The NFL is filled with talent on the football field, but it's not often that those in the front offices get the same exposure for their talents. When looking at what truly makes for a great general manager, there's much to consider.
A proven track record of success with the team along with some successful draft picks is ideal, while championships and playoff appearances are icing on the cake. It's a combination of these things that make up a great GM.
A few guys on this list are about to enter their first year with a team, so their ranking was based on prospective success based off their history and the team's current state.
Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson is a great example of a calculated decision-maker who almost always benefits his team with every choice he makes. Whether it be drafting wisely or letting a player go, Thompson has shuffled around the Packers and created a bombarding force of an offense.
He is just one of many great general managers in the league who deserve respect for what they've been able to do.
No one has had a worse offseason than the Cleveland Browns, and part of that was the embarrassing collapse of their front office. Ray Farmer, the former assistant general manager in Cleveland, was promoted to the full-time position recently and will be counted on to change the losing culture of the franchise.
This team has some talented players on both sides of the ball but is in desperate need for a quarterback and some leadership—two things that Farmer could find in this upcoming draft.
With the Browns holding the fourth overall pick, a quarterback is in play and should be the direction they go. A few solid prospects could all be considered franchise quarterbacks sooner than later, and Farmer will have to do his homework before locking in on one.
Regardless, there’s no telling how well or how badly he will do in his first season, but given that they have a lot more holes than they can patch in one offseason, 2014 doesn’t figure to be too kind to the Browns.
Reggie McKenzie hasn’t done many positive things since taking over the Oakland Raiders in 2012, and he will need to start producing some concrete results to solidify his position with the team.
His most recent class of draft picks wasn’t terrible as D.J. Hayden had a commendable year, but Oakland still failed to have much luck when it came to wins.
The front office will let McKenzie take his time in terms of putting together a winner, but some reassurance will be expected in this upcoming season.
David Caldwell is just one year removed from being a part of the Falcons and ostensibly brought some of their front-office smarts with him. The Jacksonville Jaguars were just a bad team in 2013, but there were tangible signs of hope.
He chose the right man to coach this team when he offered the job to Gus Bradley, who looks like the perfect fit for what the Jaguars need. This is a young franchise that is still gaining chemistry but has some pieces in place to take a big step forward in 2014.
Caldwell will have a chance to prove his worthiness as the GM when this year’s draft rolls around and he chooses which quarterback will lead this team. He will have a few quality choices, but there’s no sure way of telling what he'll do in the draft.
Regardless, he has done a good job with the personnel thus far and is slowly but surely building a quality team piece by piece.
The Buffalo Bills entrusted their franchise’s future to Doug Whaley a year ago, and the jury is still out on how he will fare as the general manager. They had a 6-10 year in 2013, largely because of their lack of consistency in the passing game and on defense.
They do have some playmakers on both sides of the ball, but they need more talent before they can start competing against the next tier of teams in the NFL.
Whaley inherited a bad team, so patience is necessary, but a certain amount of progress will be expected from the team in 2014. If the Bills don’t meet expectations, it could end up negatively affecting Whaley.
It finally seems like the Washington Redskins have broken their old habit of signing big-name, bust free agents, largely because of Bruce Allen’s guidance.
He’s the reason why the Redskins were able to nab the face of the franchise (Robert Griffin III) along with one of the best running backs in franchise history (Alfred Morris). Allen also signed guys like Pierre Garcon in free agency, which has paid huge dividends.
Washington is coming off of terrible year, but it does have a good amount of talent. With new, respected head coach Jay Gruden now in control, the Redskins will have a fresh start to get something consistent going and ride it to another playoff appearance.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a pretty bad team in 2013 and have a lot to work on this offseason. Newly appointed general manager Jason Licht has already made a smart move by signing Lovie Smith as the team's next head coach, and his next test will come in the form of the NFL draft.
He also must decide what he's going to do with Mike Glennon, the second-year quarterback who was originally brought in by the previous regime.
Licht already has some pieces in place that will help this team get back on track, but it will take time. He and Smith seem like they will make a great pair, and the Bucs will take some steps in the right direction by the end of next season.
