’s biggest concern is getting quarterback Jake Locker to play within the system, or Webster may be looking for a replacement very soon.
#20 Oakland Raiders' GM Reggie McKenzie
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McKenzie is in his first year as the GM of the Raiders, and replacing a legend like Al Davis will take time. McKenzie has already put his fingerprints on the franchise by hiring Dennis Allen as the head coach and releasing many players the Davis drafted high over the years.
While many people may have panicked with the lack of draft picks the Raiders had in 2012 due to past trades, McKenzie simply did his homework and drafted the best available player.
Only time will tell if McKenzie can get the Raiders back on track to the “Just Win, Baby” days, but the arrow is pointing up for the former Raiders linebacker. McKenzie has a plan in place and will be given the time to cultivate his vision.
#19 Detroit Lions' GM Martin Mayhew
Mayhew is a breath of fresh air in Detroit after the disaster that was Matt Millen. Mayhew has drafted very well since being named the GM in 2008. He has completely turned over the roster he inherited from Millen and has put his own stamp on the franchise.
From the hiring of head coach Jim Schwartz to drafting quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Mayhew is putting the pieces in place to compete in the NFC North.
Though Mayhew must address the running back and offensive line, the Lions have a solid core to build from and grow.
#18 St. Louis Rams' GM Les Snead
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Snead was just named the GM of the Rams and before the ink was even dry on his contract, the former Falcons scout was making trades to set up the Rams for years to come. Snead traded out of the No. 2 slot in the 2012 NFL draft to pick up multiple picks in future years.
The Rams have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, but players Snead selected in the 2012 draft are already paying big dividends. Running back Daryl Richardson may be the steal of the draft and kicker Greg Zuerlein should be a staple in St. Louis for years to come.
The signing of free agent cornerback Cortland Finnegan has helped give the Rams a toughness they have lacked for years. By continually adding pieces like Finnegan, Snead is building the Rams into a contender in the near future.
#17 Miami Dolphins' GM Jeff Ireland
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Ireland finally escaped the shadow of Bill Parcells and made some quality moves this past offseason. First was the hiring of Head Coach Joe Philbin. Second was drafting franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Ireland is not shy about his ability as a talent evaluator. Now that he has the ultimate reins in Miami, look for Ireland to put the pieces in place to compete in the AFC East.
Ireland may only get one more season to prove he can be the guy. If his draft in 2013 is solid and Ireland can add a few quality pieces in free agency, the former Chiefs and Cowboy scout should get more time to turn the Dolphins around.
#16 Minnesota Vikings' GM Rick Spielman
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Spielman is quietly putting pieces in place in Minnesota to compete in the NFC North. In what is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, Spielman must prove he can build a consistent winner year in and year out.
Spielman, who held the title for the Miami Dolphins, was just named to the position in Minnesota earlier this season after six seasons of scouting for the Vikings.
Spielman drafted well this past draft, locking up left tackle Matt Kalil, safety Harrison Smith, cornerback Josh Robinson and kicker Blair Walsh. Spielman seems to have learned that being flashy in free agency does not always pan out. The Vikings made very little noise in acquiring veterans this past offseason.
#15 Washington Redskins' GM Bruce Allen
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Allen, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager, is already putting his fingerprints on a Redskins organization that was a mess for years. No longer are the Redskins signing every big-name free agent on the market.
Allen is blending young draft picks, like quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, with veterans such as receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Building around Griffin, Allen will look to duplicate the success he had with Jon Gruden in Tampa.
Allen seems to have a good rapport with owner Dan Snyder and should be given time to create his vision. Being a Super Bowl GM should buy him the time Allen needs to produce a winner in Washington.
#14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers' GM Mark Dominik
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Dominik is already on his second head coach as the Buccaneers' GM. The hiring of Raheem Morris did not end well and after a lengthy search this past offseason, Dominik hired a strong voice for the locker room in Greg Schiano.
Dominik is a savvy scout who understands how to work the tough Tampa demographics in terms of ticket sales and media coverage. In his tenure, Dominik has drafted quarterback Josh Freeman, running back Doug Martin, linebacker Mason Foster and safety Mark Barron.
