When I was a kid I collected football cards. Yep, you know the ones, about ten to a pack with a stick of gum that you wouldn’t eat during the Apocalypse. These were the classic cards of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, with the height, weight, birthdate, college, and hometown of the player on the back, iconic “football pose” on the front. They often including a fun little “factoid” as well.
- Del Williams, OG, New Orleans Saints – “Del like’s to travel”
- Norm Snead, QB, New York Giants – “Norm’s hobby is boating.”
- Rayfield Wright, OT, Dallas Cowboys – “Rayfield likes to go swimming.”
- Steve Owens, RB, Detroit Lions – “Steve hurdled in high school.”
- Eugene Upshaw, OG, Oakland Raiders – “Eugene operates 2 Night Clubs in Oakland.”
Nice enough I suppose. Relevant to their football careers? Not at all. Fun factoids that didn’t amount to much in judging these players long term careers.
- Del Williams was a 3rd round pick of the Saints in ’67 that played seven non-descript seasons on a team that would win only 25 total games over that time span, none in a winning season.
- Norm Snead was drafted by both the NFL and AFL in ’61, playing for 5 different teams over a 16 year career. He was a 4-time Pro Bowler with a 55-99-7 record as a starter.
- Rayfield Wright is a 2006 Hall of Fame inductee, with 6 Pro Bowls and 3 First-Team All-Pro Selections, all for the Dallas Cowboys. Wright never played for a Dallas team with a losing record, played in 5 Super Bowls, and has 2 Championship Rings to his credit.
- Steve Owens was a first round selection of the Detroit Lions in 1970. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1969. The record breaking Oklahoma Sooner never truly replicated his college heroics in the pros. He did rush for 1,035 yards in his second season (Pro Bowl honors), but finished a five year career with just 2,451 yards and a 3.9 average.
- Eugene Upshaw was a Hall of Fame inductee in 1987, starting every game in his 15 year career for the RAIDERS up until his last season (207 of 217 career games). He was a 7-time Pro-Bowler, 5-time All-Pro. His teams posted double-digit wins 9 times, and he collected 2 Super Bowl rings from three trips to the final game. He later led the NFLPA as its Executive Director until his death in 2008.
Traveling, Boating, Swimming, Hurdling, and Night Clubs?
Leadership – Focus, Unity, Direction, Excellence, Success
I write extensively about what I think matters as a leader, specifically a General Manager, in the National Football League. Today’s media has more than a scrutinous eye on players, coaches, and front office executives. It looks for ways to “slice & dice” performance into as many pieces as necessary to make its particular point, good or bad in defense of that particular point being made at the time.
I recently ran across an attempt at “ranking” General Managers outside of what I feel actually matters inside the game – Wins/Losses. Never once while I was in the position myself was I questioned by my owner, or by another owner when interviewing with that club, about the number of “All-Rookie selections” we had or hadn’t made.
What’s the point?
Perhaps the “particular point” attempted to be made is that drafting good young talent leads to WINS down the road. But somewhere the media determined on its own that “The Draft” is the end all to putting together a competitive roster in the National Football League. This has led to some rather BAD hiring practices, in my own opinion.
I argue the draft is only a part of the bigger puzzle that has to be maneuvered in/around each and every year. No doubt it’s important, but so is free agency, waiver wire acquisitions, trades, practice squad signings, dealing with the cap, ownership, coaches, the League Office, agents, and ultimately how you handle your own roster internally on a day to day, week to week, season to season basis.
Two of the BEST
Ron Wolf and Bill Polian won’t don gold jackets this fall because they won the race to the top of the “All-Rookie” list. They’ll do so as a result of their cumulative ability to lead their organizations through the building and rebuilding of rosters with a stability of effort and an outstanding vision for their club. And they won a lot of games.
- Polian’s 229 wins (.624), 18 playoff victories, 5 Super Bowls, and an elusive Ring in ’06.
- Wolf’s own 92 wins (.639), 6 consecutive playoffs and Back to Back Super Bowls in ’96 & ’97, with a Ring over New England on his first attempt in Super Bowl XXXI.
The hype and circumstance swirling around a particular team’s drafting prowess often rides a young GM candidate into a job he’s not ready (and may never be) for. Asked by many of TheFootballEducator.com’s readers “What do I need to do become a General Manager in the NFL?” – rarely do I speak about player evaluation (at least not initially). A team’s selection success rides on too many factors out of any one individual’s control. Those that argue otherwise have never been inside an NFL War Room. Emphasize the period.
Here’s the list I speak of without Scot McCloughan, Ryan Pace, Mike McCagnan, and Chip Kelly;
|GM||Tm||Yr 1||Yrs/GM||Picks||All-Rookies||Percent||AR Rank|
Now the same list based on Win/Loss record (adding Scot McCloughan’s years with SF);
|GM||Tm||AR Rank||WL Rank||WIN||LOSS||TIE||%||PO W||PO L|
Like the author of the first table, let me make a few of my own “quick observations.”
- John Elway has rolled the dice of the Denver Broncos on the fortunes of Peyton Manning. Fantastic overall results, but in the Mile High City that won’t ultimately cut it; ask John Fox.
- Bill Belichick, Kevin Colbert, John Schneider, and Ted Thompson all have rings on their fingers and aren’t even ranked in the Top 10 of the All-Rookie Table.
- Middle of the pack mediocrity gets you the same results on Sundays, while in some cases the same can be said for extended futility. As one GM in that very group likes to put it; “Irregardless” of the stat or the city.
- Finally, pedigree won’t get you very far on its own. Many on this list came highly touted and are quickly running out of time.
Is this true across the board? Perhaps so and maybe not. Here’s a partial list of recently fired or replaced names on the NFL GM ledger. A few were anointed “draft gurus” as former directors, while others had no real personnel experience at all. Feel free to make that list on your own. *Note – PO is Playoffs
Aspiring to become an NFL GM shouldn’t necessarily be “aspiring” to hit the top of the NFL All-Rookie count, rather build an all-around resume that’s not stuffed with fun, but frivolous factoids – regardless of what the media prints on the back of your card.
“Ted likes to walk his 4 huskies; Titan, Zeus, Atlas, & Apollo.”