09 September 2014

Overseeing a Scouting Department

Successful management of the Draft is undoubtedly the most critical component of a GM’s personnel decisions.   Nevertheless, as discussed above, there are a variety of ways in which a GM can build a roster.  Falcons GM Thomas Dimitoff explained that “[t]here are some very, very talented players coming into this league through the draft, through free agency, and the easy thing to do is to bring in the most talented players whether they fit or don't fit.  You can win that way, no question about it.”  

Seahawks War Room

Seattle Seahawks War Room (credit: Seahawks.com)

Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, once Dimitroff’s colleague with the Patriots, takes a more cautious approach: “the key is sustainability.  Do you want to build a team that will win once and then implode? I don't think that's the job.  The job is to make the difficult decisions so you can build the kind of team that can be in position to win every single year.”  

No matter the approach, an NFL GM clearly has a difficult job in terms of building a championship roster.  He must balance the Salary Cap, determine when to pay veteran players and when to let them go, decide whom the Club will select in the Draft and what trades are necessary to do that, and must also work with other GMs to see if trades are available to improve the roster.  All these moves should build a roster of 90 players that provide the coaching staff with enough talent to install their game plans.  The GM then must whittle that roster down to 53 players that have enough talent to perform on a high level on offense, defense and special teams while still providing depth at each position.  All of this must occur while managing the personalities in the locker room and among the coaching staff.  This is not possible alone and therefore great GM’s surround themselves with talented scouts and personnel executives who can aid the GM in making the best decisions for the team, as is discussed below.

As explained above, roster management and personnel selection are crucial tasks for an NFL GM.  At any given time during the regular season, there are nearly 2,000 players under contact with an NFL Club either on the active/inactive list, injured reserve or practice squad.   During the preseason, when rosters are expanded to 90 players, there are nearly 3,000 players under contract.  The number of players is further increased over time when you consider that, according to the NFLPA, the average NFL career is 3.5 years.   An NFL Club must be aware of and have a scouting report on each and every player. 

NFL GMs must build and manage a talented scouting staff to undertake this task.   “The best personnel developers in the NFL aren't all-knowing “gurus,” but instead run great support staffs, former Tennessee Titans GM Floyd Reese writes.   These support staffs vary in size and responsibility, but all ultimately break down into a College Scouting Department and a Professional (Pro) Scouting Department. 

GMs must give careful consideration to how the construct these departments, the autonomy that each will have, and consistently look to the future as senior lieutenants can and will be picked off my other teams.  This should push the GM to consider the development of young scouts and the integration of all scouts to be key aspects of the job description and pieces that can make or break a team over the years.

Stay tuned for more…

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