NFL Coaches and GMs with the Most to Prove in the 2013 NFL Draft
The reputation and job security of every NFL head coach and general manager will either be enhanced or tarnished based on the results of the 2013 NFL draft.
The upcoming draft, now just a mere two weeks away and counting, will be the first test for a grand total of 15 new head coaches or general managers. The vast majority of them will be granted more than one year on the job to establish a track record, unless you happen to be the head coach in Jacksonville, as Mike Mularkey learned last year.
How many head coaches or general managers will wind up being replaced by this time next year?
In this slideshow, we highlight 15 different head coaches or general managers that could really use a great draft class for a wide variety of reasons.
Not all of them are in danger of losing their job, but coming up with a big draft class is still important for each party identified, as is explained on each slide.
Michael Lombardi, Cleveland Browns
From the group of 15 new head coaches or general managers that were hired in 2013, the only one from that group that will appear in this slideshow is Michael Lombardi of the Cleveland Browns.
The reason why is pretty simple.
No other head coach or front-office executive has been in a position to criticize the draft picks of other teams than has Lombardi, due to his work as an analyst for the NFL Network.
It was Lombardi's critical comments about the Browns selection of quarterback Brandon Weeden in the 2012 draft, that led to speculation that Weeden's handle on the starting job is up in the air.
Now in 2013, the tables have turned. NFL analysts and draft gurus will be especially critical of every move Lombardi makes, and you can be sure that if he makes a bad pick, he will be royally roasted by the very same people he used to work with.
If Lombardi comes up with a mediocre or poor draft class, his credibility will take a major hit.
He only has two draft picks to use during the first three rounds (No. 6 and 68 overall), due to Cleveland using their second-round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft to select WR Josh Gordon.
Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
The brutal memories of the New Orleans Saints 2012 season, highlighted by bounty-gate, the worst defense in NFL history and the suspensions handed down by Roger Goodell are now all in the rear-view mirror. It is time for New Orleans to move forward in 2013, and nothing would make Saints fans happier than to nail the 2013 draft.
Between limited space due to salary cap management issues, and forfeiting their second-round draft pick this year thanks to Commissioner Goodell, the Saints are facing an uphill battle to get better in 2013.
If Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis can find some gems in the 2013 draft, that will go a long way towards chasing the bad memories from last year away.
We aren't saying that Payton or Loomis is in trouble, or that their jobs are in jeopardy. They appear very early in this presentation as a way of reminding everybody that this is a team that really needs some good news.
Nothing would be sweeter than coming out of the draft with a couple or three starters for the 2013 season.
Reggie McKenzie, Oakland Raiders
Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie walked into a mess when he agreed to become the GM of the Oakland Raiders in 2012.
McKenzie wasn't responsible for the poor salary cap management practices of the old regime, nor was he responsible for trading away key draft picks to acquire Carson Palmer from Cincinnati. The Raiders were so far over the cap that McKenzie has been forced to release a number of starting veterans on both sides of the ball during each of the last two offseasons.
The Raiders sacrificed draft picks to the Bengals for Palmer, but also invested a high draft pick for the right to take Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft.
McKenzie did what he could to salvage getting back anything for Palmer, who basically forced the Raiders hand into trading him away.
While the 2013 season might be another disaster, the Raiders will become more stable by the time the 2014 season rolls around. Until then, Raiders fans can only hope that McKenzie finds a couple gems in this draft class, to give them some hope for the future.
Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been an annual contender in the AFC seemingly forever. But if you look at what has been happening to this team in the last couple years, you have to wonder about the ability of GM Kevin Colbert to keep the team viable year after year.
In spite of a 6-3 record to begin the 2012 campaign, Pittsburgh went 2-5 in their last seven games to finish the year at .500 and out of the playoffs. Then in the 2013 offseason, the team lost WR Mike Wallace, CB Keenan Lewis, S Ryan Mundy, S Will Allen and RB Rashard Mendenhall in free agency.
In addition, Pittsburgh opted to release former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.
If all that isn't bad enough, the New England Patriots made an offer to restricted free-agent WR Emmanuel Sanders that he signed. Colbert might pass on Sanders, to preserve some salary cap space and use the extra third-round draft pick to find a cheaper option.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that Pittsburgh should let the Patriots keep Sanders. They have until this Sunday to decide what they are going to do, match the offer or walk away.
