G.M. hiring more and more about who you know, not what you can do

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Most key jobs in the NFL are driven by relationships. Who you know, who you’ve worked with, who you’re trusted by, and/or who you’re related to. But the process has become even more detached from merit when it comes to General Manger positions.

As one league source explained it, it’s becoming more and more like politics, with the necessary connections extending beyond the normal network of colleagues and friends and extending to the cabal of former General Managers (Ron Wolf, Ernie Accorsi, Charley Casserly) who routinely serve as consultants to owners. Throw in search firms like Korn Ferry (and their primary NFL headhunter, Jed Hughes), and a person hoping to be a G.M. has to be working several different angles and relationships in order to get serious consideration.

Further complicating matters is the existence of a formal Career Development Advisory Panel, with members who also serve as consultants to individual teams who are looking for General Managers.

“There are major issues with the process right now,” the source said. “When was the last time there was a legitimate G.M. search where the best candidate was actually hired without interference or back-door politicking?”

The back-door politicking recently reached new heights in Green Bay, where Jed Hughes served as a consultant to the Packers’ search for a G.M. and is running the Texans’ search for a G.M. Coincidentally, Packers CEO Mark Murphy (whose daughter works for the Korn Ferry firm) somehow knew on Saturday night that he’d better move quickly to promote Brian Gutekunst to G.M. before the Texans officially interviewed him. Did Murphy know, via Hughes, how serious the Texans were about trying to hire Gutekunst?

It’s a fair question, and it brings to light the conflicts of interest and nepotism/cronyism that currently pollutes the process.

“It used to be the best guy or best interview got the job,” the source said. Now, the strategy has become striking the right relationship with the right person who has the ear of owners who, frankly, have no idea what to do so they essentially delegate/abdicate the responsibility of finding a General Manager to someone who necessarily will push family and friends and will not give a second glance to potentially qualified candidates whom the consultants don’t know and/or don’t like.

This isn’t anything the league should address. But it’s something that the smart teams will figure out how to avoid when searching for the best candidates. And if enough of the best candidates are found through a legitimate process aimed at getting the best candidates for the job, other owners will realize that the current crop of consultants and search firms are going to nudge the franchise toward a narrow subset of candidates who ultimately may not be the best ones for the vacant jobs.

24 responses to “G.M. hiring more and more about who you know, not what you can do

  1. How is relying on relationships and networking any less legitimate than any other process? People inside the industry know who is and is not a good candidate. Why rely on a scattershot approach that will waste time bringing in a bunch of unknown and potentially unqualified individuals?

  2. I have been making this comment for years, They have skipped an entire age group of qualified men who aren’t even being considered. They have more knowledge in their pinky than some of these GM’s that have been hired.

  3. If you own an organization/business worth > 1 billion and you run it like a moron, trusting a person who is looking to hire his friend rather than the bets person for the position, you will suffer and lose money. And thats how it should be. You have the freedom to make stupid choices, and suffer for them.

    Rule 1 – look at who who hire as an advisor. Will they help you find good people, or are they looking to hire friends? If the later, then replace the advisor.

  4. This is why the product on the field stinks. Too many good ol boy front offices and corporate talking heads who’ve never played football let alone know about about it.

  5. You’re right Mike. It doesn’t matter what you know. That’s part of the reason the Patriots have been so dominant. Half the people running the teams were just hired because someone was doing a favor for a buddy. These kids are no competition for a man like Belichick. I always thought that if I were an owner, I’d be reading over lots of scouting reports before I hired anybody. I think when the day comes that TV revenue gets divided based on wins and losses, the owners might take the process a little more seriously.

  6. “When was the last time there was a legitimate G.M. search where the best candidate was actually hired without interference or back-door politicking?”

    John Lynch in 2017?

  7. You must be living under a rock. That IS the NFL. Every facet of it. It is a relationship league. As a player, we knew the best players didn’t always play and the best executives/coaches don’t always get the job

  8. It’s a shame because most NFL teams are only 2 solid back to back drafts from contention. Also it’s a copycat league. If a team is successful, other teams will poach assistants, cordinator, personnel people, etc. These teams have money to burn so let them dpend it stupidly.

  9. Yeah the fact that Joe Douglas didnt get hired over the bye week is nuts. The guy has had an amazing track record with the Ravens, Bears, and Eagles. He should be the first guy on the list. As an Eagles fan I love it but still I know he deserves the top job. Heck if im the Eagles I would name him GM. I dont think Howie ever took that title back. I wouldnt change the structure but giving Joe the title would give the Eagles the ability to block other teams from taking him.

  10. Been like this, but people get upset about the Rooney rule for some reason, which only gets minority candidates an interview. They have absolutely no problem with this though. It’s also why who your team owner is matters as much as the rest of the organization. I know that I would be scared if my team owner had to hire a search firm to tell me who to hire. That should be something they know about and who to hire if they’re actual football fans themselves, which more and more of the new owners simply don’t seem to really be like they once were. Most of them are clueless and don’t look like they want to remedy this shortcoming.

    Just take the Ravens who picked between Jason Garrett and John Harbaugh as coach 10 years ago. Their owner was part of the process and pushed for Harbaugh. Just think about the direction they would have gone had he made the other choice. Not well.

  11. Regarding the Packers; Rest assured if Murphy screws this up it will be his redhead freckle face on the chopping block. What happened in GB should have happened 3-5 years ago.

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