Media skills: Yesterdays GM usually had one friendly and one pesky beat writer to deal with. Today’s GM has an army of bloggers, local and a wide spectrum of national critics to answer to. A GM doesn’t necessarily have to talk to the media everyday but he better have a plan as to how the team communicates with them. If a GM alienates today’s media hoard, they will quickly rise up against him. If he helps them to do their jobs he will be treated more fairly and even with some patience.
Owners are more sensitive to the media than fans realize. They want a GM and a head coach that will insulate them and even take bullets for them. Today’s GMs cannot ignore the media like most of yesterday's GMs did.
Thomas Dimitroff/Falcons, Mike Tannenbaum/Jets, Trent Baalke/49ers, and Mark Dominik/Bucs are known for being somewhat media savvy and friendly GMs.
A Numbers man: You can be a great evaluator of talent, a competent communicator and leader but you better understand the salary cap and your team’s economics. Even though the majority of teams have a salary cap manager today to crunch numbers daily, the GM still has to understand players’ contracts, values and the long term impact of a certain salary structure on a team’s cap health. A GM must always be thinking at least three years ahead with every move he makes. He has to avoid the potential for dead money deals, and anticipate a few of his mid-round picks blossoming into the leagues highest paid talent.
In the early 90’s when the 49ers were spending big, winning big and winning NFL executive awards, they were also spending for the moment while destroying their ability to be even marginally competitive in the future by keeping or acquiring top talent. Many experts claim the leveraging of huge bonuses, especially in 1994, put the 49ers organization in cap hell for many years to follow.
Low profile GM Mickey Loomis of the Saints may be the closest thing the NFL has to Billy Bean. Mickey started out as an accountant, then cap guy and eventually took the reigns as GM. He has been known to fit a player into a salary then the other way around. He is a value proposition GM who listens to and trusts his scouts and coaches. He also takes the time to educate his people on his own cap restraints and challenges them to find value players. In his efforts to deliver a very large long-term contract for Drew Brees, he is also trying to figure out how he will keep his team intact or replace those he won’t be able to afford.
Today's GM must possess a more diverse skill set than yesterday’s GM. If he is strong in evaluating talent, he has to aggressively spend time learning the other facets of the job. A successful GM must also learn that he can’t do it alone and has to rely heavily on the people he hires. If they don’t work out, he has to be quick to fire them regardless of what the media and fans think.
It can be a lonely and thankless job as well because of the demanding cycle of the business. Furthermore, when his team does win, the spoils are usually heaped on the players and coaches with most all assuming he was lucky to have them.
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