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The Philosophy Thread: HC First, GM/FO First, or does it matter?


What is your Philosophy?  

86 members have voted

  1. 1. Which do you prefer

    • HC Centric Approach is better. Give the HC the power to choose the FO
    • GM/FO Centric Approach is better. The FO should be in place first and choose the coach
    • It Doesn't Matter


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As I've been pursuing around, it seems like just about every thread has taken some type of a turn towards the FO/GM, the fact we don't have one, and the concept of having the HC having the final say.

 

There are some that say this is completely back-asswards.  Others who like it, and still others who don't really care.  

 

So, I was hoping to create a thread where this can be discussed, and pull it out of the threads on other topics.  We even got the GM comment in the "Welcome Jack Del Rio" thread.

 

This is not the thread for debating or discussing individual candidates for GM.  Also, Dan is Dan, Dan is here, and comments like "It doesn't matter as long as Dan owns the team" are completely pointless, so please don't bother with them.  

 

Here's where the Redskins are now:  They chose the HC first approach.  They gave Ron Rivera the power, and he is going to lead the organization and be the HC.  He will presumably either promote or hire a GM who will work with him.  It hasn't been made clear if the GM will work FOR him, or not.  Which is an important distinction, but we can at least deduce with the "singe voice" and "HC Centric" comments from yesterday, Ron has "final roster say." 

 

There are other examples of where this has been done, and has been successful: The 49ers hired Kyle Shanahan, who seemingly helped in hiring John Lynch.  The Bills hired McDermott (Go Tribe!), who selected Beane.  The Raiders gave full control to Jon Gruden, who tried to get one GM, couldn't, and then hired Mayock.  Obviously Bill Belichick has basically complete control of everything (and was hired, and traded for, by Kraft), and Pete Carroll and Andy Reid have the largest voices in their organizations even though they have extremely respected FO members as well.

 

The alternate approach is obviously to hire the FO/GM executive, and let them select the head coach, most likely either in conjunction with the owner or at least with the blessing of the owner. This has worked for years, and had been the defacto way of doing business for a generation.  

 

It really wasn't until the 2000's you saw owners really go after coaches first.  The most obvious examples both relate to Bill's.  Bill Parcels going to the Jets to get full control, and then Robert Kraft trading picks to get Bill Belichick from Jets control.  The next obvious move was Tampa trading picks to get Jon Gruden from Oakland.  

 

My personal opinion is that either way can be successful with the right people and structure.  I don't think there's anything different about a FO executive who is primarily responsible for roster construction picking the coach vs the coach picking the person responsible for roster construction.  Either way it goes, it can work.  If you have the right setup, collaboration, and people. If you don't, then it won't.  I have said for ages I believe that the HC and the GM are equally important, and they have to work together as a team.  Some refute this saying one is more important than the other. 

 

I look at the winning organizations, and they all  have 2 things:  1. Really good players (sign of a good GM/FO), 2. Really good coaching.  You rarely see a poorly coached team win anything meaningful, and you don't see a poorly constructed team lacking talent win anything either.  

 

Technically speaking, Bruce Allen was the football executive and GM, and he hired Jay Gruden.   And that didn't work out so well. Because neither was particularly good at their jobs, and they didn't work together as a team. In fairness to Jay, Bruce is the personification is "I am happy to work together as long as I get my way." 

 

But Ozzie Newsome having a huge hand in hiring Jim Harbaugh certainly did work out extremely well.  Going way back, Bethard picking Gibbs worked out also.

 

I think at this point, you can see plenty of examples for both structures. 

 

But I know that this is a hot-button topic for a lot of folks, and I'm hoping maybe we can address the HC before GM stuff here instead of everywhere else.  It's actually an interesting discussion.  Let's keep it civil, though. :)

 

FYI: @CaliFan and @thesubmittedone, I know you all were discussing in the Bruce Allen thread.  If you want me to, I can copy your posts into the OP, but I didn't want to do that without permission.  :) 

Edited by Voice_of_Reason
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Hey got me for the record for first vote here on the "it doesn't matter option".

 

I used to think that it should be done with GM hiring HC and in this specific order as it's often how it's done within the NFL. After all, GMs usually lasts longer than coaches and have some long term vision of the team while the coach his focused on the next sunday.

 

But somehow, I would say most recently @KDawg convinced me that it can also be done the other way and it's done from times to times (which is what we did with Shanny hinting at Bruce btw, but that part didn't work, mainly because of those guys, not the method).

 

And in the end, I don't think it really matters much who's hired first. You have the casual way, GM hiring HC, and the not so casual with HC asking for a specific GM.

 

The most important part of this, is that those two guys have to be working for the same goal, they have to shoot in the right direction. They have to go along well so the GM gets a better feel of the type of players the Coach want and need but the coach also have to trust the GM in his skill at finding players.

