By HCR Staff | April 23, 2020
Draft day dynamics differ from team to team, and from a business perspective, it’s fascinating to watch how differently each organization operates.
Winning formulas have differed over the years; we’ve had dynasties where the general manager makes every decision (e.g., Al Davis and the Raiders), and we’ve had dynasties where the head coach makes every decision (e.g., Bill Walsh and the 49ers).
And we’ve had other successful organizations where the head coach and general manager shared decision-making responsibilities. (e.g., Tony Dungy & Bill Polian with the Indianapolis Colts).
No one has a monopoly on good ideas when it comes to operational structure, and in our view, it all comes down to the talent and personality (and ego) of the individuals involved.
Team owner preference plays an important role in determining the organizational and decision-making structure of a team. In the old NFL, owners were expected to simply write the checks and stay out of the way. It’s not that way anymore as the modern owner, with greater frequency, comes from the corporate world, and they often bring their own bag of tricks and beliefs regarding organizational structure.
So as we analyze the input of head coaches on draft day, imagine a spectrum. On the left end is a GM-centric model where the head coach has little to no input. On the right end is a Head Coach-centric model where his decisions are final.
Most teams are in the middle of the spectrum, but they definitely lean more toward one end or the other.
Going into this Draft, here are the head coaches with the most authority, in our view (and in no particular order):
Bill Belichick, Patriots. Full, undiluted authority. The NFL’s version of a combo King-Pope, rolled into one. Perceived ultimate power and infallibility (emphasis on ‘perceived’).
Bill O’Brien, Texans. The last season was Shakespearean; O’Brien somehow purged anyone with any power and left himself standing. Of course, he learned some tricks from the King-Pope in New England, so this isn’t surprising.
Jon Gruden, Raiders. Yes, GM Mike Mayock is a strong personality who knows players, but make no mistake, it’s all Gruden’s show. Gruden has a very specific vision, and no one is going to get in his way as he tries to implement it.
Sean Payton, Saints. The Saints have a GM in Mickey Loomis, but Payton has the juice to come up with the vision and the pull to get the pieces he wants. It was Payton that picked up Taysom Hill, and it was his vision to turn Hill into a valuable asset in all phases of the game.
Matt Rhule, Panthers. Rhule would not have taken the job unless he was given full authority, and notwithstanding GM Marty Hurney’s title, Rhule is going to call every shot from here on out. He’s a proven program builder, and that’s the reason successful hedge fund trader and Panthers owner David Tepper wanted Rhule in the first place. Tepper’s a Wall Street expert when it comes to assessing financial risk, and he’s putting his chips on Rhule. Rhule’s got a smidgen of NFL experience, but his virgin tour as an NFL head coach is starting in the league’s toughest division.