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Who's really in charge? Stellar power structures boost NFCW

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  • Who's really in charge? Stellar power structures boost NFCW

    By Albert Breer

    Owner: Bill Bidwill, 52nd year
    General Manager: Steve Keim, 1st year
    Head Coach: Bruce Arians, 1st year
    Other front-office notables: Michael Bidwill, President; Jason Licht, Vice President of Player Personnel; Mike Disner, Director of Football Administration.

    Who's really in charge? The new structure for the Cardinals is marked by the failings of the old structure, where things seemed to go south after Ken Whisenhunt got control over the 53-man roster written into his final contract. That undercut GM Rod Graves' power, and both wound up fired. And so the Cardinals turned to Graves' well-respected right-hand man, Steve Keim, who'd been a strong GM candidate in previous years and was a finalist for the Jacksonville Jaguars job this year.

    Keim has power over all personnel matters and the 53-man roster, and he helped in the process of finding a new head coach. Bruce Arians reports to Keim, but Keim and his staff have made a point of involving the coaches and making sure they're on board with all their decisions, which plays into the GM's background as a football man and on-the-road scout. Keim's surrounded himself with likeminded people, starting with Jason Licht, who was a finalist for the Chicago GM job last year and has worked under Andy Reid and Bill Belichick.

    Graves' departure left a need for a salary-cap manager, and the Cardinals hired Mike Disner away from the NFL's management council to handle that end of the business, and give the club a resource in an official who played a significant role in the labor negotiations.

    Moving up the chain, Keim reports to Michael Bidwill, who is involved in bigger-picture football decisions and has taken over for his father in running the club day to day.

    An outside perspective from an NFC personnel executive: "I respect Arizona, and Keim is very well-respected. They believe in their area scouts, they trust them, and they're all involved in the process. The way I look at it: You're paying them to do a job, you should keep them involved. They've been around the kids for two or three years, their opinions matter. From a talent and character standpoint, the GM has the final say there, but he's keeping his guys involved. They keep an eye on the future there. ... Keim does it the right way: He's out on the road, he does the school calls, and he started on the bottom and worked his way up. He has a good eye for talent. And we'll see where it goes now that he's got the final call. He's a football guy, and he has football people running the show."

    Owner: Jed York, 5th year
    General Manager: Trent Baalke, 3rd Year
    Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh, 3rd Year
    Other front-office notables: Paraag Marathe, Chief Operating Officer; Joel Patten, Director of Player Personnel; Matt Malaspina, Director of College Scouting; Mike Williams, Director of Pro Personnel.

    Who's really in charge? While Jim Harbaugh came in to much fanfare two years ago, Trent Baalke has accumulated significant power within the ***** organization, with final say over all personnel decisions and the 53-man roster. The head coach is given authority over the 46-man game-day roster. Both report to Jed York, who oversees both the business and football sides, after being handed the reins by his father, John, four-and-a-half years ago.

    The idea in giving Baalke authority is for the Niners to maintain long-range thinking in building the team, and remain ahead of the curve -- not just with the draft, but also with contracts. The Niners already have extended a number of guys in their young core (Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Joe Staley, Vernon Davis) and did so with years left on their respective deals. Paraag Marathe leads the way on negotiations, with guidance from Baalke on each player's value within the team's structure.

    A good recent example of the teamwork in play was the club's decision to trade up for Eric Reid in the first round of April's draft. The Niners identified the safety as a player of interest early, which allowed them to move aggressively to land him.

    Just a couple years out of a decade-long struggle, San Francisco has emerged again as a model franchise with a streamlined chain of command that's simple and fairly small on the football side.

    An outside perspective from an NFC personnel executive: "They've got a great staff. And Trent, with his mindset, he doesn't hang decisions over people's heads. He won't pull a tag on a kid that a coach feels strongly against. It's a disaster when you have that. ... Trent just works his ass off. He's not a self-promoter. He loves football, he likes to grind tape, scout and work. It's that work ethic, experience and perspective he has -- hard to succeed without it. And he has great instincts. ... And then, he allows Jim to run the show. Game day, that's Jim's baby, and that's just common sense, which is what Trent has, to let people do their jobs."

