NFL General Managers on the Hot Seat Ahead of 2014 Draft
We are less than one month away from the 2014 NFL draft, and there are a handful of general managers who are squarely on the hot seat ahead of it.
While a losing season in 2014 could find each of the five men on this list out of a job, nailing the draft is the foolproof method to ensure job security. A successful draft haul will reap immediate and future dividends, and give the team an on-field boost throughout the season.
Plus, a strong rookie class will provide perception that the team is on the up-and-up, making it difficult to fire the primary decision-maker.
The general managers who comprise this list are on it for a variety of reasons. Some have lorded over underachieving squads, one has failed to acquire a franchise quarterback, one has failed to produce a halfway-decent season and one is employed by Stephen Ross (sorry, Dennis Hickey).
When May 8 rolls around, the pressure will be on these five men to deliver results. If they don't, the hot seat could turn into a notice of termination.
Here are the NFL general managers on the hot seat ahead of the 2014 NFL draft.
Reggie McKenzie, Oakland Raiders
Since he was hired as general manager of the Oakland Raiders prior to the 2012 season, Reggie McKenzie has done an admirable job of steering the team out of the salary-cap hell that he inherited.
However, he's also presided over back-to-back 4-12 seasons that have left him squarely on the hot seat.
His hire at head coach, Dennis Allen, has failed to dazzle, and the players that he has brought in via free agency and the draft haven't sparkled, either.
Earlier this offseason, Raiders owner Mark Davis said this in an interview with Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle:
(The 2014 season is) not put-up-or-shut-up, but there are no excuses. All right? When I said there was a deconstruction and a reconstruction period, that was to give an idea of what's actually been happening, but it's no excuse. In my mind.
It's clear that Davis won't tolerate another miserable campaign. The spate of signings made by McKenzie this free-agent period must pay dividends.
McKenzie has been active in spending the Raiders' financial war chest, acquiring players like defensive end Justin Tuck, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, wide receiver James Jones and quarterback Matt Schaub (in a trade with the Texans). Plus, the team holds the fifth overall section in May's draft, and McKenzie should be able to acquire an impact player.
The Raiders play in the ultra-tough AFC West which fielded three playoff teams last season, so it's probably unrealistic to expect the Silver and Black to qualify for the postseason in 2014, regardless of how the draft turns out.
But if Oakland can show marked improvement, it could be enough to save McKenzie's job.
Should the results once again fly in the face of "commitment to excellence," McKenzie's already hot seat will surely burst into flames.
Dennis Hickey, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey as their general manager back on Jan. 26 of this year. On the surface, it might appear odd to say a man who has been in charge for less than three months is on the "hot seat."
But if you dig a little deeper, you'll find that the drama-filled Dolphins are an exception to the rule. When considering the mercurial nature of owner Stephen Ross, it should surprise no one if Hickey finds himself unemployed should the Dolphins once again miss the postseason.
Last season, the Dolphins were rocked by a bullying scandal that sent shock waves through the NFL. It ultimately left the team without three of its starting offensive linemen from 2013 (Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin and John Jerry) and had many, including B/R's Mike Freeman, questioning the viability of Joe Philbin's leadership skills.
The Dolphins also lost their final two games to miss the postseason.
None of that is fair to Hickey, who has done a solid job in his time as general manager. The signings of left tackle Branden Albert and guard Shelley Smith were needed to stabilize the offensive line. Bringing back cornerback Brent Grimes was imperative too.
But the bottom line is that a subpar season will likely have Ross searching for another big name to come in and run the show. If that man (Jim Harbaugh, perhaps) wants to bring in his own general manager, it's doubtful that Ross would go to bat for Hickey.
That's what makes this draft so important for Hickey. If he can stockpile talent on the roster and help turn the Dolphins into a playoff team, it's far more likely that he'll remain on the job.
If he doesn't, he could easily find himself on the chopping block come next offseason.
Jerry Reese, New York Giants
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese has built up a lot of goodwill since taking over the post prior to the 2007 season.
He's presided over a run that has produced three playoff appearances and two Super Bowl championships. That kind of hardware goes a long way toward job security, especially in Gotham.
But the Giants have missed the postseason in back-to-back years, including last season's ugly 7-9 campaign that saw the offensive line completely break down and the overall talent level not appear up to snuff.
In his season-ending press conference (h/t Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News), owner John Mara took Reese's recent drafts to task, saying:
To be successful in this league you have to do a good job in the draft, especially on those middle-round picks. There’s no question in the last few years we missed on a few of them, for whatever reason.
Mara did offer Reese a vote of confidence in the same press conference:
I’ve spent enough time around him to know that he is the right guy. He is not afraid to make tough decisions, and he knows what the risks are, and sometimes you have to take those calculated risks. He is a very confident guy. Nobody works harder than he does.
Words are nice, but actions speak louder. If Reese produces another poor draft haul and the Giants miss the postseason for the third consecutive year, he'll surely be shown the door at the end of next season.
Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
Much like Giants general manager Jerry Reese, Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has had a mostly successful tenure with his club, helping to produce two Super Bowl championships and three appearances in the big game.
But also like Reese, Colbert's teams have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, going 8-8 in both 2012 and 2013.
Now the pressure is on Colbert to deliver results in the draft, and he's struggled to add impact players in recent years.
It's worth noting that Steelers president Art Rooney II praised Colbert earlier this offseason, telling Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “We have a lot of young players who, coming out of this season, the arrow's pointing up. So we're not disappointed at all with the roster."
Still, it's hard to imagine Rooney feeling that way again if the Steelers miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
If Pittsburgh once again finishes behind Cincinnati and Baltimore and fails to qualify for the postseason, Colbert's job will be in jeopardy.
That's what makes this draft so important for him and the Steelers.
Rick Spielman, Minnesota Vikings
Since Brett Favre retired following an injury-riddled and ineffective 2010 campaign, the Minnesota Vikings have failed to find a franchise quarterback, a problem that lies directly at the feet of general manager Rick Spielman.
The trading for Donovan McNabb prior to the 2011 season proved disastrous, as did the drafting of Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Plus, Spielman made the curious decision to guarantee $2 million to Josh Freeman in an in-season move last October, and Freeman flamed out after only one (pathetic) start. In a related story, Freeman won't be a Viking in 2014.
Spielman just hired Mike Zimmer, and the Vikings hold the eighth overall pick in May's draft. It's an opportunity to hit the reset button on the franchise and bring in a new quarterback to pair with the new head coach.
Earlier this offseason, when asked about his track record of quarterbacks in Minnesota, Spielman said this to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer-Press:
I haven't got it right yet. We've worked as hard as we could to try to get that right. I tried to use as many outside sources as I can. I'm not afraid to look at experts in that particular area. I'm going to rely heavily on our head coach and whoever our offensive coordinator is and whoever our quarterback is, and they're going to be heavily involved in this process.
Quarterback is unquestionably the most important position in football, and the Vikings haven't fielded a competent player at the position since Favre back in 2009. The time has come for Spielman to get it right.
If he chooses a signal-caller with the eighth overall pick and the team struggles, owner Zygi Wilf could choose to entrust a new man with fixing that all-important problem.