 

If those two don't mesh it's generally not working. So you can have a GM hiring the type of coach he wants for the players he finds, or you can have a coach choosing the GM he wants that will be able to get him the type of player he loves. Definately can work both ways, as long as they're good at what they're doing and that they're on the same page.

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It’s a symbiotic relationship. They need each other. Which you hire first has become less of an issue as coaches have continued to rise in profile and importance. 
 

But the need for a HC to have a trusted and competent GM That he works with is unquestionable.

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If I were an owner, I'd first hire the GM who presented me with the best vision and values for the team, e.g. a defence that sacrifices some yards in order to generate turnovers and a fast-paced short pass oriented offence, and the plan to implement it. That GM would be responsible for bringing that vision to life by hiring the head coach that best knows how to implement those systems and can prove that they have options for guys at coordinator positions that have experience with such systems, most importantly that have been executed successfully for a couple of seasons. The HC, supported by the coordinators, would be responsible for feeding back to the GM the types of players they need, the key pieces, for those systems to work and the GM in turn responsible for overseeing the scouting departments in identifying those best fit players and bringing them to the team. Coaches would primarily be responsible for evaluating player performance, GM responsible for evaluating coach and scouting performance against predetermined goals. I'd be responsible for evaluating the GM, although it's also likely that I have another executive between us, responsible for overseeing both personnel and facilities/support staff. The latter would be the kind of activities I'd want out of the hands of my GM, but it's also plausible that this other executive only has responsibility for the facilities side of things and both that executive and the GM report into me.

 

I've kept things fairly simple there to avoid too much detail (and to avoid exposing my superficial understanding of football strategy to some extent). However, I don't see why the HC, who needs to be the best fit for bringing the vision to life can't be the one to set the vision in the first place and picks the GM who helps coordinate the efforts to make that vision a reality. The issue then becomes, for me, reporting lines/accountability. It seems odd that the HC reports into a GM that they have chosen. However, if they both reported into the football operations guy I mentioned in the first scenario, rather than HC reporting to GM, then that works for me. 

 

The second scenario is sufficiently similar to the first that you might just see it as the same setup with slightly different titles in places. I can see slight differences thiugh. Whatever. The point I'm trying to make is it doesn't have to matter which way round it's done, so long as you know your accountabilities and who is responsible for evaluating who.

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I think in today's NFL you're going to see this happening more, because team owners are realizing that the successful teams are the ones where the HC is the no doubt about it leader of the players and not the GM or team president. Once you do hire the HC first, I think the message to the players is that the chain of command is HC over GM, and in my opinion that's how it should be. 

 

The HC, and his staff for that matter, need to be empowered so everyone knows that he's the guy and running to the GM or team president to cry about things is team poisoning and isn't going to fly. 

 

In the end, I think hiring the HC first is fine. But he'd better be a strong presence, a strong leader of men and not put up with any **** from the players, because as I said, once he's hired before a GM, I think it should be clear that he's the top dog. 

 

Rivera appears to have all the said qualities and while it is going to obviously be invaluable that he has a great working relationship with the GM, for us to be successful, he needs to be the guy in charge over the GM.   

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Should’ve had a 4th category, “It depends on the situation.”

 

Some places the coach centric works better and other places the traditional gm/fo centric works better.

 

One key to success is that everyone is on the same page.

Edited by Rdskns2000
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I prefer the GM approach but I can ride with the coach centric if its the right coach.  There have been some famous cases of coaches not really being that great wearing all hats.  The coach centric approach isn't really new here.  It's the Shanny and Gibbs drill.  

 

I waffle on the point some from a Dan context.  On one front, it annoys me to no end that Dan never seems to value who is the dude that shops for groceries.  With the exception of Scot, Dan doesn't do pedigree GM-personnel people.   And I think its a big part of the losing here. So hiring a GM and letting them run the team appeals to me in part because of the novelty of it.

 

On the other hand, Dan might be too close in the building to any new GM candidate.  The can watch practices together, the games, etc.  So the proximity to the GM might be a problem with him because he can't help himself from mixing with the cooking in the kitchen.   So if a coach centric model keeps Dan away, I am for it.  Sadly, I got to have to think of context with Dan where things aren't normal like most franchises.  So I am factoring what can keep Dan away from bringing his own dysfunction to the table.

 

 

 

Edited by Skinsinparadise
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I too believe it can be successful either way but I prefer the coach centric approach. 

 I think The parcels saying about needing to buy the groceries if you want me to make a nice meal is a pretty good analogy. 

 

 I also think it's far more important to have a strong willed leader of men in the head coaching position than in the g.m. position and I think you are much more likely get those qualities in a head coach if make you make him the center of authority as opposed to a subordinate to a general manager. 