Dominik spent big money this past offseason shoring up the receiver corps, landing big playmaker Vincent Jackson. Dominik has a Super Bowl ring as pro scout. Now in his 18th season with the Buccaneers, Dominik would like to win one as the leader.
#13 Indianapolis Colts' GM Ryan Grigson
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Grigson was hired this year to help rebuild the Colts. Not only did the former Eagles scout hit a home run with quarterback Andrew Luck, but looks to have scored with tight end Coby Fleener, receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard in the 2012 NFL draft.
Grigson was able to convince Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne to re-sign with Indianapolis and brought veteran defensive end Cory Redding to the young Colts for leadership. Grigson’s best hire may have been securing head coach Chuck Pagano.
Grigson trusts his eyes and his scouts and will continue to have success in the NFL. His arrow as a GM is pointing up.
#12 Seattle Seahawks' GM John Schneider
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Schneider is one of the biggest wheeler-dealers in the NFL. The Seahawks easily lead the NFL in transactions since Schneider took the reins as GM.
Schneider, growing up in the Ron Wolf/Ted Thompson scouting tree, is aggressive in the draft and free agency. Going against pundits' logic, Schneider has drafted the likes of defensive end Bruce Irvin and quarterback Russell Wilson. Add those picks to safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and offensive tackle Russell Okung and Schneider has drafted very well.
Schneider continues to grind for players, and if Seattle can ever learn to win consistently on the road, Schneider may add another Super Bowl ring to the ones he collected as an assistant personnel man in Green Bay.
#11 Chicago Bears' GM Phil Emery
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The long time college scout came out of nowhere to be hired as the General Manager of the Bears in 2011. In his first draft, Emery drafted receiver Alshon Jeffery and Shea McClellan who have both contributed to a veteran team.
But the move that put Emery on the board was the trade for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Pro Bowl receiver has had issues off the field, but Emery felt confident enough in his position and new team to pull off the blockbuster move.
The Bears are playing at a high level and Emery, by locking up running back Matt Forte, proved to the locker room that he is willing to do whatever is needed to win.
#10 Denver Broncos' GM John Elway
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Once former GM Brian Xanders was relieved of his duties, Elway took over the responsibilities of the General Manager. Though Elway does not have the actual title, Elway runs the Broncos in every phase.
His first move was going all in to get quarterback Peyton Manning. Now that Manning is having much success, the move looks genius. But if Manning had issues with his neck and did not play well then Elway the gambler would be farther down this list.
Elway won multiple World Championships as a player. If Elway can copy that recipe in the front office, the Hall of Fame player may be a Hall of Fame GM.
#9 Houston Texans' GM Rick Smith
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All Rick Smith needs to get into the top five GMs in the NFL is a Super Bowl win. Smith is one of the best talent collectors in the NFL and a look at the Texans defense is a prime example.
Under Smith’s reign, the Texans have drafted defensive end J.J. Watt, offensive tackle Duane Brown and cornerback Kareem Jackson. Smith traded for quarterback Matt Schaub and center Chris Myers. Smith also signed free agent starters Johnathan Joseph at cornerback and Antonio Smith at defensive end.
Smith understands how to work the waiver wire, free agency and the draft. With some playoff success, Smith will continue to rise in the annuals of general managers in the NFL.
#8 San Francisco 49ers' GM Trent Baalke
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Baalke is a newbie in terms status as a NFL General Manager, but his skills as a longtime scout have served him well in his current role. Though named GM of the 49ers as recently as 2011, Baalke has helped upgrade the roster and put the pieces in place for a 49er playoff run.
Baalke has drafted playmakers like running back Kendall Hunter and outside linebacker Aldon Smith. The GM was also the key behind locking up free agent starters, cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Donte Whitner.
With Baalke at the helm, the 49ers were a game away from the Super Bowl last season. With continued success, Baalke should stay near the top of this list for years to come.
#7 Atlanta Falcons' GM Thomas Dimitroff
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Since being named the GM in 2008, Dimitroff has a record of 51-22. As a general manager, Dimitroff has never had a losing record.
Dimitroff has done a solid job of mixing draft picks with quality veteran signings. Dimitroff drafted quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver Julio Jones, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and safety William Moore just to name a few. Dimitroff blended them with solid leaders like tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Michael Turner.
