Running an NFL franchise isn't easy. Can you evaluate personnel, manage a salary cap, negotiate contracts, select a head coach, handle the media, make tough decisions, cooperate with an owner, deal with the league office and, most importantly, carry out a vision for a winning franchise? If so, then you qualify for the job.
There are only 32 such positions as general manager in the NFL, and there may not be 32 people capable of handling all the dimensions of the job. A number of owners will be looking for a front-office executive to steer the course over the next few years, and they are all looking at the same pool of talent.
The first question that needs to be answered is this: What type of leader do you want? A guy with experience that comes in with a proven plan? A younger person with less experience but new and fresh ideas? Someone closer to the age of the owner who can relate to the boss? Someone who can recruit the best coach possible? A man who really knows the talent floating around the country in the draft and on the free-agent market? How about a guy from one of the smart, business-minded franchises that makes the owner more money while still providing a winning team? Getting the right person for the job is complex, but a number of teams will be looking to this list for the perfect fit.
A look at recent front-office hirings will help categorize the candidates into four groups. Group 1 is comprised of experienced executives with a track record who are possibly looking for work, or the Rich McKay model, the former Atlanta Falcons GM. Group 2 is a relatively new concept where a proven coach now takes over the front office rather than coach the team, or the Bill Parcells model, for lack of a better term. Group 3 is the proven club executive that does not have total GM power. He can be lured if you hand him the keys to the kingdom, and as such this group will be labeled the Jerry Angelo model after the Chicago Bears GM. Group 4 is the young understudy who has paid his dues and is ready for the challenge. This group will be labeled the Thomas Dimitroff group after the Atlanta Falcons GM.
Here are the candidates in alphabetical order:
Group 1 (Rich McKay model)
This group of candidates has done everything required of a GM; there is no learning curve. Show them where their office is and they are up and running.
Charlie Casserly: Former GM of the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, Casserly is now working on CBS' "NFL Today" show.
James Harris: Just resigned front office executive of the New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Ron Hill: Former front-office executive for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, Hill is presently assistant director of football operations for the NFL.
Mike Lombardi: Former front office executive for the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, in addition to club experience with the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles.
Carl Peterson: Just resigned as president of the Kansas City Chiefs after 20 years. He is well respected in NFL circles and may want to continue his career with another team.
Floyd Reese: Former general manager of the Tennessee Titans for 13 years, Reese is now working in television.
Group 2 (Bill Parcells model)
If Parcells can leave coaching and still turn around the Miami Dolphins from the front office, then so can a number of former head coaches who have the experience to run a franchise. These three candidates could find the right coach to run the team in the same image and likeness they had when they coached, and all three have a solid working knowledge of personnel.
Marty Schottenheimer: Former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and San Diego Chargers.
Group 3 (Jerry Angelo model)
This may be the strongest group, and it also would take some compensation to get these guys out of their present positions. If they don't have total control of the draft and the hiring and firing of the head coach, it's possible to get them. Any one of these five would be excellent to fix a franchise in need of leadership. New England's Scott Pioli is the hottest name in the league right now, and Pittsburgh's Kevin Colbert would be a steal if you could get him out of Pittsburgh.
Group 4 (Thomas Dimitroff model)
The people in this group are all from successful organizations and could impress an owner in an interview. They have been trained by high-profile executives and should carry the ability to bring the philosophy of a winning program to a new club. No one really knew Patriots personnel man Tom Dimitroff before his video interview with the Falcons last year, and now Atlanta has clinched a playoff spot, thanks largely to Dimitroff's first draft pick, Matt Ryan. Roll the dice and that could happen again this year with someone from this group.
By no means is this a list of the only 20 people capable of running an organization, but it's a good start when it comes to finding the right guy to run a club.