    Owner: Paul Allen, 17th year
    General Manager: John Schneider, 4th year
    Head Coach: Pete Carroll, 4th year
    Other front-office notables: Peter McLoughlin, President; Scot McCloughan, Senior Personnel Executive; Tag Ribary, Director of Pro Personnel; Scott Fitterer, Director of College Scouting; Matt Thomas, Vice President of Football Administration.

    Who's really in charge? Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle with major clout, and was hired before John Schneider, but the coach and GM have built a collaborative relationship in Seattle. In essence, Schneider runs the show during the offseason and Carroll takes the torch when the pads go on. Carroll has final say over the 53-man roster, but Schneider runs the draft and free agency, and has taken the lead on building a roster that's unique, different and loaded with young talent.

    One reason the two are a good match: As a Ted Thompson protégé, Schneider believes in building through the draft, and Carroll has never been afraid -- in college or the pros -- to play young guys. As part of that, Schneider's two top assistants, Scot McCloughan and Scott Fitterer, are part of the GM's method of canvasing the country. In addition to the area scouts' normal work, the Seahawks make an effort to get either Schneider, McCloughan or Fitterer to every relevant campus in America to see prospects in person.

    Positive results played a part in Seattle losing John Idzik to the New York Jets in January. The Seahawks replaced Idzik with Matt Thomas, who has been more zeroed in on contracts, the cap and budget than his predecessor, who had football responsibility, as well.

    Much of what Seattle has constructed in building an innovative, forward-thinking operation reflects owner Paul Allen's values. Allen keeps up with the team's affairs and has an open line of communication with guys like Peter McLoughlin, Schneider and Carroll, but he leaves the day-to-day business to those he's hired to handle the club.

    An outside perspective from an NFC executive: "It's an example of getting a good head coach and pairing him with a smart personnel guy. Pete and John share a philosophy -- they understand what the other is looking for, and they take chances together. That's the most important thing. If you're taking risks like they have, in finding that player, it's about being on the same page. ... The coaches who come from college are used to recruiting and evaluating guys as people. It's different than the draft, but with Pete, there's been some carry-over. Pete has a feel for what works. John knows what he wants. John has a great sense about him with that -- how to find players that they'll have great value for. And hey, all head coaches have say; maybe this one has a little more than others, but John and Pete trust each other. That's what's most important."

    Owner: Stan Kroenke, 4th year
    General Manager: Les Snead, 2nd year
    Head Coach: Jeff Fisher, 2nd year
    Other front-office notables: Kevin Demoff, Executive Vice President of Football Operations/CEO; Taylor Morton, Director of Player Personnel, Ran Carthon, Director of Pro Personnel.

    Who's really in charge? Jeff Fisher came to St. Louis last year knowing he'd have influence within the organization -- something that helped the Rams beat out the Miami Dolphins for his services -- and the coach was part of the process in plucking Les Snead from the Atlanta Falcons to be GM. But in practice, and the way the contracts are written for Fisher and Snead, the Rams have tried to build a partnership between the two men, where the coach runs the show during the season and the GM is in command during the offseason. This is modeled after the approach of another team owned by Stan Kroenke, the Denver Nuggets, who until a few weeks ago had a similar setup with an experienced coach and younger GM. And according to those in St. Louis, that's really the way Fisher wanted it, having someone he could work with on the personnel side.

    Both the coach and GM report to Kroenke, as does Kevin Demoff, who's charged with running the business side and helping to tie together the coaching and personnel ends of the operation. Demoff oversees contracts and cap, but allows Fisher and Snead to handle the heavy lifting on football. And further down the line, Snead imported trusted aides Taylor Morton and Ran Carthon from Atlanta to lead the team's scouting department.

    An outside perspective from an NFC personnel executive: "Jeff's got a handle on the business. He's a good administrator and he knows what he wants. Just an impressive guy. He's an overseer, with a great feel for the game and business. ... They're pretty impressive since those guys got there -- well-coached, sound and in a division that's getting pretty tough. They're stepping up. ... The one thing you have to watch is the makeup and character -- some of those guys had issues and they're showing up in the pros. The corners, the running back, there have been more problems, and that's part of being willing to roll the dice on guys. That can come back and bite you. However it goes, you get guys with a checkered past, and it bit them a little bit. ... But there's no question they made great hires, and they're heading in the right direction. The problem is, the division's a tough deal."