Should all of that transpire, that would mean that Ben Roethlisberger will have lost two of his top-three wide receivers from 2012. Don't forget that tight end Heath Miller had a severe knee injury in Week 16. There is no telling right now when Miller will be ready to play in 2013.
So with all of the bad news, it is imperative that Colbert comes up with an outstanding draft class. If the Steelers wind up missing the playoffs again, it is not out of the question that some changes could be made within the organization.
Ted Thompson, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have a core of talented players that allows the team to be annual contenders in the NFC. It is one thing to contend, it is another thing to get into the playoffs and watch your defense get embarrassed by second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The defense needs some help, but Green Bay GM Ted Thompson hasn't made any significant moves this offseason to improve the unit.
But the Packers don't do business like most NFL teams. Thompson prefers to build his team through the draft rather than free agency. This philosophy has worked over the years, but it does have some flaws. One example of a flaw would be the inconsistent running game in Green Bay. Another issue is the departure of key wide receivers, yet Thompson did nothing to improve the depth at the position in the offseason.
Many NFL teams will address some of their team needs in free agency, which then frees them up to select the best player available at the draft.
In 2012, Thompson did sign C Jeff Saturday and RB Cedric Benson in free agency to address a couple of needs the team had. But in 2013, the Packers ignored free agency, and are turning their attention to the draft instead.
That is all well and good if Thompson has an impressive haul in the draft this year. But if he swings and misses on a few draft picks, then that will turn up the heat on him, since he places so much emphasis on building through the draft.
Drafts can be unpredictable and a sudden run at a position is capable of altering a team's strategy. That is why Thompson's strategy isn't for everybody.
Let's see what he comes up with two weeks from now.
Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera will be entering his third year of coaching the team in 2013. The new GM for Carolina, Dave Gettleman, had nothing to do with the hiring of Rivera. So if the Panthers fail to come up with a strong record this year, it is highly likely that Gettleman will hire his own coach.
That places tremendous pressure on Rivera to come up with a good draft and allow the team to continue carrying out his message and strategy.
It helped Rivera's chances to retain his job by winning five of the final six contests in 2012.
That demonstrated that the team was playing hard for Rivera and that they still wanted to play for him in 2013.
As talented as Cam Newton is, he only had three games in the 2012 season that he threw for 300 yards or more. He threw for at least 300 yards in three of the first four games of his NFL career, but never threw for that amount again in any of the final 12 games of his rookie season.
Rivera is obviously a defensive guy from his career in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. But for this team to advance and be a more consistent winner, Rivera needs to find a way to improve the offense and surround Newton with more weapons and talent.
We will see if Rivera got the message and delivers with a draft class that will improve the offense in 2013.
Ozzie Newsome, Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens just concluded their second Super Bowl victory in team history, so we should probably cut GM Ozzie Newsome some slack. It is hard enough to defend your Super Bowl title as it is, especially when you see the track record of how few teams are able to capture consecutive championships.
Given the mass exodus of talent from the Ravens 2012 roster, there is now an increased importance on the upcoming draft for Baltimore to address their many holes to stay competitive in the AFC North.
We applaud Newsome for being proactive in free agency this offseason. Newsome did as much as he could to bring in veterans with whatever salary cap space they had remaining after Joe Flacco signed his huge deal.
Coach John Harbaugh and Flacco have an impressive streak of winning at least one playoff game in five-straight seasons. That streak will be put to the test in 2013. It will be up to Newsome to come up with some key new pieces at the draft that Harbaugh can plug into the lineup on offense and defense.
If the streak comes to an end in 2013, Newsome's job will still be safe. But if the team wants to continue to be recognized as an annual contender, they will need to come up with a superior draft class to make it happen.
Mark Dominik, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik has been running the team since 2009. The Bucs have failed to make the playoffs in any campaign since then, so with each successive year of failure, the pressure is turned up on Dominik to reverse the trend.
The 2012 team lost five of their final six games to turn a 6-4 start into a 7-9 season.
In 2011, it was more of the same, as Tampa Bay went 4-2 to begin the year, only to drop their final 10 games to finish at 4-12.
It didn't matter if the head coach was Greg Schiano or Raheem Morris, the Bucs simply faded down the stretch.
It was rather surprising that the fade happened in 2012, when you consider the talented free agents that Tampa Bay signed in Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright.
Jackson and Nicks came from teams that won and had playoff experience. The Bucs hoped that they could also provide some veteran leadership, but the team found a way to stumble down the stretch anyway.