Edited by redskinss
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To me it isn't important which path you take, it all too often comes down to the individuals involved and whether or not they genuinely have the strength to subsume their own egos for the higher purpose. I watched the presser and Ron strikes me as a confident man, a man that doesn't need to be "THE man" the way Shanny did, and I am hoping to see a GM that feels the same way, someone that understands who has what title on which door doesn't mean jack**** as long as the team is successful. So much of it comes down to that word team, teaching the younguns what it means to be a member of a team, teaching the FO the same thing, team. Ron spoke directly to a single clear goal, winning games and reaching the SB, period. That everyone on the payroll was going to be held accountable, that all efforts would judged by that measure, does it help us win. Rivera is known for being a tough coach, an often demanding coach and yet a players coach, guys that "served" under him love him, have been gushing about the teams of his, and IMO a lot of that stems from him not having to hog the limelight and credit (as it should be). We get a GM that "gets" that mutual respect and common purpose on board, and it won't matter who was getting a check first.

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All depends on the quality of people involved.

 

I will tell you what I think will never work, a GM and Coach that aren’t lock step. 

 

There was a quote from Doug Williams, last year I believe, that absolutely shocked me...he said something along the lines that the talent department didn’t get players to fit schemes, they got players and the coaches were expected to make them fit. Well, it showed. 

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18 hours ago, Wildbunny said:

 

I used to think that it should be done with GM hiring HC and in this specific order as it's often how it's done within the NFL. After all, GMs usually lasts longer than coaches and have some long term vision of the team while the coach his focused on the next sunday.

 

But somehow, I would say most recently @KDawg convinced me that it can also be done the other way and it's done from times to times (which is what we did with Shanny hinting at Bruce btw, but that part didn't work, mainly because of those guys, not the method).

 

And in the end, I don't think it really matters much who's hired first. You have the casual way, GM hiring HC, and the not so casual with HC asking for a specific GM.

Agreed 100%.  I used to think it needed to be done "the right way", you hire a gm first, and the gm selects the coach.  I thought this was a healthy structure.  But after examples many have pointed out, it ls obvious both methods have seen success, and the only things that matter are they work well together, and you are having success on both the personnel side and the coaching side.

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1 hour ago, Rdskns2000 said:

Should’ve had a 4th category, “It depends on the situation.”

 

Some places the coach centric works better and other places the traditional gm/fo centric works better.

 

One key to success is that everyone is in the same page.


This is correct. As long as they are on the same page and work well together, it doesn’t matter. 

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1 hour ago, Skinsinparadise said:

On the other hand, Dan might be too close in the building to any new GM candidate.  The can watch practices together, the games, etc.  So the proximity to the GM might be a problem with him because he can't help himself from mixing with the cooking in the kitchen.   So if a coach centric model keeps Dan away, I am for it.  Sadly, I got to have to think of context with Dan where things aren't normal like most franchises.  So I am factoring what can keep Dan away from bringing his own dysfunction to the table.

Exactly, the coach centric model may not be best for other franchises that would allow a gm centric model to thrive.  With our owner, the gm centric model could be a recipe for disaster, as it allows Dan to exert his influence.  It would take a strong willed gm whose teams are having a lot of success early on on his tenure, or else Dan will want to get involved.  

 

The downside to the coach centric model with Snyder, is if the Redskins don't have success early on, snyder may get an itchy trigger finger and fire the coach prematurely, convincing himself he needs to get more involved.  I'd just hope Snyder would stick with the coach centric model. I'd rather have a coach fired prematurely than Dan playing GM. 

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This only matters when a team cleans house, which well-run teams rarely have to do. Because of that, I voted "doesn't matter," since the key is for the incompetent owner to just find one good decision maker, whoever that person is, and trust them.

 

Otherwise, the GM-centric model is better long-term, since good GMs tend to stick around much longer and provide institutional stability and memory. Belichick is an outlier; better to find an Ozzie Newsome.

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46 minutes ago, profusion said:

This only matters when a team cleans house, which well-run teams rarely have to do. Because of that, I voted "doesn't matter," since the key is for the incompetent owner to just find one good decision maker, whoever that person is, and trust them.

 

Otherwise, the GM-centric model is better long-term, since good GMs tend to stick around much longer and provide institutional stability and memory. Belichick is an outlier; better to find an Ozzie Newsome.


Yet, Newsome groomed DeCosta and has retired. Harbaugh remains. The Raven machine keeps chugging. 
 

It’s about the people you have and building off of them. Quality people in important positions who work lock step. Sure, losing a guy like Newsome could have crippled the Ravens,  but they had his replacement hired and ready to do things the Raven’s way... with his own flair, of course. 
 

You can lose people at any place in your structure. The good organizations have a criteria for replacement and work hard to create continuity. And if the replacement plan doesn’t fit like you originally believed it should, you pull the plug and find the guy that makes sense and allow someone else familiar with the continuity within the organization take over supervisory roles.

