2010 NFL Draft: Six NFL General Managers Facing a Make-or-Break Draft
The 2010 NFL draft—let alone season—will be a real pressure-cooker for a handful of general managers.
A couple executives on this list are among the longest-tenured GMs in the league. Others are still fledgling but for one reason or another will feel the heat to improve on a lackluster start to their new role.
John Schneider (Seattle)
The man he replaces, Tim Ruskell, at least guided the Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance in the Motor City (Super Bowl XL).
Schneider is a St. Paul, Minnesota native who spent several years in Green Bay including his most recent gig as director of football operations. It’s not so much his pedigree in question but the manner in which Seattle first hired a head coach days before Schneider’s role as GM.
Jim Mora was fired before he could unpack his bags and now they have a coach leaving behind allegations of suspicious activity at USC to try and make his third stop as NFL head coach more successful. Take away the very talented ’97 Patriots team he inherited from Bill Parcells and Carroll’s record is 23-25 including a one-year stint with the Jets that ended with a 6-10 record.
While this doesn’t directly relate to Schneider, it sure puts him in an awkward situation with a coach who, on the surface, seems to yield more influence than him.
Seattle has gone 9-23 the last two seasons and Schneider has two first-round picks (No. 6 and No. 14) and five of eight picks within the first four rounds.
In any high-level executive organizational pecking order—whether a Fortune 500, mom and pop machine shop, or NFL front office—the process of bringing in a coach one week before the GM is a possible recipe for finger pointing and instability.
For that reason alone, the accountability factor in Seattle is going to be a very interesting development once the media and fans start second-guessing personnel decisions.
Mike Reinfeldt (Tennessee)
Since taking over general manager duties in February 2007, Tennessee has been very inconsistent.
While teams like the Patriots have done a tremendous job in the later rounds (four through seven) of the draft, most general managers should have a track record of making solid additions in the second and third rounds.
A look at the past three drafts Reinfeldt has overseen shows good decision making in the first round with one home run pick (Chris Johnson), another very solid selection (Michael Griffin), and it’s too early to judge Kenny Britt, but the former Rutgers star improved as the season wore on.
However, his second- and third-round picks the last three years have yielded little return.
Second Round – Chris Henry (RB – Arizona)
Third Round – Paul Williams (WR – Fresno State)
Second Round – Jason Jones (DT – Eastern Michigan)
Third Round – Craig Stevens (TE – California)
Second Round – Sen’Derrick Marks (DT – Auburn)
Third Round – Jared Cook (TE – South Carolina)
Third Round – Ryan Mouton (DB – Hawaii)
Marty Hurney (Carolina)
His current contract runs through June 2010 but his questionable draft history and unequal cap management has finally surfaced. He’s been with John Fox since 2002 but the Panthers franchise—while they did enjoy moderate success during the eight-year tenure—has lost its mojo.
Beyond a dynamic pair of running backs, this franchise is toeing the line of bottom-tier status. Whether it’s his fault or not, the Panthers' mismanagement of the salary cap the last few years is his responsibility.
It’s hard to imagine either Hurney or Fox keeping their jobs with anything short of a playoff appearance in 2010.
Mark Dominik (Tampa Bay)
Here’s another executive in the infancy of his GM responsibilities but some of his decisions thus far have been extremely unfruitful.
The Derrick Ward experiment seems to have backfired and he demonstrated irresponsible fiscal management with the Glazer’s bankroll. Besides Ward, he gambled—and lost—on high-risk, low-reward signings of Michael Clayton ($23M—with $10M guaranteed) and Luke McCown ($7.5M before traded for a seventh-round pick).
Dominik didn’t endear himself to many longtime Bucs fans when he wouldn’t let future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks play out the last year of his contract. Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay’s best receiver the last two years, is now on the Bengals.
What about his acquisition of Kellen “I’m a Warrior” Winslow, Jr.? You get the point.
Last year’s first-round pick, Josh Freeman, is still raw but he showed potential late last season. However, he’s far from a sure thing and Dominik needs to find at least three impact starters in the 2010 draft or his seat will be scorching.
Ted Thompson (Green Bay)
Longtime Packers GM has seen the franchise experience a yo-yo existence under his guidance, but he’s driven fans in Green Bay mad and past the point of frustration with questionable draft selections and personnel decisions since assuming his role in 2005.
While an armchair writer can easily nitpick at decisions made by every GM, Thompson hasn’t lived up to the hype of somebody with excellent talent evaluation skills.
His discretion to allow Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila earn a $6 million bonus showed a lack of due diligence.
Reviewing draft decisions, I don’t include crapshoot picks made between the fifth and seven rounds. Including fourth-round selections is probably pushing it but here’s a quick rundown of Thompson’s picks from 2005 to 2009:
1st- Aaron Rodgers
2nd – Nick Collins (B+) / 2nd – Terrence Murphy
4th – Marviel Underwood / 4th – Brady Poppinga
First – A.J. Hawk
Second – Darryn Colledge / Second – Greg Jennings
Third – Abdul Hodge / Third – Jason Spitz
Fourth – Cory Rodgers / Fourth – Will Blackmon
First – Justin Harrell
Second – Brandon Jackson
Third – James Jones / Third – Aaron Rouse
Fourth – Allen Barbre
Second – Jordy Nelson / Second – Brian Brohm / Second – Pat Lee
Third – Jermichael Finley
Fourth – Jeremy Thompson / Fourth – Josh Sitton
It’s still early to grade how the ’09 class will turn out but Clay Matthews was fantastic his rookie year, and B.J. Raji is talented but many experts feel he’s a bust-in-the-making. Beyond Rodgers and Collins—no, I’m not sold on Hawk—it’s easy to see most of those picks were wasted.
Many of his moves contributed to an almost unheard of seven-game slide for one of the more storied franchises in NFL history.
Right or wrong, he will always be connected with how Brett Favre’s legacy ended in Green Bay. Favre ending up in the NFC North and leading the Vikings to a beat-down of the Packers probably didn’t sit well with cheese heads.
Gene Smith (Jaguars)
It's way too early for Smith to be on the hot-seat but he will be as the Jags look to regain their swagger. One way not to do that is by giving in to the temptations of drafting Tim Tebow early. So for that reason alone, Smith is on this list.
Of course that’s a blatant overstatement, but there really is some truth to it.
Also, Smith is technically the first official general manager in Jaguars history which only adds to the potential scrutiny.
Last year wasn’t his first rodeo as somebody with influence on personnel decisions. Since 2000, Smith was in charge of scouting, and a year before his recent promotion he was the Jags' director of NFL and college personnel.
Plus, the Jags have had a very disappointing draft record in recent memory (except for MJD) and went 5-11 under Smith last year.
A quick look at their first-round picks from 2008-2004 is an indictment of poor decision-making under Smith and other executives such as James Harris.
2008 (Derrick Harvey)
2007 (Reggie Nelson)
2006 (Mercedes Lewis)
2005 (Matt Jones)
2004 (Reggie Williams)
Add in the whispers the good fans in Jacksonville could be team-less after losing their franchise to Los Angeles. It doesn’t seem fair to their fan base which includes a tremendous amount of smart, diehard supporters. But tell that to the legions of Browns fans during Art Modell’s reign.
What really concerns me about the current team in Jacksonville is an over-reliance on one player. You can say Peyton Manning is the epitome of Most Valuable Player to his team, but Jacksonville is one freak injury away to Maurice Jones-Drew from implosion. That’s not a rock-solid blueprint to weather the unpredictable nature of the NFL.