5 NFL GMs Who Can't Afford Another 1st Round Miss
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For many NFL general managers, the final two weeks of the season are nothing more than glorified exhibition games used to gauge the talent on the team and determine what holes a team has to fill during the offseason in order to get into playoff contention the next season.
For all of the general managers on this list, the coming offseason will likely be their final opportunity to save their jobs. A bad draft means the end of their tenure with their respective teams.
The first round pick is the most important pick in the draft for every team, and it's always important to hit on that pick. For many of the general managers on the list, their problem hasn't been in round one, but in rounds two and three. But despite that, they still have to hit in round one in 2013 in order to be the man in charge in 2014.
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I know some Chiefs fans might ask about Scott Pioli, who I didn't include because there's a good chance that he won't have the job in Kansas City (which many Chiefs fans would actually prefer).
If Pioli remains general manager, it is obviously imperative that whoever the Chiefs select hits the jackpot, especially if it's a quarterback.
Pioli's drafts with Kansas City haven't been too bad, as his first two first round picks Tyson Jackson and Eric Berry have produced for the Chiefs, while Dontari Poe has come on in recent weeks. Only Jon Baldwin could be considered a bust, but even then a better quarterback might be able to salvage his career.
But if he gets one more chance, he better make it count. It's still a big if though as of right now.
Rod Graves, Arizona Cardinals
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When you actually look at the Cardinals' draft history since Rod Graves took over as general manager in 2002, it's a wonder he still has a job.
While he does have some good draft classes from 2004 (Larry Fitzgerald and Karlos Dansby were the Cards' first two picks that year) and 2008 (which saw the Cardinals grab Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Calais Campbell and Tim Hightower), Graves' draft history has been fairly spotty.
His best draft pick of the last four years has been Patrick Peterson in 2011. Other than Peterson, the Cardinals have struggled in choosing their players for their roster.
In 2013 Arizona needs to hit big in picking an offensive lineman, which was also a major need for them last season when they instead used a first-round pick on Michael Floyd. Will the Cardinals finally draft the lineman they need in round one of a very lineman-heavy draft?
They should, because if this line doesn't have any improvement from this year to next year, Graves could be looking elsewhere for employment.
Buddy Nix, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills desperately need a new quarterback (a new head coach would be nice too).
Ryan Fitzpatrick shows signs of competence, yet he's continued to struggle since signing his contract extension midway through the 2011 season. The talent at the skill positions is definitely there, but what good is a 2013 Ferrari when your engine is from a 1976 AMC Pacer?
Does Nix look to the quarterback in 2013? He's already stated that he would, even going so far as to say he will trade up for one (per NFL.com). Considering that the quarterback class of 2013 is at best mediocre, I'm willing to say he doesn't really have to with the Bills likely picking in the top-10 with Matt Barkley available (if that's the direction they choose to go).
Regardless of who the Bills select as their quarterback, they will have to hit the jackpot on the position.
Gene Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars
We could be looking at an April where Gene Smith selects Geno Smith with the first pick in the NFL Draft.
That's assuming the Jaguars remain at two wins this season and Gene Smith remains the general manager of the Jaguars, a position he's held since 2009.
In that time the Jaguars first round picks have consisted of Tyson Alualu, Blaine Gabbert and Justin Blackmon.
Alualu and Blackmon so far look good for the Jaguars. But the Gabbert pick sticks out like a sore thumb. Only two years later, the Jaguars will have to go for a quarterback in round one once again.
This time around, it has to work. I could see Geno Smith succeeding in the NFL, but what if the Jaguars slip to the second pick in the draft? Then where do they go? Do they reach for Matt Barkley, or do they address some of their other needs on defense?
Either way, Gene Smith has to make sure that this draft pick is at least good enough to musk the scent off of not only selecting Gabbert in 2011, but selecting punter Brian Anger in round three of 2012 (nothing against Anger but, a punter in round three is a huge reach).
Mike Tannenbaum, New York Jets
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Mike Tannenbaum has been the Jets general manager since 2006.
His first three first rounders (D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in 2006, Darrelle Revis in 2007) have been huge successes for the Jets. After that though, Tannenbaum has been very hit-or-miss.
New York's 2008 first rounder Vernon Ghoulston flopped spectacularly, while 2010 first rounder Kyle Wilson surprises Jets fans when he produces anything. The 2011 and 2012 first rounders Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Couples have been at best alright, but not the types of players you would expect from a first round pick.
Then there's his 2009 draft pick Mark Sanchez, who the Jets drafted after trading their first and second round picks and three players that year.
That trade and that selection has defined the Jets for the last five seasons. While Sanchez started off well, shouldn't someone selected fifth overall after giving up two high picks and three players be much more than what Mark Sanchez has been?
The Jets have plenty of holes on their roster that need to be filled, and it starts in round one of the draft.
Jeff Ireland, Miami Dolphins
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It's hard to believe that a general manager that inspired FinsNation Blog founder Chris Joseph to purchase a plane with the message shown in the picture at the end of last season (the plane was flown during the Dolphins' season finale against the Jets) will still have a job at the end of this season.
Part of that is because Dolphins' general manager Jeff Ireland's draft record is better than most people think, at least in the first round.
Of Miami's first rounders under Ireland, all of them except for Vontae Davis (traded for a second and sixth round pick prior to this season) are still on the roster and producing well. Of those four players (Jake Long in 2008, Jared Odrick in 2010, Mike Pouncey in 2011 and Ryan Tannehill in 2012), only Long might be out of Miami (and that's due him being good enough to warrant a large contract that the Dolphins might not be interested in paying him due to his declining play).
So the first round has actually been good to Ireland. So why does he have to hit in the first round in 2013?
Because the second and third rounders since 2008 have been sketchy at best. His two 2008 second round picks were defensive end Philip Merling (who was supposed to be Jason Taylor's successor) and quarterback Chad Henne.
In 2009 he did slightly better since one of his selections is still on the team, but it's the consistently inconsistent Sean Smith. The other second rounder from that draft? Quarterback Pat White, who retired to play baseball after the 2009 season.
The 2010 pick Koa Misi has improved this season, so that one looks successful until you remember that he passed on Rob Gronkowski to make that selection when Miami needed a tight end. He would pass on Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez in the third round to select John Jerry.
Ireland has improved in second round selections with Daniel Thomas in 2011 and Jonathan Martin in 2012, but it is disconcerting that Miami's second third round pick of 2012 is a healthy Michael Egnew, a tight end who hasn't seen any playing time.
Does Ireland have to hit in the first round of this draft? Yes, he does. He will have to hit on the entire draft and provide weapons for Ryan Tannehill. If he fails to do so, he's as good as gone.