A friend of mine asked me an interesting question the other day. He asked "What sport do you think a general manager matter most?"
We were having a barbeque at his house and the discussion ranged from wine and mashed potatoes made out of cauliflower and mushrooms to how to get a two and three year old to share toys. Eventually the men retired to an ante room, also known as a lawn chair in the backyard by the cooker, and the discussion quickly moved to more pressing matters. Football, the recent draft, and the upcoming season. As we rode the tide of sports banter we ebbed and flowed to fantasy football, and the art of running a winning team... from there it's easy to see how we got to General Manager talk.
It was quite a spirited discussion as we have fans from all sports in our little group. The consensus seemed to be that the NBA and NFL GM's have the most impact their respective teams.
Major League Baseball was a consideration in our talks but for the most part the trade's seem to have the biggest impact on the sport and wether a team comes out a winner or loser. The farm teams are usefull but the major talent is moved during trades. That's only one aspect of a GM job and I'm sure baseball GM's do more but I think the majority of the their impact comes solely from trades.
Where as the the NBA and NFL trades happen less frequently, the draft picks have a substantially greater impact on team and it's realized at a greatley accelerated rate. Draft scouting, trade dealing, rating picks, all the factors that come into play in draft planning and executing is intensified immensely. The Celtics were able to turn that team around in one season and win the NBA Championship. That doesn't happen with out making some good draft day moves. Yes they traded for some superstar players but they did that on draft day with picks and players.
Lets just say it this way a first round pick in the NBA or NFL is much more valuable than a first round pick in Major League Baseball.
In the MLB they have a 40 man roster and 9 of them are on the field the entire time. That's a reserve pool of 31 players. That’s about 3/4ths of their roster is backups. Plus they have a 4 team farm system, not to mention 4 “rookie” teams to pick guys from. The player pool is quite diluted. So if they mess up a draft pick the worst that happens is a guy sits on some single A ballclub for a few years, quits and becomes a small time sports writer or high school sports analyst on local TV. Pretty much a job that any one of us regular guys would kill for.
The NBA has an active roster size of 12 players. That means that at any given time almost half of their team is on the floor. Basically 1 backup for every active player. Now it’s my opinion that NBA roles such as center or small forward are pretty specific and require a fairly finite set of skills. So while the pick is vastly more valuable the player skill is much easier to interpret. Drafting and trading the 2 major parts of the NBA GM.
The General Manager of a NFL ball club has the most impact and the toughest time succeeding at it. But when it happens the Franchise is set for many years.
The NFL shares a similar starter to back up ratio with the NBA. Roughly about 40 percent of the team is on the field at any given time. To keep it in perspective the MLB is closer to 20 percent.
The NFL GM has to correctly research, scout, analyze, interview and pick from a hundred or so different team to find a player that needs to ultimately reach his peak status in about 4 years or become a “draft bust”. That’s basically a 1 in 5600 chance of picking a player of NFL caliber (111 college teams, I assumed the same 53 man roster size as the NFL). Spread that over the 11 offensive and 11 defensive positions to be filled and you’ve got yourself quite a draft wall.
Since the value of good players is increased the value to trades increase as well. We’ve seen more big name trades in the NFL over the last few years. GM’s are seeing an opportunity to fill a role and finding value in trading. Draft day trades fly a mile a minute and on the spot maneuvers are happening more frequently.
By the end of the night none of us could really remember what got us started but we ended up coming to a consensus that the NFL GM is the most impactful of the major sports.
My apologies to the National Hockey League, for the lack of acknowledgment as a major sport but no one in the group is a fan. I’m sure there are still a few out there.