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Over the past three weeks, the only two general managers in the NFL who can come close to competing with the records of Bill Belichick in New England (50-14), John Elway in Denver (46-18), John Schneider in Seattle (45-18), Arizona’s Steve Keim (41-22-1), Ted Thompson in Green Bay (40-23-1) or Kevin Colbert in Pittsburgh (40-24) have been fired.
After going 43-21 in his four-year term in Kansas City, John Dorsey was fired June 22. Then Monday, Dave Gettleman, who was 40-23-1 with one trip to the Super Bowl in his four years in Carolina, got the ax as well.
According to a number of solid sources with knowledge of both situations, Pro Football Weekly can report that these two firings were owners’ decisions that arose from organizational concerns this offseason.
In the case of the Chiefs, it appears that the departure of Chris Ballard to Indianapolis may have exposed some management flaws in Dorsey in the view of team chariman and CEO Clark Hunt that left the latter uncomfortable with his GM going forward.
As competitive as the Chiefs have been and appear likely to remain for the short-term, Kansas City has an aging, highly-paid defense that together with an extremely tight salary cap makes for a dangerous situation down the road.
Gettleman’s departure is actually the slightly bigger surprise just one season removed from a Super Bowl, but one source close to the situation tells Pro Football Weekly it may have been the more predictable.
The Panthers' former GM brings a very hard-edged, no-nonsense approach to player relationships that was not always consistent with the paternal instincts of owner Jerry Richardson. More than a few well-liked Panthers veterans left with bad feelings about their treatment by Gettleman.
While Ron Rivera has clearly acted at all times in the manner Richardson expects of his coach, the same could not be said of Gettleman’s persona as the GM.
In addition to all of the other qualities sought in an NFL general manager, Gettleman’s successor will most likely be the candidate with the best plan to deal with those concerns.
Ironically the Panthers job is almost certainly a better opportunity than the one the former Chief, Ballard jumped on in Indianapolis.
Now that we have gotten to the 'why' of these stories, let’s dispense with the widely dispersed suggestion that the timing of their firings is strange. It is actually quite logical from their former teams’ perspectives.
Perhaps a few weeks earlier for each would have made sense, but the reality is that the NFL is now right at the beginning of a new personnel cycle and if you’re going to bring in a new general manager, the timing is almost ideal.
The free-agent market is down to shopping at T.J. Maxx and 90-man rosters for the coming seasons are set.
Both the Chiefs and Panthers have the talent to compete for playoff runs again.
The other 30 front offices have been retained or reorganized for the coming season, so if the Chiefs had not chosen to promote Brett Veach from within and if the Panthers don’t elect to stay in-house, all of the best available free agent front office talent was and is available to them.
And the college scouting season for 2017 is just about to begin.
Another well-fitting piece of these puzzles is the near certainty that whatever the reasons for their dismissals, neither Dorsey nor Gettleman was on the firing line until the last six months.
If Richardson or Hunt were anticipating making these changes at the end of last season, they almost certainly never would have allowed Dorsey’s right-hand man Ballard or Gettleman’s top assistant Brandon Beane to leave and take the GM jobs in Indianapolis and Buffalo, respectively.
Ballard was one of the hottest names in the league among perspective general managers at the end of last season and while not as well known, Beane is well respected too.
It is not unusual to point to power struggles between GMs and head coaches when the front-office guy gets the old heave-ho, but people looking at Andy Reid and Rivera are chasing shadows, too.
True, neither Reid nor Rivera was hired by Dorsey or Gettleman.
But Dorsey came on board in Kansas City just days after the Chiefs snatched up Reid after he was fired in Philadelphia, and he wouldn’t have taken the job had he not been comfortable with his head coach.
The two also worked together in Green Bay from 1991-1998.
There isn’t a head coach or general manager in the NFL that doesn’t have an easily measured ego and it’s likely the two were not always on the same page, but Reid is not the reason Dorsey is gone.
When Gettleman took over from Marty Hurney in 2013, Rivera was coming off 6-10 and 7-9 seasons his first two years on the job and Gettleman could easily have insisted on hiring his own man, but he was happy with Rivera, who won two NFL Coach of the Year Awards working with him.
I can also report with a great deal of certainty that there isn’t a head coach in the NFL with less of an ego than Rivera. He knew that Gettleman had done a very solid job of plugging talent gaps in Hurney’s stead and he had nothing to do with the GM’s ouster.