Dominik dipped back into free agency in 2013 to land Dashon Goldson, Kevin Ogletree, Derek Landri, Tom Crabtree and Steve Smith.
So, the 2013 draft will give Dominik an opportunity for the Bucs to add another layer of talent on top of what they already possess. Hopefully these new additions will be sufficient to prevent another late-season fade, and allow the Bucs to be contenders again.
Buddy Nix, Buffalo Bills
13 years and counting. That is how long it has been since the Buffalo Bills have made a playoff appearance. The Bills handed the reigns to GM Buddy Nix back in 2010, and they haven't been any closer to ending this maddening trend of watching the playoffs from the outside looking in.
The Bills have already identified that Doug Whaley, who is the current Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, will ultimately be taking over the GM job from Nix.
The only missing piece of information is when this will occur.
For most Bills fans, the answer is that it won't happen soon enough. Nix was the recent victim of a prank where he thought he was having a private conversation with Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik. During the conversation, Nix threw his own starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick under the bus. Not surprisingly, after the story leaked out, the Bills announced later that day that they decided to release Fitzpatrick.
Nix has this annoying habit of backing himself into a corner by making proclamations of what the team needs to do. There is no mystery or intrigue to what the Bills plans are, so competitors can easily identify exactly when and where they need to jump ahead of Buffalo to draft the player that they suspect the Bills really want.
Another issue is Nix's refusal to trade down in the draft to acquire more picks. The Bills were clearly in rebuilding mode when Nix took over the job, but he simply isn't comfortable moving down from their original spot, no matter how badly the team needed to add more talent that extra picks would provide.
The biggest problem with Nix was his failure to properly identify and evaluate the future potential with quarterbacks. He missed badly on Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins to name a few. The only quarterback Nix ever drafted for the Bills was Troy QB Levi Brown in the seventh round back in 2010. That is it.
Nix made the poor judgement call that Fitzpatrick was the greatest thing since sliced bread and decided to make him the franchise QB by offering a huge deal in the middle of the 2011 season. That decision alone set the Bills back a number of years and has contributed to them missing out on drafting quarterbacks that would have been more economical and offered a higher upside.
It wouldn't be a major surprise here if Nix is the first casualty in 2013 that appears in this slideshow.
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Will Jerry Jones ever fire himself as the Dallas Cowboys general manager? If he objectively looked at his own track record, the answer would be a resounding yes.
What is the track record you ask? Would you believe that it's one playoff win in the last 16 seasons?
The only constant during that time was that Jones served as the general manager of the team. If you polled every other NFL owner and asked them if they would still employ a general manager that led the team to one playoff win over a 16-year span, the answer would be a resounding NO.
But, nobody has asked Jones to evaluate his own performance as the general manager. One illustration that points out the startling lack of prowess Jones has an evaluator of talent was raised this week by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
According to Florio, Jones had 12 draft picks in the 2009 draft. Fast-forward to four years later, and not one of those 12 players are still with the team. That is pretty bad.
The 2013 draft will offer Cowboys fans another opportunity to watch Jones make decisions that will prevent Dallas from taking that next step.
Of course Jones will never step down as general manager, because his ego won't let him. It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong, and Jones would never admit that somebody else could do the job better than he could.
It will never happen.
Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans
It wouldn't have surprised many NFL analysts if the Tennessee Titans had decided to fire head coach Mike Munchak after the 2012 season ended. The Titans have a combined record of 15-17 under Munchak and have failed to make the playoffs in either season.
Owner Bud Adams relented and gave Munchak another chance to see if he could lead the team into the playoffs. General manager Ruston Webster was hired the year after Munchak, which contributes to the notion that Munchak needs a strong 2013 season to keep his job.
A solid draft class would go a long way towards that end, as the Titans were busy in free agency trying to fill in some holes. Tennessee picked up Andy Levitre, George Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bernard Pollard, Kevin Walter, Shonn Greene, Moise Fokou, Delanie Walker and Sammie Lee Hill.
With the new talent signed in the offseason, the pressure is on Munchak to produce a winner in 2013. The draft will allow them to add a few more weapons for Jake Locker, and to solidify the defense. If the draft isn't strong enough to put them over the top, then it will probably spell the end of the road for Munchak.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett finds himself firmly on the hot seat coming into the 2013 season. The window was already closing in 2012 according to owner Jerry Jones, so there is very little margin for error in 2013.
