In a league where fortunes rise and fall on a week-to-week basis, seeing around the corner and well into the future when it comes to potential NFL power brokers can be a tricky little feat. But here are some names to know and keep track of in NFL seasons to come. Be they a player, owner, club executive, broadcaster, or businessman, we're projecting a profile on the rise for these 10:
As a former NFL player who was deeply involved in union issues, Murphy brings a unique vantage point to the side of NFL management for the upcoming labor negotiations. He's already a lead negotiator in the CBA talks as a member of the NFL Management Council's executive committee, and as 2011 looms he is seen as a respected figure who may play a pivotal role in helping to bridge the impasse that currently separates labor and management.
When the long arc of history is complete, and the NFL has finally returned to the Los Angeles market, you can count on Wasserman being very much involved at some level of the operation. The grandson of legendary Los Angeles studio mogul, Lew Wasserman, Casey Wasserman is the former owner of the L.A. Avengers arena football team and one of the leaders of the effort to build a $1 billion-plus retractable-roof multi-purpose NFL stadium next to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Wasserman is seen as a potential owner for an L.A. franchise, and he and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell are known to be very tight.
Who said nepotism is always a bad thing? Jones, 46, might have gotten his job because his big-talking papa, Jerry Jones, bought America's Team in 1989, but it's what he has done with the gig that really matters. Jones has grown up in the league and is involved in virtually all aspects of the club's operation. He has impressed many with his intellect and savvy and currently serves on the league's powerful competition committee. Some day he'll run the whole shooting match in Dallas (well, at least that's how they say it in Texas).
Smith is only 40, but he's already in his fifth season as the Texans general manager and has spent the past 15 years in the league, starting as an assistant coach with the Broncos in 1996 and working his way up to the head of Denver's personnel department. For the past two years, Smith has been the youngest member of the league's eight-man competition committee, the most high-profile assignment you can garner as a club executive within the NFL. The first-place Texans have steadily improved under Smith's guidance, and his blend of competence and intelligence makes him one of the most attractive commodities in any NFL front office.
This wouldn't be the first time that a gregarious former Super Bowl-winning head coach (who also happens to be an ex-Raiders head coach) made the seamless and successful jump from the sideline to the booth and never looked back. John Madden became an American pop culture icon going that route, and in time Gruden may do the same. All we're saying is if your kids some day are playing the video game Gruden 2025, don't say we didn't warn you.
Like Stephen Jones in Dallas, Jonathan Kraft is the 46-year-old son who will be the next-generation leader of an ultra-successful and powerful NFL franchise. He truly is his father Robert Kraft's right-hand man, and he is known to possess one of the league's sharpest and shrewdest young minds. It doesn't hurt one bit either that Kraft has the money-making touch, which probably explains how he wound up on both the NFL's business ventures and digital media committees.
Mayock's star has been on the rise as a widely respected NFL draft analyst for several years now, and the former Giants defensive back has become a trusted media voice in terms of his personnel judgments and the depth and thoroughness of his college scouting. He has superb contacts within the league, and this year he has added to his resume some very well received work as a game analyst on NBC's Notre Dame telecasts.
A member of the league's general manager advisory committee, Reese won a Super Bowl in his first year on the job in New York after replacing Ernie Accorsi in January 2007. He both scouted for New York and ran the Giants pro personnel department prior to being elevated to the team's top front office job, and his first draft class in 2007 was seen as a crucial step in paving the way for the Giants first Super Bowl title in 17 years. Reese is considered one of the best young judges of talent in the league, and his reputation for adeptly handling the pressures of working in the NFL's largest media market only further burnishes his standing.
This one admittedly requires a little projection on our part, but if you don't think the guy they already refer to as "the Sanchise'' has the potential to grow into an NFL power broker, then you haven't been paying attention. For one, star quarterbacks in the NFL always have a chance to turn into a face-of-the-league type. (See Peyton Manning, Michael Vick, Brett Favre, etc. ...) Sanchez still has to produce and win big, but he's in New York and he's telegenic, and that gives him a big head start in terms of establishing a legitimate power base.
Demoff didn't really start his NFL career until he was hired as a senior assistant to general manager Bruce Allen in Tampa Bay in 2005, but his education in all things NFL began much earlier, as the son of prominent player agent, Marvin Demoff. Now 33, Kevin Demoff has handled the Rams' salary cap management, player contract negotiations and business operations for the past two seasons, and he is recognized as a creative and innovative thinker who has strong ties to the agent community. For someone so young, Demoff already has a wealth of valuable experience.