As the new-age Al Davis, Jerry Jones has made quite a few interesting choices in recent years with the Dallas Cowboys. While many could question some of the decisions he’s made, there’s no denying that this team is turning around a bit.
The Cowboys were close to a playoff berth this past year and gained some talented players through the draft in recent years. Drafting Travis Frederick in the first round was criticized by many, but he became one of the team's most consistent linemen in 2013.
Jones also brought in one of the most promising receivers in Terrance Williams, and we can’t forget about Dez Bryant.
The biggest negative thing that Jones has done recently is the massive contract he awarded to Tony Romo. Plan and simple, Romo has not done enough to warrant that much money yet, and Jones pulled the trigger a bit early on that.
Les Snead engineered one of the most fruitful trades in draft history when he swapped the Rams’ second overall pick in 2012 with the Washington Redskins for a handful of picks so Washington could draft Robert Griffin III.
Here we are two years later, and Washington looks like it could use that first-round pick a lot more than St. Louis.
The Rams have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, and their defense has been much improved over the past two seasons in large part due to their quality drafts.
Snead has done a good job of drafting players, as he’s to credit for bringing in Daryl Richardson and Greg Zuerlein. He’s a solid general manager who’s doing some good things for the Rams and may have this team back to winning ways before long.
Although the Tennessee Titans aren’t exactly the most the dangerous team, Ruston Webster has put several young pieces in place that will pay off sooner or later. He’s drafted a healthy handful of talent such as Zach Brown, Kendall Wright and most recently Chance Warmack.
Webster does need to bring in some more talent on the defensive side of the ball and must re-sign Alterraun Verner. The free-agent defensive back was an integral piece of the improving defense last year and would leave a big hole if he walks.
Webster is not the best general manager, but he is slowly but surely turning this team into a competitor.
Kevin Colbert has done a great job with the Pittsburgh Steelers since taking over the general manager position in 2011, and he has built a reputation for drafting talented starters and signing low-end free agents.
Maurkice Pouncey and Antonio Brown are just two of his draft picks who have turned into stars, but there’s a solid handful more.
Colbert has also excelled at mixing in younger players with the veterans, and the Steelers are a consistently tough team because of it. They’re not as dangerous as they once were, but they’re always a difficult outing for any opponent.
The Miami Dolphins will be looking for a fresh start under new general manager Dennis Hickey, and his best chance of helping this team will come by spending smart money in free agency and investing in some quality players in the draft.
According to Spotrac.com, the Dolphins have the fifth-most cap room in the league, which will arm Hickey with the money to fix the holes in the roster.
They are lucky enough to already have their franchise quarterback in place along with a solid defense—both of which will make Hickey's job much easier.
During his time with the Bucs, he was a part of a front office that drafted very well, and if he can bring that over to Miami, he will help the Fins to tighten up their depth chart.
The New York Jets did much better than what was originally expected of them last season and will look to improve once again this offseason with a strong draft and a few smart free-agent moves.
John Idzik started his tenure with Gang Green with a good draft, where he ended up getting two great players. Sheldon Richardson proved to be their best choice, although Dee Milliner had a pretty solid year by most standards.
Geno Smith also showed that he could turn out to be the future at the quarterback position for the Jets, making New York’s 2013 class that much more quality.
Idzik recently gave Rex Ryan an extension, thus locking the fiery coach in for several more years and ensuring continuity for the Jets. They have a strong core because of Idzik and will need to build around it from here on out.
Although the Minnesota Vikings haven’t been much of a threat to most teams the past couple of seasons, Rick Spielman has put together a young and talented team that looks like it could be a quarterback away from being a contender.
The Vikings drafted Cordarrelle Patterson in last year’s draft and also brought in Greg Jennings in free agency; just their weak quarterbacking effort held back the offense.
Let’s not forget about the defenders that Spielman brought in either, such as Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes.
A year ago, Spielman was able to wheel and deal his way into acquiring three first-round picks, and it'll be interesting to see if he tries to pull a similar maneuver this year.
