Coming out of DC in the wake of the Redskins annual putrid season that we discussed yesterday, The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins explains in better English why a GM is important. Doc had it first yesterday in his TML.
Here are the best parts:
"Sometimes those guys get those jobs because the owner realizes he's
not that strong," said a longtime NFL general manager who has worked
with both good and bad teams. "There are a handful of franchises in the
league where the owners think they're football men, and want to make
football decisions. And it just doesn't seem to work. It may be a
reason why those franchises continue to struggle."
Substituting "Mike Brown" in for "owner" sadly creates the message we've all been preaching since the start of this site. Mikey Boy has a very limited amount of football knowledge which, combined with his extreme loyalty and passion towards just profiting from his organization, creates a deadly combination that has plagued the Bengals since 1990 and will almost surely continue to do so.
The chief thing a strong GM does is tell people, including the owner,
no. He mediates egos, settles disputes, provides a buffer between
various strong personalities, sorts through the complicated passions
that come with winning and losing, and keeps everyone on the same page
and working in the same direction. That the Redskins lack anything like
a strong GM is evident from the fact that everyone is working at
cross-purposes. Coaches, players and the owner are all at odds.
Again, a clear parallel to the Bengals.
Does anyone believe that Mike is capable of all of the above things
(not that he would be motivated to do them anyway)? Brown, devoting
most of his time to making dough, creates chaos and disorder himself by
bringing non-football motives into coaching meetings and the locker
room; the issues he doesn't create remain unresolved because he simply
doesn't possess the will or general managing talent to fix them.
What would happen if Marvin Lewis suddenly starts feuding with Bob
Bratkowski? Would Mikey jump in and get both coaches back on track? No,
of course not. Instead, he'd...well, he would do nothing, except maybe
send his favorite butterball executive in to do...nothing.
The reason strong GMs prefer to build through the draft rather than
free agency is because it's cheap, and allows teams to take the real
measure of players. Free agents aren't just expensive; they're
unpredictable -- witness Adam Archuleta. Familiarity with players is a
double-edged sword, and the most difficult emotional decision a GM has
to make is to let go of an aging player who is deteriorating. One of
the reasons coaches and owners tend not to make good GMs is because
they become too invested in certain players.
Exactly. Mike realizes the large investment he's made in a player or
a coach, not just monetarily speaking but also in his own reputation,
emotional feelings and (how pathetic -but true- is this?) self-esteem.
This makes letting go of one nearly impossible for him, as we know all too well.
The most visible contribution of a strong GM, of course, is in
building a deep roster with promise for the future as well as present.
Snyder and Cerrato have failed at this not just because they seem
fatally attracted to skill players -- drafting three pass catchers, for
instance, when they have pressing needs on the offensive line -- but
they seem to have trouble identifying that intangible, competitive
character. Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis may yet develop,
but all three arrived with poor habits.
When will the comparisons to the Bengals stop?
Not recognizing actual talent? Check. Not recognizing a player's makeup? Check. Not recognizing the team's needs? Check.
Not at all coincidentally, three owners -- Mike Brown, Daniel Synder
and Jerry Jones -- who have a great deal of influence on their team's
personnel decisions all come to mind when looking at the opposite of those three
crucial aspects. Without a GM, or at least a "football person" in a
powerful position, accomplishing all three of those essentials (as well
as not succumbing to damaging ambitions like gaining money and
favorable public perception) isn't realistic for an owner.
How do you divine what's inside a player? Real talent evaluation,
according to the veteran GM, is a matter of drudgery, not merely of
looking at stats, and tape, which provide just a "snapshot" but of
beating the bushes at obscure colleges, watching players in person and
cultivating deeper appraisals.
This literally depresses me. Every single Bengal fan knows that Mike
Brown will never -- ever -- do any of the above himself, or hire scouts
to do it, unless he has a drastic epiphany (or, I don't know, sees a
bunch of pissed-off fans not inside Paul Brown Stadium
The New York Giants lost their starting wide receivers from the 2007
Super Bowl, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, yet they haven't missed a
beat thanks to Jerry Reese, who drafted Steve Smith, Mario Manningham
and Hakeem Nicks in the past two years. The Indianapolis Colts are
without their prime targets in Marvin Harrison and the injured Anthony
Gonzalez, and yet Peyton Manning looks as good as ever thanks to Bill
Polian, who provided him Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.
Reese and Polian lost major star players, but filled their important
spots with solid depth because of good scouting, hard work, pure
intelligence, and a wish to improve their teams.
As for Brown? One day, when he was driving down south (airlines have unfair baggage fees, don't you know), Mikey saw someone playing catch just outside of the Conway, South Carolina Denny's that he just had to have. That someone? Jerome Simpson.