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Some observations for Rams to reconstruct their front office
    by RamWraith
    By Jeff Gordon
    Tuesday, Jan. 03 2006

    We’re still scratching our head after listening to Rams president John Shaw
    answer – or sort of answer – questions about the future structure of the
    franchise’s management team.

    His news conference triggered much discussion among media types about optimal
    front office structures. There are many models in the NFL and they can all work
    if the right people are in the right roles.

    But what is the best-case structure? Tracking the NFL for more than 25 years,
    here is our humble suggestion on how to restructure the Rams operation:

    OWNER: From this viewpoint, owners should own. They should act like majority
    shareholders. They could not serve as the team CEO unless they work 24/7 at
    this job.

    And they should DEFINITELY not serve as the team’s general manager unless they
    have spent decades working the personnel game on a daily basis. Jerry Jones and
    Daniel Snyder do their teams no favor by thrusting themselves into football

    Georgia Frontiere and Stan Kroenke have been excellent owners in St. Louis,
    spending the money needed to maintain a contender. They have left the business
    and football decisions to the experts.

    PRESIDENT: This executive should manage every aspect of the business operation
    and oversee the football operation as well. But they must delegate the
    nut-and-bolt decisions to the various specialists serving them.

    On balance, Shaw has done a good job in this role since the team moved here –
    despite working out of Los Angeles for much of the year. But he will be sorely
    tested as he attempts to clean up the current mess. The football operation
    basically imploded.

    VICE PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER: He should be the football czar. The head coach
    and his assistants serve at his leisure. He oversees pro and college scouting,
    too, and makes all the basic football decisions. On major decisions, he makes
    the final recommendation to the president and owner.

    The Rams don’t have somebody in this role currently. Charley Armey has been
    general manager in name only.

    VICE PRESIDENT/FOOTBALL ADMINISTRATION: He is the chief negotiator and salary
    cap czar. He serves the owner, president and GM as the financial strategist.
    The GM ultimately sets player values and the cap czar is charged with getting
    players under contract at that value.

    Jay Zygmunt manages the salary cap as well as any NFL executive. He knows
    football, but he doesn’t work it 24/7 – so he should stick to managing the

    HEAD COACH: He needs a strong say in personnel matters, of course, but he can’t
    -01-04-2006, 05:52 AM
  • Azul e Oro
    How not to rebuild your franchise: Hags version
    by Azul e Oro
    I love this. Maybe Carroll will be the new Parcells/Holmgren/Shanahan but I doubt it. After several disappointing seasons filled with some all-too-familiar issues like injury plagues,FA flops, aging stars plummeting, FO power struggles, it sounds like The Hags are now entering their own Limpehan era.And this guy Schneider gets a bump up the NFL exec foodchain with a get-out-of-jail-free card if it all goes wrong.

    Schneider: Seahawks GM job 'even more attractive' with Carroll

    Associated Press
    RENTON, Wash. -- John Schneider was already a candidate for the Seattle Seahawks' general manager position when the team bolted from the NFL norm last week and hired college czar Pete Carroll to be its powerful head coach.
    Seattle's new coach is driving the GM and the rest of the organizational train, rather than vice versa. It's not exactly how the 17-year veteran of personnel moves and recent right-hand man of Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson was used to operations working.

    Yet Schneider considered the credentials of Seattle's coach, the fact Carroll would have equal or more authority than the general manager on personnel issues -- and he just shrugged. The boyish-faced, 38-year-old native of rural Wisconsin signed a four-year contract to become a first-time GM anyway.
    "When this thing went down with Coach Carroll I had a moment where I thought, 'OK, that was different.' But that's how they had to do it to get a guy of his caliber," Schneider said of the man who restored a dynasty at USC from 2001 until last week.
    "Then I thought, 'This job is even more attractive right now."'
    The Seahawks introduced Schneider Wednesday to complete the reinventing of their broken operation that has gone 9-23 since Seattle's last playoff appearance in January 2008.
    Schneider was picked from among four finalists. Team CEO Tod Leiweke said the immediate connection between Carroll and Schneider in last week's interview was vital in the final decision.
    "Most compelling for me is the amazing energy I saw between the man to my right and man to my left," Leiweke said, sitting between Carroll and Schneider. "They connected, they saw eye to eye and they had a similar philosophy on how they wanted to do this."