He remains quiet in free agency aside from the occasional splash, which is likely for the best. Overall, the Vikings are in a good position moving forward because of his efforts.
Martin Mayhew has his prints all over this team and has brought in some great players since taking over in 2008. He’s drafted stars like Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh, along with a slew of solid starters such as Willie Young and DeAndre Levy.
Though bringing in Jim Schwartz ended up failing, the team is looking promising with 2014 on the horizon.
Jim Caldwell is an experienced head coach who had success in Indianapolis, including a Super Bowl appearance. Detroit is built to win now even in a brand new regime, and that’s largely because of Mayhew's diligence with the club.
The Houston Texans had an abysmal season in 2013 after their once-explosive offense fizzled out and became a shell of what it once was.
Despite that, they were one of the best teams in the league the year before, and that is because of Rick Smith’s major role in the team’s decisions. Granted things could have gone much better in 2013, but the things that went wrong weren’t his fault.
Smith has made a plethora of successful draft picks from J.J. Watt to Duane Brown and also reeled in Johnathan Joseph and Chris Myers in free agency.
The Texans do need to win in the playoffs to regain respect, and Smith will likely guide this team back to the top before long. The hiring of Bill O'Brien was a great start for the Texans' turnaround and is just the first big move that Houston will make before next season.
The New York Giants made a great decision when they hired Jerry Reese. Big Blue is another team that fell on hard times in 2013, but Reese’s track record with the team is great.
He took over in 2007 and has won two championships since then while also drafting impressively well. He is also no slouch in free agency, as he brought in Chris Canty and Antrel Rolle a few years back.
When it comes to Reese's draft picks, the list is headlined by Jason Pierre-Paul and Hakeem Nicks, two players who played vital roles in Super Bowl runs.
The Giants may have had a couple of “eh” seasons the past two years, but with Reese in charge, it won’t be long before they’re competing in the playoffs once again.
Ozzie Newsome has been the general manager of the Baltimore Ravens for what seems like forever, and he has had much success during his years with the team. There are some warranted worries surrounding the team as we head toward the 2014 season, but he can silence the critics with a strong offseason.
He has an impressive list of draftees, dating all the way back to when he selected Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Newsome continues to find lasting talent in the draft and hand-picked Lewis’ replacement in Arthur Brown last year. Brown had a solid rookie season and will show even more improvement in 2014.
Newsome has drafted 15 Pro Bowlers in his near decade with the team and has the Ravens young enough to rebound quickly from their down year in 2013.
Even with all their recent issues, he still deserves credit for leading this team to a pair of world championships after being an expansion team.
In just one year with the Arizona Cardinals, Steve Keim has helped them to become relevant in the NFC West. He was brought in around the same time Bruce Arians was hired, and the two make for a great pair that is making a difference in the organization.
Behind the recently acquired Carson Palmer, Arizona broke expectations with a 10-6 record, thus beginning its turnaround as a franchise.
Keim and Arians also had a very good first draft together, bringing in three starters in the process. Jonathan Cooper unfortunately missed the season with a broken leg, but he was a very promising player before the injury and will likely return triumphantly in 2014.
The pair took a chance on troubled cornerback Tyrann Mathieu in the third round, and that paid off as he was having a great season before suffering a season-ending injury.
Andre Ellington was the biggest surprise of their 2013 draft class, and he proved he could be a starter long term after averaging 5.5 yards per carry last season.
Keim has already had a hand in Arizona's major improvements and will look to continue them in 2014.
The Atlanta Falcons fell short of their considerably large expectations in 2013 but will undoubtedly get back on track before long. The team is in great hands with Thomas Dimitroff, who has helped the Falcons become as talented as they are.
This was the first year they had a losing record under his leadership, and it doesn’t discount all the success he’s had since joining the team in 2008. He drafted the face of the franchise in Matt Ryan, along with star players like Julio Jones and Sean Weatherspoon.
His choice of hiring Mike Smith as Atlanta’s head coach is still one of his smartest decisions to date, and it has put this team in a good position for the next several years.
