- These GMs need to start seeing positive progress on the field this fall, or they may not be around to see the fruit of their roster rebuilds.
The front office leaders in charge of roster construction tend to have a longer leash than the coaches responsible for said rosters, but even so, the bell eventually tolls if a GM cannot get his team on the winning track. Who is most in need of a strong 2017 performance to back up his vision?
Team’s record during his tenure: 15–17, zero playoff berths
Key move(s) this off-season: Released Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis
Outlook: The Jets’ off-season, at least through May, has been as much about who left as it is about who arrived (names like OT Kelvin Beachum, QB Josh McCown and CB Morris Claiborne). Maccagnan chopped nearly $26 million off his 2017 cap by parting with Mangold, Marshall and Revis—decisions that served as something of an on-the-fly roster reset. Also noteworthy has been who is still around: OLB Sheldon Richardson. Long considered a possible trade candidate and carrying an expiring contract, Richardson remains in green and white as the summer approaches.
His presence alone won’t be enough. Both Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles need this roster to overachieve, or they’ll be asking ownership for leniency. The quarterback grouping of McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg points the arrow directly at a focus on the 2018 draft class ... and the use of a high pick on a new QB.
Team’s record during his tenure: 88–88, four playoff berths, four division titles
Key move(s) this off-season: Traded away Brock Osweiler, drafted Deshaun Watson
Outlook: As it so often does, this all boils down to the quarterback position. Under Smith’s watch, Houston has won the AFC South with Matt Schaub, Brian Hoyer and a Brock Osweiler/Tom Savage combo under center. At least the Texans’ past two division titles (2015 and ’16) have come largely in spite of their QB play. Smith’s free-agent signing of Osweiler was a colossal bust, so much so that Houston had to give Cleveland a 2018 second-rounder to take Osweiler off its hands.
Smith then used his 2018 first-rounder to move up this year (again via trade with Cleveland) for Deshaun Watson. So, in essence, that’s two drafts tied up in remedying the quarterback situation. Smith may not be under quite as much heat as coach Bill O’Brien, but at some point soon one of these moves has to click. Otherwise, with a .500 record since taking over as GM in ’06 and three straight 9–7 marks, Smith risks looking like he’s treading water.
Team’s record during his tenure: 15–49
Key move(s) this off-season: Signed A.J. Bouye, drafted Leonard Fournette
Outlook: The record speaks for itself. The Jaguars are a whopping 34 games under .500 with Caldwell calling the shots (and 46 games under if we go back to 2012, the year before Caldwell replaced Gene Smith). Those results led to Gus Bradley’s firing during the ’16 season, and it’s obvious Caldwell is on thin ice, too, especially with Jacksonville bringing in Tom Coughlin as executive VP of football operations. The wins have to come, preferably early in the season, or Caldwell could be forced out.
The front office has had a productive off-season, by all accounts—Bouye, Fournette, Calais Campbell, Branden Albert, Cam Robinson, Barry Church, etc., are key additions, in theory. Of course, Jacksonville has been down this road before as a champion of the spring and summer months. It’s long overdue to produce results in the fall.
Team’s record during his tenure: 9–23, zero playoff berths
Key move(s) this off-season: Traded up to draft Mitchell Trubisky
Outlook: It’s quite apparent that the Bears have reached a fork in the road. This is year three of the Pace/John Fox era, which thus far has produced records of 6–10 and 3–13. Pace spent this off-season completely reshaping Chicago’s QB position: He released Jay Cutler and signed Mike Glennon, then spent significant draft capital to acquire the No. 2 pick and use it on Trubisky. Reports out of the Windy City were that Fox had been kept in the dark until the late stages of that draft decision.
Trubisky’s situation could buy Pace time, even if it makes Fox’s life more difficult. With Glennon expected to be the starter in 2017, Trubisky is a prime sit-and-develop candidate, which means returns on the trade for him may not be available until ’18, at the earliest. Still, this roster is nowhere close to being a finished product, with potential trouble spots all over the field. Pace may be offered time to make those repairs, but the clock is ticking.
Team’s record during his tenure: 129–111, five playoff berths, one Super Bowl title
Key move(s) this off-season: Traded Brandin Cooks to New England for a first-round pick, signed Adrian Peterson
Outlook: The past few seasons have been ugly for the Saints, and for Loomis. The results: three consecutive 7–9 finishes and a salary cap consistently saddled with dead money due to poor moves—this year’s current dead money number of approximately $13.4 million (via OvertheCap) is a significant reduction from 2015 and ’16. Loomis has taken on high-priced busts, like safety Jairus Byrd, while his team has run into the same problems over and over again—namely, its defense.
The decision to unload Cooks will be viewed through a microscope all season, if for no other reason than Loomis sent his former WR to the defending champs. He used the additional first-round pick on OT Ryan Ramczyk, after earlier selecting CB Marshon Lattimore. The Saints’ recent draft history actually looks promising (WR Michael Thomas, DT Sheldon Rankins, OL Andrus Peat and so on), but the increased scrutiny of late from the fan base made the 2017 draft an important one.
Loomis, though, is not likely to go anywhere unless everything implodes. Owner Tom Benson holds him in such high regard that he made Loomis executive VP of basketball operations for the New Orleans Pelicans, which Benson also owns. Head coach Sean Payton is far more likely to be the first one out the door if this season goes awry.
Team’s record during his tenure: 27–37, one playoff berth
Key move(s) this off-season: Drafted Mike Williams, Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney
Outlook: A seat that’s likely not as warm as others on this list—Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote recently that Telesco “may have a job here for 25 years,” in large because team VP John Spanos calls a lot of the shots. The Chargers also landed Joey Bosa in last year’s draft, a selection that briefly looked problematic as Bosa held out but turned out to be a potential game-changer for years to come.
There is talent up and down this roster, including the above list of draft picks made to bolster the offense. With the Chargers already on the move from San Diego to L.A. (with a pit stop at the StubHub Center), rocking the boat further might be too much.
Team’s record during his tenure: 31-48-1, zero playoff berths
Key move(s) this off-season: Placed franchise tag on Trumaine Johnson, signed Andrew Whitworth
Outlook: Snead’s time as GM opened with fireworks—the Robert Griffin III trade, in which the Rams sent the 2012 draft’s second pick to Washington for a cavalcade of selections. Four years later, Snead was on the opposite end, as he made an aggressive move up to No. 1 for QB Jared Goff. His fate now hangs rather directly on Goff’s development.
It was at least a minor upset that the Rams retained Snead in the first place, after canning coach Jeff Fisher. Snead certainly did not capitalize on that RGIII deal as well as he could have, and Goff’s rookie season was a train wreck. The Rams overhauled their coaching staff this off-season, bringing in Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, among others. Snead may only have one shot with that group.
Team’s record during his tenure: 49–47, two playoff berths
Key move(s) this off-season: Signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith
Outlook: Technically the Eagles’ executive VP of operations, Roseman was the general manager from 2010 to ’14 before being reassigned as Chip Kelly took control of the roster. And ... that ... didn’t work. So those responsibilities went back to Roseman. Almost immediately, he started flushing out many of Kelly’s roster additions, all while setting his sights on Carson Wentz in the 2016 draft.
This off-season, the focus was on providing Wentz more help. Enter Jeffery, Smith, running back LeGarrette Blount and rookies Donnel Pumphrey and Mack Hollins. The weapons are available to help accelerate Wentz’s maturation. Will it all click? Did Roseman do enough to upgrade the defense? If this season devolves into another sub-.500 letdown, odds are someone—be it Roseman or coach Doug Pederson—will have to answer for the failure.