Owning an NFL team is not rocket science. All it requires is a whole lot of money, a fat checkbook, and a willingness to sit back and collect money for the hard work of others. Despite this extremely low bar, owners keep trying to mess this incredibly simple formula up.
There are a lot of ways you can torpedo your own franchise, but the quickest path to mediocrity is becoming more prevalent: Hiring a head coach before a general manager. It’s a decision that reeks of ego and self-confidence, and more often explodes in the face of a team. So why in the hell do teams keep doing it?
The latest victim seems to be the Minnesota Vikings, who are moving forward on a head coaching search without a GM in place. Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were fired following a disappointing season that saw the perennially inconsistent Vikings post their second losing season in a row. Honestly, it was time for a change because the status quo wasn’t getting the job done — but there should be a logical process to this.
The Chicago Bears are doing the same thing, interviewing general managers and coaches simultaneously. At least their process of looking at managers has begun, but it doesn’t mean that this approach is any more helpful.
The stratus of an NFL team is designed in a series of half-steps, like a series of fail safes to ensure accountability up the chain. For the purposes of this discussion we’ll remove the entire business side. Obviously team presidents, operations managers, marketing — all are important, but don’t really have a bearing on the football organization itself, outside of it being a business.
On the football side imagine the general manager as being the intermediary between the football and the money. On the one side they have to put the football people in place to hopefully create a winning organization, but they also have to manage the salary cap, negotiate contracts with agents, and be the voice of reason in deciding when it’s no longer prudent to keep a player because of financial concerns. The general manager is football’s buzz kill. The credit limit to stop someone doing something…