Mike Brown has taken the Cincinnati Bengals to several playoffs appearances, including three straight behind the arm of Andy Dalton, whom he took in the 2011 draft, along with star receiver A.J. Green.
Although there was a bit of a mess with Carson Palmer a few years back, Brown found a way to maintain continuity and helped lead this team to the playoffs with his hand-picked quarterback-receiver combo. He is also responsible for drafting one of the Bengals' best players in Geno Atkins, along with Vontaze Burfict, whom many thought would be a bust for sure.
Brown most recently scored on Giovani Bernard, who was in the running for offensive rookie of the year until the final weeks.
Brown's career with the team does have some cracks, especially considering the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game in years, but at the rate they’re going, it won’t be much longer.
The T-Rich mess was an unforeseen happening, but it still hurts. Nonetheless, Grigson has done a solid job of helping this team rebuild quickly.
The Colts are patching up their reputation as a perennial playoff contender and are in great hands with coach Chuck Pagano, who was hand-picked by Grigson. The Colts are on a big wave of momentum going into 2014 and could take a big step toward a championship.
With just one year as the general manager of the Carolina Panthers under his belt, it’s hard to assess how good Dave Gettleman is. That being said, he’s been impressive so far.
Carolina had a strong draft in 2013, ending up with a group that was highlighted by Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. The Panthers earned a 12-4 record in Gettleman’s inaugural season as the team’s GM and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
He’s been a part of three championship teams between the Broncos and Giants, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he adds a fourth while in Carolina.
How he handles the personnel as we approach his second year will speak a lot about how he will be handling things as long as he’s with the franchise. Does he give Greg Hardy the franchise tag? Will Hardy get the contract he’s looking for, or will the Panthers even let him walk?
Gettleman has much thinking to do on the subject, but he will come up with the most logical decision that will be best for the team.
Phil Emery has done a great job of getting the Chicago Bears back on track, and that all started with his first draft. He selected star wideout Alshon Jeffery as well as Shea McClellin, who’s been a solid player in the defensive rotation.
He also drafted Kyle Long last year, who turned out to be a stellar guard and helped to shore up the line. Emery also made a splash when he traded for Brandon Marshall, which has had a huge payout to date.
Emery recently gave Jay Cutler a large contract, and only time will tell if he's worth it, but as of right now, few general managers are doing more for their team than Emery is.
Howie Roseman has done a remarkable job with the Philadelphia Eagles over the past year or so. Although they had a down year in 2012, he brought in Chip Kelly, who quickly turned the team around and, despite an early exit in the playoffs, had a very good start to his career as Philly’s head honcho.
Nick Foles is a late-round gem who turned into a franchise savior, and he is going to lead this team for many years. Roseman has botched on a few draft picks such as Danny Watkins but made up for it with Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin.
Overall, he’s taking this team in a positive direction, and there may not be a more dangerous club if Philly gets on a roll in 2014.
Tom Telesco is just one year into his tenure as the general manager of the Chargers, but he’s done a great job so far. The Bolts made a lot of progress in 2013 and ultimately reached the playoffs.
Philip Rivers had a reputation-saving season under new head coach Mike McCoy, who was the main reason for the Chargers’ maturation as an offense.
Telesco played a major role in bolstering the team through the draft and found its No. 1 receiver in Keenan Allen, who had a stellar season. The Chargers also got a lot out of D.J. Fluker in his rookie season, and even Manti Te’o played well at times.
Telesco has done a marvelous job with the Chargers so far, and it will be interesting to see where he takes them in the future.
What a year the Kansas City Chiefs had in 2013. They completed one of the most impressive turnarounds in NFL history, although they did crumble in the playoffs.
The Chiefs made significant gains under the control of Andy Reid and Johny Dorsey in 2013 and will continue to be competitive in 2014.
Dorsey and Reid helped orchestrate the trade for Alex Smith and also made a slew of other free-agent moves that benefited the team last season. They also had a strong draft last year when they selected their future at the left tackle position in Eric Fisher and a very reliable backup to Jamaal Charles in Knile Davis.
