NFL Player Personnel – The Balance of Power

One by one they parade up to the podium at Lucas Oil Field; General Managers and Head Coaches.  Some look a bit grizzled for the many long seasons that put the wrinkles and gray hairs in place, others look as if they just crossed the stage at their high school graduation.

Fresh starts

Each tries to put on a fresh face of positive enthusiasm, answering any and all questions with the vaguest of vagueness and happy at the moment for being undefeated (0-0).  The next few days will help determine which direction many of their clubs head in the not too distant future.  Despite the reports of no “star power” in the 2013 NFL Draft, there will be stars selected.  This class will produce All-Pros, Pro Bowlers, and perhaps even a Hall of Famer (though that’s way down the road).  The question everyone wants answered (media, fans, clubs) is who will that be?  Who will rise up from this group of incoming talent to produce at levels predicted and unpredicted by Player Personnel departments?

Time will reveal that answer, but rest assured the clubs that take time to internally identify the types of players that can best execute their schemes, along with having a well conceived plan to develop this new talent, will most likely reap the rewards of both their own efforts and those of the players they select.

“It’s good to be the king”

Bill Parcells once said, “They want you to cook the dinner; at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries. Okay?”  The Hall of Famer was alluding to the fact he felt as if he didn’t have enough input selecting incoming talent.  The “czar head coach” had become a popular method of organizational structure in the mid ‘90’s; Jimmy Johnson, Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, all to one degree or another held a high power over player personnel.

The business of the “game of professional football” has transformed a bit since the early days of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  NFL owners don’t appear willing to give 100% control over all things personnel, coaching, and contracts to any one entity.  Specialists abound now, and the real question is from which direction are they rising to take over at the top?  The last few hiring cycles have seen the emergence of young stars in both the Player Personnel departments and football administration elevating to General Manager and VP of Football Operations.

Finding their fit

So where does this leave the NFL head coach?  Could Bill Parcells function in today’s NFL organizational structure?  You’ll hear all 32 teams set forth the message to their fan base and the media that “they’re all on the same page”.  Interesting.  Because when a certain acquisition, whether free agent signing, trade, or draft choice starts to go “sour” it often seems that the “blame game” rules begin to apply.

Recently The Football Educator was asked;

A popular topic of discussion when it comes to providing input on personnel decisions is the General Manager/Head Coach dynamic. Some feel that the best approach is for the coach to do the coaching while the GM & personnel department build the roster. In your opinion, how crucial is it to the success of a team that a Head Coach and GM see eye to eye on personnel? Do you feel as though this should be a joint effort, or should it be more of an approach like the one aforementioned?

My answer revolves around the following;

  • Coaching is inherently emotional and short term in perspective (win now).
  • Front office executives have a responsibility to see the “big picture” from a long term approach.
  • Coaches can, justifiably or not, “bury” the development of young players.
  • Players are a club’s primary “asset” and should be treated as such.

On the same page

With those four things in mind, the most successful NFL organizations will undoubtedly ensure that the GM and head coach are communicating on the same page when acquiring talent.  There MUST be a joint effort in the preparation, planning, and execution of a detailed personnel process that is inclusive of ALL elements involved in the identification, evaluation, and procurement of new players.  This should be well choreographed with a developmental plan that looks to maximize the potential and performance of every player on the roster.

The NFL is full of HUGE EGOS, many too big for the tiny pulpit on stage in Indianapolis.  Grizzled or baby-faced, GM and head coach tandems that check there own at the door of the Omni Severin or Crowne Plaza will field questions next season about their recent playoff run and not who they like with their well deserved Top 10 pick.

Who’s it going to be?

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