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NFL GM Poll: Pats' Belichick top coach, Ravens' Newsome best GM

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In a poll of 12 NFL G.M.s, six said they would build a team around Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Since Bill Belichick became head coach in 2000, the Patriots have won 10 divisional titles, gone to the playoffs 10 times and advanced to five Super Bowls—winning three within a four-year span. With a 205-109 career record (including the postseason), Belichick ranks first among active coaches and sixth on the all-time list.

As vice president of player personnel and general manager of the Ravens, Ozzie Newsome has presided over drafts that have harvested such stars as offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, linebacker Ray Lewis, cornerbacks Duane Starks and Chris McAlister, running backs Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice, safety Ed Reed, linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. In 2008, Newsome hired John Harbaugh as coach and drafted quarterback Joe Flacco, a 1-2 punch that has helped propel the Ravens on a run of five consecutive playoff appearances that culminated in a Super Bowl championship last season.

If their resumes don't impress you, maybe this will. Belichick and Newsome are the best head coach and best general manager in the NFL, according to an SI.com canvassing of league general managers.

A dozen GMs participated in the poll, in which they were promised anonymity and could not vote for anyone on their own teams.

Belichick received nine of the 12 votes cast for best coach. Jeff Fisher of the Rams, Tom Coughlin of the Giants and Harbaugh each received one vote.

"He can coach the offense, he can coach the defense, he can coach his own coaches," one GM said of Belichick. "He's the outstanding coach of his time."

"Is there any debate about it?" asked another GM "Always prepared. Has reinvented that team several times and competed for a championship after every reinvention. There is nobody better."

"We all have our trials and tribulations, but I don't think there's anyone who matches him in terms of matching personnel and scheme," added a third GM "His ability to stay calm in the heat of fire is impressive in this league."

Newsome, who first made his mark in the NFL as a star tight end during a 13-year career with the Browns—he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999—also got nine votes. Green Bay GM Ted Thompson received the other three votes for best GM

"Ozzie is a pure professional," said one admiring general manager. "He knows how to pull the trigger. He has drafted superbly well consistently, and the ones (where) he doesn't he's able to overcome it later with selections in the draft. Pure class and a good evaluator."

"He is a consistent winner, cool under fire and disciplined on draft day," a second GM said.

Another GM said of Newsome: "Consistently has built and rebuilt the franchise. He is one of the best GM evaluators in the league.

One of the three GMs who voted for Thompson cited his "core principle beliefs and patience. He never wavers. He'll stay true to his plan.

Here are the rest of the results of the general managers' poll (with selected comments).

Q. If you were starting a new team, which quarterback would you want to have?

Aaron Rodgers, Packers, 6 votes.

Andrew Luck, Colts, 3.

Russell Wilson, Seahawks, 1

Tom Brady, Patriots, 1.

Peyton Manning, Broncos, 1.

On Rodgers

"(Is) 29 years old, prime of his career, works at his craft, is smart, accurate, talented, and appears to grow every year."

"I'm so impressed with just his consistency, intelligence. I wouldn't take any of these hot-shot young guys now—the RG3s, the Russell Wilsons. I would go with a guy who's proven himself, and Aaron Rodgers has been a proven winner in this league."

"Is the most consistently effective quarterback in the league. He's still young enough to give you a quality starter for the long haul."

On Luck

"He has some Montana-like qualities. Kid is a winner. There are guys with stronger arms, there are more accurate passers, but this guy just knows how to make plays and win games."

Q. If you were starting a new team, which non-quarterback offensive player would you want to have?

Adrian Peterson, running back, Vikings, 6

Calvin Johnson, wide receiver, Lions, 3

Joe Thomas, offensive tackle, Browns, 1

Andre Johnson, wide receiver, Texans, 1

Nobody, 1

On Peterson

"He's a game-changer, and defenses come in on their heels about how they're going to defend him."

"I personally think he can take over a game any time he wants."

"He can carry a team on his shoulders."

On Johnson

"The first thing is I'd want a guy who scores touchdowns and makes plays, and that's Calvin Johnson."

5. If you were starting a new team, which one defensive player would you want to have?

J.J. Watt, defensive end, Texans, 7

Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end, Giants, 2

Darrelle Revis, cornerback, Bucs, 1

Von Miller, linebacker, Broncos, 1

A young Ray Lewis, 1

On Watt

"Game wrecker that can't be single-blocked. Very disruptive both vs. the run and pass.

"Most dominant defensive player in the league."

"Not only has the pass-rushing skills, but is bigger and more physical than most any other young guy playing on the front (line)."

"It doesn't matter who's blocking him, he's a matchup nightmare inside or outside."

6. Other than quarterback, which three positions, in order, are the most important on a team in today's game (points given on a 3-2-1 basis)?

Pass rusher, 28 points

Left tackle, 24

Cornerback, 12

Wide receiver, 5

Scorer, 2

Center, 1

7. Are spread offenses or read/option offenses here to stay, or will the more conventional NFL offense become the norm again?

A blend of both—4.

Here to stay—3.

Conventional offenses will rule—3.

Not sure—2.

"Elements of the spread will probably remain several years from now, but running the read option and having quarterbacks running around downfield is a recipe for disaster in the NFL.

Defensive players are too big and too fast and hit too hard. Teams will need two quarterbacks, because one will always be in the shop."

"Everything is cyclical in this league. Fads come and go. If these quarterbacks keep getting hurt, owners won't like it."

"It's going to be a blend, but I still think it's going to go back to running the football and a little more conventional. The teams that have a lot of success are teams that run the ball and throw the ball well—the Baltimores, Green Bays, New Englands. They're doing it the old-fashioned way and still being very productive."

8. If you had a choice, would you vote for (a) more playoff teams, (b) fewer playoff teams, or (c) keep it to 12 teams like it is now?

More teams—5

Fewer teams—1

Keep it to 12 teams—6

"Bubble teams should be included, and teams that win nine or 10 games should make the playoffs."

"Today, more than ever, 8-8 teams are capable of getting hot and making a run."

"Will dilute playoffs with more teams."

"It should stay the same because the league has it figured out with regards to parity."

9. Yes or no: Has the NFL done enough to help protect players from suffering concussions?

Yes—10

No—2

"The league has done a really good job of trying to improve the safety of the game."

"The NFL is doing all that can reasonably be done. This is a misreported story. I can't think of an instance where a player suffering a concussion in a game has not recovered from it. The talk linking concussions to dementia later in life is conjecture. There is no actual evidence."

"The league has done anything it can to just kind of be the lighthouse for high schools and colleges. If the NFL is going to do it, let's do it that way, too. The league has done a really good job of trying to improve the safety of the game."

"Short of an incredibly designed helmet that is concussion proof—which, by the way, I believe we have the technology to do—it's almost impossible to totally take concussions out of the game."

"Get NFL head coaches and their assistants to enforce the fundamentals!" said one of the dissenting G.Ms.

10. What part of your job do you wish you had more time to spend on?

Film study/player evaluation: 4

Building relationships—2

Research—2

Teaching younger scouts—1

Everything—1

"I don't think you can spend enough time on personnel."

"A lot of GMs got their jobs because of their scouting ability. Then when you become a GM, the one thing that gets eliminated is how much time you have to watch tape because you're dealing with off-the-field things like marketing, public relations, ticketing, corporate events, speaking engagements.

"We are always looking forward so much and tend to not spend enough time in the present and appreciate those around us."

"Interacting with the players on a daily basis. Not only understanding them as professionals but understanding them as people."

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