The Chiefs finished last season at 11-5 and have much to be hopeful for in 2014. Dorsey and Reid led this team to the playoffs for just the third time in 10 years and will likely make it two years in a row next season.
They’ve turned this team into a contender in a very short amount of time, and that deserves some recognition.
The New Orleans Saints became a much more well-rounded team in 2013, and that was in large part because of the addition of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. They adopted Ryan’s system and embraced it thoroughly, leading to their ranking as a top-five defense in the NFL.
The decision to hire him came from Mickey Loomis, who has done a fantastic job with this team through thick and thin. He was instrumental to their huge turnaround and was a major proponent in originally bringing in Drew Brees.
He also played a vital role in re-signing Brees a couple of years ago, and New Orleans is, and will continue to be, a much better team because of it. Granted, the Bountygate scandal is a blemish on an otherwise impressive track record, but Loomis’ resume as Nola’s general manager speaks for itself—and it says a lot of good things.
Despite an embarrassing loss in the Super Bowl, John Elway must be lauded for what he’s put together since taking over the Denver Broncos. Credit his star power or championship rings as a draw for players or whatever you'd like, but he has done a whole lot of good for the Broncos.
He was a big part of Peyton Manning’s courtship by Denver and also lured Wes Welker away from conference rival, the New England Patriots.
He also drafted Danny Trevathan in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, who has turned into a valuable part of the defense.
He drafted another great defender that year in Derek Wolfe, who’s had a solid career to date. Let’s not forget about the two quarterbacks being groomed behind Manning in Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert—two guys who could develop into great starters. One of them may be Manning's eventual heir.
All in all, Elway has set this team up for the long haul, and the Broncos will continue to be dangerous under his control.
Although they fell short of the big game this past season, the 49ers have flirted with a championship for a few years now, and that is thanks to Trent Baalke’s skills as a general manager.
He has drafted talent on both sides of the ball, namely Aldon Smith and Kendall Hunter. He also brought in Donte Whitner in free agency, who has proved to be one of the best safeties in the NFL.
The 49ers are a perennial playoff team because of Baalke’s eye for talent and ability to keep things running smoothly internally, as seen with Smith's off-field issues and the falling-out with Brandon Jacobs.
He also drafted blossoming safety Eric Reid and defensive end Corey Lemonier in 2013, who both made an impact on the defensive side of the ball. Baalke has helped the Niners become a young, consistent and talented team, and they’re built to be successful for years.
Bill Belichick could very well end his career as the greatest head coach of all time, but what he’s done in a general manager position for the New England Patriots has been remarkable. He may not technically be the official GM, but he holds final say on personnel.
He was the driving force behind the team drafting Nate Solder and Rob Gronkowski, along with Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. He also made the now-genius pick of Jamie Collins in last year’s draft, who has become one of the best young linebackers in the league.
Belichick's smarts were on display when he remained faithful to troubled running back LeGarrette Blount, who played well for the Patriots down the stretch last year. Belichick is hands down one of the brightest minds in control of an NFL roster, and the Patriots will be winners as long as he is at the helm.
Ted Thompson has simply done a great job with the Green Bay Packers. He doesn’t often make noise in free agency and follows a build-through-the-draft philosophy, which has proved to be a winning formula.
He also is responsible for bringing in Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb in the draft; these two young guys add different dimensions to the offense and make Green Bay as dangerous as any team when the ball is in their hands.
Thompson has molded the Packers into an NFL juggernaut that will compete for a championship year in and year out.
It’s hard to argue that anyone but John Schneider is the best general manager in the NFL. He’s responsible for bringing in doubted players like Russell Wilson and Bruce Irvin, who turned into stars. He has also drafted half of the Legion of Boom and Russell Okung.
Because of Schneider’s eye for talent and risk-taking nature, Seattle will be paying its Super Bowl-winning quarterback just over $660,000 in 2014. That’s less than his what his backup Tarvaris Jackson made in 2013 (just over $800,000).
There’s no doubt that Wilson will get a hefty deal once his contract is up, but until then, the Seahawks are getting a ton of bang for their buck, and that's because of Schneider.