    Schneider replaces Tim Ruskell. The Seahawks forced Ruskell to resign as GM and president last month as Seattle was finishing 5-11 and losing its last four games by a combined 123-37.
    Schneider began his NFL career as a college intern who "basically stalked Ron Wolf" in 1992 before Wolf gave him a job. He has been the Packers' director of football operations since May 2008. He was the top personnel assistant to Green Bay's GM for six years before that. He spent 2000 as Seattle's director of player personnel in the Seahawks regime of Thompson and former Packers coach Mike Holmgren. He was...
    -01-21-2010, 11:54 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    MMQB - Rams Junior High: Inside a Dysfunctional Front Office
    by r8rh8rmike
    Thu Dec. 8, 2016

    Rams Junior High: Inside a Dysfunctional Front Office

    by Albert Breer

    Jeff Fisher’s recent comments revealed a giant riff between coaches and personnel, with both sides bickering about who’s to blame for the team’s failings.

    The Rams’ struggles haven’t been limited to the field in their first season back in L.A.

    The Rams media session Tuesday didn'’t play like a normal press conference inside the team’s temporary headquarters in Thousand Oaks, Calif. It was more like an assembly at what some in the building have come to know as “Rams Junior High.”

    Coach Jeff Fisher was the speaker. General manager Les Snead’s new contract was the topic.

    “I’m so busy here, I was honestly unaware he was extended. I'’m being honest with you, we’re just working here,” Fisher said. “I look at this as being my responsibility, the win-loss record. We need to do a better job from a personnel standpoint. We’'ve had some unfortunate things take place with some high picks in Stedman Bailey and Tre Mason and those kinds of things you don'’t anticipate.

    “But we’re moving forward.”

    The comments went over like neutron bomb elsewhere in the ranks of the Rams. And it revealed a problem that’s existed since well before the team arrived on the West Coast.

    The Rams have not had a winning season since Fisher and Snead joined the franchise in 2012.

    But we start in Los Angeles, with a deeper look into a problem that will be difficult for the Rams to fix going forward. And to be clear: What Fisher said Tuesday about the state of the team’s roster did'n’t create a problem, so much as it revealed one that'’s existed for quite some time.

    The struggling 4-8 Rams host Atlanta on Sunday, then head to Seattle before closing the season with San Francisco and Arizona at home. If the Rams split those four, they’ll match the 2014 low-water mark for Fisher’s five years at the helm. If things don’t get better over the next month, there’s no assurance the club will go forward with any of the current power brokers on the football side.

    And when I say “get better,” that means more than just beating the Niners or Falcons. It also means seeing the middle-school lunchroom sniping—the kind that earned the building the “Junior High” nickname—fixed to a reasonable degree.

    Fisher’s take about the talent on the roster provides a window into the issue dividing the Rams front office. You can infer that a certain amount of water must flow under a team’s bridge before a high-ranking executive, like Fisher, publicly pees in the company pool.

    “It pissed me off because I knew it was meant as a shot,” said one Rams source. “You see it under that umbrella—‘. We need to do a better job in personnel.’ OK, but you want everyone to think that you have full control. You can’t have it both ways, and it can’t always be...
    -12-08-2016, 10:16 AM
  • MauiRam
    Rams In Limbo, ***** In Chaos..
    by MauiRam
    By Jeff Gordon

    Rams fans eagerly await the beginning of the Shahid Khan Era, assuming he clears the necessary hurdles to become majority owner of this struggling franchise.

    What changes will occur on his watch? How soon will he make them?

    Such speculation (and wishful thinking) keeps fans busy as they prepare for the NFL Draft.

    Meanwhile, a Rams arch-rival is generating some management intrigue of its own. The ***** parted ways with general manager Scot McCloughan a month before the draft, citing personal rather than professional reasons.