The current offseason has been difficult for Dallas to do much, as their poor salary cap management history has really tied their hands. The fine levied by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell didn't help the situation either.
The Cowboys haven't been able to come to terms yet on something as basic as who will be calling the plays on offense. That is part of the dynamics that is unique to coaching in Dallas, as ownership needs to have a say in how everything is done.
If Garrett is to survive the 2013 season, he will need to lead the Cowboys into the playoffs.
That alone might not even be enough to guarantee that he will be back in 2014. No matter what, the Cowboys need to come up with a dynamic draft class this year to make the playoffs a reality.
Jeff Ireland, Miami Dolphins
Jeff Ireland is the general manager of the Miami Dolphins. Despite residing in one of the most glamorous cities in the NFL, the Dolphins haven't been able to attract the right kind of talent since Ireland took over the job in 2008.
The Dolphins have failed to reach the playoffs in the last four years, and each successive failed season is tightening the noose around Ireland's neck.
So, in order to improve the talent base on the team, and help his chances of retaining the job, Ireland went on a spending spree in 2013 free agency. He brought in WR Mike Wallace, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Philip Wheeler, CB Brent Grimes, TE Dustin Keller and WR Brandon Gibson.
While there isn't any doubt that this upgrades the talent level in Miami, the reality is that these deals were designed to turn Miami into a winner in 2013. These deals will place a huge roadblock on future years in Miami due to the back-loaded deals these free agents signed.
But, that is an issue for a future GM to worry about, not Ireland.
So, the only way that Ireland can save face is to come out of the 2013 draft with some winners that address the final missing pieces for the upcoming season. Ireland's job depends on it.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets
How is it possible for a head coach that took his team to two-consecutive AFC Championship games in danger of losing his job? When you are Rex Ryan, anything is possible.
Chalk it up to Ryan's need to make outlandish predictions to motivate his players, or to not having any clue of how badly things had deteriorated in his own locker room, but Ryan no longer has great job security.
New general manager John Idzik was hired by owner Woody Johnson with the understanding that Ryan had to be retained for 2013. After that, anything goes, so Ryan has to deliver a contender this year, or he could be fired.
The way that the Jets are stacked up right now, they have lost defensive tackle Mike DeVito, linebacker Bart Scott, defensive lineman Sione Pouha, safety Yeremiah Bell, safety Eric Smith, safety LaRon Landry and linebacker Calvin Pace from the 2012 roster.
Talks are still ongoing with Tampa Bay to trade away their best player, corner Darrelle Revis.
That is a lot of talent to replace. From the offense, the Jets will be without tight end Dustin Keller, guard Brandon Moore and running back Shonn Greene.
With a poor salary cap coming into 2013, and trying to replace so many starters in one year, it is difficult to envision the Jets being a .500 team this year. If they fail to reach .500, as much as Johnson is enamored with Ryan, it will probably be the end of the line for the popular New York coach.
Trent Baalke, San Francisco
Our top spot goes to San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke.
Baalke isn't here because his job is in any kind of jeopardy. He is here because the 49ers own a whopping total of 14 draft picks in the upcoming draft, so nobody is in a better position to improve their team at the 2013 draft than Baalke is.
The 49ers have advanced deep in the playoffs in each of the last two years. Obviously this is a team that is being viewed as a contender again in 2013, and when you examine their roster, they have very few holes. As things stand now, San Francisco has five picks in the first three rounds of the draft (No. 31, 34, 61, 74 and 93). They own multiple picks in the second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh rounds of the draft.
So what does Baalke do with all of these 14 picks at his disposal? If he uses them to select 14 players and only makes a selection when the 49ers were scheduled to make a pick, he will be widely panned for blowing a great chance to elevate his team to the next level.
For one thing, there aren't even 14 openings on the active roster.
Baalke will be expected to package draft picks and move up in various rounds of the draft to select key impact players that will be in a position to help San Francisco now and down the road. The 49ers have developed enough talent that they can afford to let their rookies observe during that first year, and then gradually take on more responsibilities in the second and third year with the team.
If Baalke winds up making three or four trades to move up during the draft and winds up with only eight or nine rookies, that would make tremendous sense. If the net result is no trades and 14 new rookies from the draft, it would be viewed as a golden opportunity wasted and his reputation will be tarnished.
Thanks for checking out the presentation. Follow me on Twitter: @DanVanWie