 

There is no one way to run anything in this world. There’s no one way to parent. There’s not one way to build a house. What matters is you find the best people that fit your style and vision and let them go to work together towards a common goal. 

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I started the offseason thinking it had to be GM first, but (thanks in large part to the discussions on the board) I am now in the it doesn't matter camp.  I think we are seeing more franchises embrace the Coach at the top approach and with the right people, it has worked in places other than just New England.  Seems to me, the most important consideration will be to not have members of the organization backstab each other and go directly to someone higher in an effort to advance their self interest.  If we have good competent people working together with a clear chain of command, it shouldn't matter whether the top is the GM or the Coach.  The most important thing for Snyder is that now that he gave the keys to Rivera, continue to back him through thick and thin and don't undermine his authority.

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You forgot the choice: It depends on who the coach is.

 

In the vast majority of situations, the GM/HC dynamic is far better which is why most good teams use it.  In some situations, the HC having all of the power and say is the better dynamic, ALA Bellichik.  Which one is better all depends on if you have that right guy(of which I think there are few) that is such a genius you are not only better off with them running the coaching and finding players, but they are capable of both being a great coach, and handling all personnel decisions.  Few can do that, which is why the best choice is situational.

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12 hours ago, COWBOY-KILLA- said:

It’s a symbiotic relationship. They need each other. Which you hire first has become less of an issue as coaches have continued to rise in profile and importance. 
 

But the need for a HC to have a trusted and competent GM That he works with is unquestionable.

 

This right here.

As long as they're both on the same page and share the same vision, it doesn't matter which one comes first in the same year.

I could see if you hired a HC first, then 3 years later a GM, but one being slightly before the other in the same offseason don't matter to me.

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GM picks players.

 

Coach coaches players.

 

 

Problem with bringing in Rivera is that he brings automatic credibility like Mike Shanahan and its just assumed he'll be in charge. 

 

This organization does not do it right, but I'll certainly take Rivera+Committee over Bruce Allen/Vinny Cerrato as GM.  

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3 hours ago, KDawg said:


Yet, Newsome groomed DeCosta and has retired. Harbaugh remains. The Raven machine keeps chugging. 

 

Well, right, but Newsome was in charge for many years before Harbaugh arrived and was a key part of building the winning culture the Ravens have had for 20 years. He even bridged a change in owners.

 

That's my point: a stable FO will keep a culture in place throughout coaching changes. If the coach is the focal point, then the entire organization probably has to be rebuilt when he retires or is fired. Of course, that continuity can also be a negative, such as when your organization consists of Jerry Jones and his son.

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1 hour ago, profusion said:

 

Well, right, but Newsome was in charge for many years before Harbaugh arrived and was a key part of building the winning culture the Ravens have had for 20 years. He even bridged a change in owners.

 

That's my point: a stable FO will keep a culture in place throughout coaching changes. If the coach is the focal point, then the entire organization probably has to be rebuilt when he retires or is fired. Of course, that continuity can also be a negative, such as when your organization consists of Jerry Jones and his son.


I respectfully disagree. A good person in charge, FO or coach, will have someone groomed in another role in the organization to ensure that there is as little drop off as possible. Maybe the coach grooms someone in the FO. Maybe it’s an assistant coach (maybe this is an opportunity for Del Rio or the new OC to eventually take over, though likely not Del Rio given Rivera isn’t an old man...)

 

I think you and I are on the same page, just talking from different angles. 
 

Appreciate your thoughts.

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1 hour ago, KDawg said:


I respectfully disagree. A good person in charge, FO or coach, will have someone groomed in another role in the organization to ensure that there is as little drop off as possible. Maybe the coach grooms someone in the FO. Maybe it’s an assistant coach (maybe this is an opportunity for Del Rio or the new OC to eventually take over, though likely not Del Rio given Rivera isn’t an old man...)

 

I think you and I are on the same page, just talking from different angles. 
 

Appreciate your thoughts.

 

Same here. This is an interesting discussion.

 

I'm struggling to think of any coach-centric teams that maintained their status after the HC left. The Packers fell apart after Lombardi retired. The Bears struggled after Ditka left. The Cowboys weren't the same after Jimmy Johnson left. The Dolphins have been stuck for decades after Shula retired.

 

Maybe the Giants after Parcells? However, I'd argue that Ernie Accorsi was highly responsible for their success. Parcells never had as much success in his later stops when he was "shopping for all the groceries."

 

It's harder for a HC to groom a successor because the good assistants take jobs elsewhere, and because what makes a Lombardi or Belichick is ineffable and unteachable.

 

Ultimately, it's best to have a strong, competent owner who can keep hiring a strong line of FO and coaching personnel.

 

We have to hope that Rivera can influence the hiring of a good FO that can live on beyond his tenure--he made it pretty clear in his press conference that he's not to be coaching his 80s...

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