    This is just the latest development in an ongoing soap opera, “As The ***** Turn.” Consider the events of recent years:

    * McCloughan gained the GM title in January of 2008, usurping the power of then-coach Mike Nolan.
    * Later that year, Jed York, son of ***** co-owner John York, took over as teeam president at the age of 27.
    * York made the call to replace Nolan with interim coach Mike Singletary, who later shed the “interim” tag.
    * In January, York added the title of chief executive officer during a front office restructuring. Chief operating officer Andy Dolich left his post, but remained on board as an advisor.
    * With McCloughan’s demise, director of player personnel Trent Baalke took charge of the team’s draft effort.
    * Executive vice president Paraag Marathe will keep his current role as the team’s chief negotiator, but wouldn’t be a candidate for the GM. Also, York indicated he wouldn’t fill the GM role himself. Singletary won’t gain more personnel authority either.
    * Alex Smith will remain the No. 1 quarterback, even though the departed McCloughan was regarded as Smith’s biggest ally in the organization.

    What’s next?

    “I haven’t decided if we’re going to have a general manager,” York told reporters in a conference call. “I’m worried about the draft right now. That’s the only thing that the ***** are focused on. We’ll address that after the draft.”

    San Francisco Chronicle columnist Gwen Knapp wonders what the franchise is up to. She wrote:

    “The need for a GM should not be in doubt at all. There are NFL teams that can afford to be creative and defy the standard structure of a front office. The ***** are absolutely, categorically, definitively not one of them. They have a team president and head coach with less than three years’ experience between them, a roster that has not been properly updated this off season and a seven-year absence from the playoffs.”

    Rams fans can empathize — sort of.

    The Shalid Khan Era? Hmmn .. The unified forces of the Khan shall obliterate the disarrayed troops commanded by the Stork .. er .. York
    -03-24-2010, 11:40 AM
  • RamWraith
    ow that Jay-Z is out, success is possible
    by RamWraith
    By Bryan Burwell
    Tuesday, Dec. 23 2008
    The final hours of the Jay Zygmunt era ended early Monday morning,
    appropriately enough in a nebulous haze. By the time most of the second-floor
    employees began filtering into Rams Park, the dethroned team president and
    general manager had already vanished from the premises.

    His office walls were bare. His desk and shelves cleared of any traces that he
    was once there. By 7:30 a.m., no one was quite sure when he had left or under
    what terms.

    It would be several hours before a press release would be issued, and it hardly
    illuminated much. Just after 5 p.m., a one-page release was quietly issued in
    the pressroom. All that could be culled from it was that the man who had helped
    put together the brick and mortar of the Greatest Show on Turf era, then
    foolishly helped tear it down brick by brick, had "mutually agreed that he
    would not return" to his duties next season.

    Was he fired or did he quit?

    Did he retire with dignity or was he shoved out the door kicking and screaming?
    What does it really matter at this point? Let's not quibble over semantics. You
    can call it a "dismiss-ignation" or an indefinite sabbatical at gunpoint for
    all I care. All that really matters is that Zygmunt has finally left the
    building and the first critical step in the long overdue reconstruction of this
    tattered and dispirited franchise is now officially under way.

    If a highly skeptical St. Louis sporting public was waiting for tangible proof
    that owner and managing partner Chip Rosenbloom was serious about changing the
    losing culture of his organization, Zygmunt's departure is that first bit of
    valid evidence. No matter what Jay-Z's revisionist spin doctors say to defend
    him, Zygmunt's fingerprints are all over the inexcusable crime scene of this
    franchise's rapid fall from Super Bowl champ to NFL laughingstock.

    But rather than waste time debating with foolish surrogates and blithering
    gasbags over past facts already in evidence in NFL circles, let's instead deal
    with the future of the Rams as a legitimate organization. If you mill about the
    corridors of Rams Park these days, there is a sense that the restructuring of
    the organization means things are finally moving in the right direction.

    At the turn of the century, the Rams looked like a potential dynasty. Everyone
    got along. Everyone stayed in their lanes. Over here were business types doing
    contracts, crunching numbers and analyzing salary cap implications. Over there
    were the personnel gurus, brilliantly assembling a roster full of future Pro
    Bowlers and Hall of Famers. And in the other corner were the coaches who
    -12-23-2008, 11:19 AM