Dimitroff’s hiring of head coach Mike Smith may have been his best selection to date though. Now all Dimitroff needs to keep his place in the top 10 is have some playoff success.
#6 New Orleans Saints' GM Mickey Loomis
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Loomis’ value can be seen in the Lombardi trophy he helped bring to the Crescent City. Not only was the team displaced the previous season due to Hurricane Katrina, but the Saints have finished .500 or better eight times since Loomis was named GM.
Loomis has had a hand in every personnel move for every player on the Saints current roster and was a major player in the Saints not only acquiring quarterback Drew Brees but in re-signing him this past offseason to the largest contract in NFL history.
With Loomis back in the building after serving his suspension for “Bountygate”, look for the Saints to make another run at the playoffs.
#5 New England Patriots' GM Bill Belichick
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An argument can be made that Belichick is the best General Manager on this list. But technically, Belichick is not even the Patriots GM. Though the three-time Super Bowl winning coach has final say over all personnel matters, much of Belichick’s early success was due to Scott Pioli.
That being said, Belichick is directly involved in the draft selections of starters Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer on the offensive line, Rob Gronkowski at tight end and Chandler Jones on the defensive line.
Belichick, the GM, has not had many great hits in the free agent market though. While showing great aptitude to acquire extra picks in the draft, Belichick has not had great success with players seasoned outside of New England.
Belichick is a dying breed of coaches that have final say in personnel matters. But his record speaks for itself, and Belichick is simply a great football mind, on and off the field.
#4 Green Bay Packers' GM Ted Thompson
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The former Houston Oilers linebacker has taken the toughness he displayed on the football field to the boardroom in Green Bay. Similar to many other front office personnel high on this list, Thompson is not flashy or showy. Most days of the year, Thompson can be found watching tape on college campuses like he was still a first year scout.
Thompson makes every decision in terms of what is best for the organization, and his drafts have proven that. The only player on the current roster that predated Thompson as GM is receiver Donald Driver. Almost all of the current players were drafted or signed originally by the Packers. The only two major free agent signings of note are defensive back Charles Woodson and Jeff Saturday.
#3 Baltimore Ravens' GM Ozzie Newsome
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The Hall of Fame tight end took the same competitive drive that made him a legend on the field and directed that energy into being one of the best front office people in the NFL. Newsome not only believes in building his team through the draft but also by building his scouting staff from the ground up.
In the 16 seasons Newsome has been the shot-caller for the Ravens, 15 of his draft picks have gone on to be selected as Pro Bowlers. Safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis are sure-fire Hall of Fame players. Since 2008, Newsome has drafted quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, wide receiver Torrey Smith, offensive tackle Michael Oher and cornerback Lardarius Webb just to name a few.
Newsome is considered one of the best in the NFL, and his record, reputation and Super Bowl ring back that up.
#2 Pittsburgh Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert
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Colbert is one of the least talked about general managers in the NFL. Though he has only officially held the title since 2011, Colbert was the de facto GM since 2000 even as his title read Director of Football Operations.
Colbert is a relentless worker who understands the importance of low-end free agent signings but drafting players who fit the “Steeler” way. Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, along with center Maurkice Pouncey are just some of the recent draft selections Colbert has engineered.
With two Super Bowl rings and a heady feel for mixing veterans with youngsters, Colbert is a GM who lets the players play and the coaches coach. Colbert’s success is rarely appreciated in the public’s eye, but personnel men around the NFL know his value.
#1 New York Giants' GM Jerry Reese
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Since being named the Giants' GM in 2007, Reese has won two Lombardi trophies and has quietly put together a solid roster that can compete for years to come. Never one to make flashy or splashy moves, Reese believes in building through the draft and adding key pieces through free agency.
Over half of the Giants' current roster was either drafted or signed as college free agents by Reese. The General Manager was responsible for key free agent signings of starters like linebacker Michael Boley, safety Antrel Rolle, center David Baas and defense tackle Chris Canty.
Reese is rarely in the media and is not a self-promoter. But the best GM in the business is respected by his players and his peers. And if his talent evaluating skills do not impress, just ask to see his two Super Bowl rings.