This much is certain: both teams are still ready to contend for the foreseeable future and the Panthers now have one of the most desirable general manager openings the league has seen in a while.
In the next 10 days, most NFL clubs will have opened training camp and football will be back for the next six months of our lives.
For most coaches and GMs, the 5-6 weeks between the end of the offseason program and the beginning of training camp are the longest weeks of the year. During that time frame, coaches don’t have that daily contact with players and many of their players aren’t in the club's city but rather spread around the country at their own homes.
Without the daily reminder for their players to stay out of trouble, coaches and GM’s dread when their phone rings, especially in the middle of the night. When the phone rings at that time, it’s usually bad news.
This year, since the end of OTA’s, there have been at least six NFL players arrested for various charges. The latest was Sunday morning when Houston Texans rookie running back D’Onta Foreman was arrested on weapon and marijuana charges in Texas.
Earlier this month, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Adolphus Washington was also arrested on weapons charges for carry a concealed weapon at a water park in Ohio. Dallas linebacker Damien Wilson was charged with aggravated assault after brandishing a rifle at someone. Green Bay defensive lineman Letroy Guion was charged with DUI in Hawaii.
In each case, every one of these instances could have been avoided if only the player had done some serious thinking before he left his house.
This is what bugs GMs and coaches, as none of these things had to happen but because they did. each of the players could face league discipline as well as legal discipline. This hurts a team that wants to get its season off in the right direction. It was only two years ago that New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a serious hand and arm injury when he was using fireworks on the Fourth of July. That injury had a huge effect on how the Giants played in 2015.
The Final 53
Once training camps open, don’t think for a minute that the club's decision makers don’t already have a preconceived idea of who is going to be on the final 53-man roster. There is a depth chart in their offices and they go into camp hoping to prepare those players for the regular season. Where things change is when there is an injury to a key player or when a player they weren’t expecting to seriously challenge for a job looks too good to be cut.
This happens every year at every camp and that is what makes training camps so interesting. In my years in the league I always went into camp with the thought of “expect the unexpected”. There will be key injuries and there will be young players who refuse to say they aren’t good enough.
What is difficult for decision makers is trying to determine if an older player can still play at a winning level. Because they are veteran players and know and understand the scheme, they can always look “good enough” in camp to fool their coaches. What can hurt a club is that they end up keeping the veteran and by about mid-season or earlier his play really drops off. Decision makers have to keep a close on these players and look for the slightest bit a decline in their play. If they see it, then it’s time to make a change and move on. It’s always better to cut or trade a player a year early than a year late.
Changes in Scouting
In the last few years, there have been about 100 underclassmen who leave school early to enter the draft. Each year, 35-40 percent of those players don’t get drafted or get drafted much later than they anticipated. To help cut the number of underclassmen making the wrong decision and leaving school early, the two league scouting services (National Scouting and Blesto) will now scout and grade a number of underclassmen during the fall.
Up until this year, the scouting services only graded current seniors and didn’t study the underclassmen until after they declared for the NFL Draft. By getting in-season grades on these players, it will help the league give these players a more thorough assessment of their chances to play in the NFL. This is a good move on the league's part, as these underclassmen have been relying on the wrong people for far too long when making their decision to leave school and enter the draft. The number of underclassmen entering the draft should be no more that 60 or 70, not 100. By staying in school, the college game will be better as will the NFL. Why the NFL? Because if a prospect stays in school an extra year he will be that much more ready to play and compete both mentally and physically.
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IOWA CITY — Coaches aren’t the only ones challenged in choosing between the two most experienced quarterback candidates on the Iowa football team.
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For our second podcast of the week, we're thrilled to welcome in NBC Sports Bay Area's Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) and Omar Kelly (OmarKelly) of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel to review the Raiders and Dolphins offseasons, respectively. Up first, Bair tells you everything you need to know about Reggie McKenzie's retention efforts, including massive extensions for Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson and the next shoe to drop. Bair also talks Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper, Mario Edwards Jr., rookie DBs and the Raiders' LB void. Kelly has very high praise for Adam Gase and Jarvis Landry — but what about the team's DTs and LBs? Plenty of Dolphins tidbits ahead on Jay Ajayi, DeVante Parker, Charles Harris and what Ryan Tannehill can do to enter the... wait for it... elite QB discussion.
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