Last week, John Elway, the Denver Broncos general manager announced some restructuring in the front office. Some have the same duties, some received promotions and a few had minimal changes. This is simply a formal dotting of the i‘s and crossing of the t’s. It’s not always that simple.
The Washington Redskins fired GM Scot McCloughan in March. The Buffalo Bills fired their GM Doug Whaley and his entire scouting department following the 2017 NFL draft. It should be noted that the Redskins have yet to fill their GM role and obviously went about their work for the upcoming 2017 season staff with the rest of the front office in place. San Francisco fired their GM, Trent Baalke, on Black Monday following week 17.
Which one is better? There are pros and cons to each, but I think I would feel better if I were a 49ers fan than the other two.
Baalke, Whaley and McCloughan and staffs spent the 2016 preparing for the 2017, just as the Broncos and Elway did, just as every other NFL team did. Commonsense. It is all but impossible to say the issues that the Bills had with Whaley and staff, popped up overnight. It’s not like Whaley was found coked out of his mind in a hotel room following the first round. Of course, you dismiss him at that point, but if you know you are wanting to clean house, then go ahead and do it.
Week 17 ended the season for all but 12 teams on January 1st. Clean house. Pull the plug like the 49ers did. They’ve got a ton of data built up for the 2017 draft, and you bring in new GM, a new set of eyes, and in their case, a new staff. Hire them. Have them create their own data and then you have both sets.
Some opinions would be shared between the two groups, some could be quite different. I certainly wouldn’t a guy that I was about to fire to be in control. Reports had that Bills first year Head Coach Sean McDermott had a say in a lot of the draft and might have a say in finding the new GM.
That’s an awful lot of power for a first-year head coach, yet some of the footage in the Bills war room saw Whaley on the phone. Did he have a clue he’d be fired a week later? Perhaps. If I were a Bills fan that cringed each time I heard the name Scott Norwood, I would have preferred the firing take place on Black Monday. You’ve already shown Rex Ryan the door and then the GM says in public that he had no idea why. Whether that is the truth or not, if you’ve already got it in your head that you want change, seek change. Make change.
While the 49ers brought in a GM with no front office experience in John Lynch, he knows the game, has prepped for a broadcast each week over the past few seasons, and spent 15 years in the league. He’s a new set of eyes, who likely relied on his staff more this year than he will in say 2022, if he’s still the GM of the 49ers at that point.
If the Bills bring in GM x, y or z, in early January then the GM still has time to build his own draft portfolio. The GM likely has information from his previous position/job that he can use as a starting point in building that draft board. He has access to the work that the previous staff has created. It’s not like you are hiring some random person off the street and giving them a keycard to get into the building. Buffalo might have feared that some of the fired staff members would take their data to another team, and that is a fair point, but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?
It was reported that McCloughan had meetings with various teams. He had his information that he and his staff collected through the previous years. He’s held various jobs with 4 different NFL teams (Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington), he likely has connections in most, if not all, NFL Scouting departments. He reportedly has returned to running his scouting service. He’s a second set of eyes.
In Denver, with John Elway owning the town and the legend that he was and is, it will be a tragic day when he is no longer GM of the Broncos. Whether it’s by his choice or not, it will send shockwaves across Broncos Country.
If and when that day comes, it will likely be him simply retiring so it won’t be the exact same situation as any of the other three mentioned. That doesn’t change this opinion of San Francisco handling it much better than Buffalo, with Washington being jammed in the middle. It will likely be a promotion from within, but you never know. He could become an owner. When that day happens, I dare say he’ll know exactly how to pick a GM and transition team to make smooth changes, unlike some franchises.
That is why Broncos fans are so fortunate, between Pat Bowlen and John Elway, being first rate, always comes first.