QUOTE: “The secret of my influence has always been that it remained secret.” -- Salvador Dalí
At the end of each year, Time magazine always has a cover with its Person of the Year, someone who has made an impact in the current year or is likely to influence the next year. Here at the Diner, we’d like to offer our version of the Man of the Year, a person who, in the next several weeks/months, will quietly control the league landscape but will not be recognized by fans for his importance or the power he wields.
Bob LaMonte, owner of Professional Sports Representation, is our Man of the Year. LaMonte has many head coaches and assistant coaches in the NFL who will put him in control in the coming weeks. One of his major clients, Mike Holmgren, is now firmly in command of the Cleveland Browns, so LaMonte and his large client list ranging from assistants to personnel men will help restock the Browns on and off the field.
When Browns owner Randy Lerner gave Holmgren a five-year contract for a reported $50 million, he essentially paid LaMonte to own his team. They might be called the Cleveland Browns on the field, but the Cleveland “LaMontes” might be their real name. No one will gain or maintain employment with the Browns unless they come with the blessing and representation of LaMonte.
Besides his takeover of the Browns, LaMonte’s ability to secure the single worst deal in the history of contracts for Charlie Weis at Notre Dame is reason alone to be named Man of the Year. LaMonte created the illusion that Weis was wanted back in the league, then secured a huge deal for him without giving Notre Dame an offset, which made the deal ridiculous. Weis will actually be paid more and longer from Notre Dame than new head coach Brian Kelly. Kevin White, the Notre Dame athletic director at the time, was taken to the woodshed for this contract, and it’s a good thing he’s not in South Bend any longer because he would never hear the end of it. It’s one thing to get caught overpaying, it’s another to make fundamental mistakes like the offset clause, which is universal in all deals. Once again, Bob LaMonte was quietly in control.
LaMonte also secured an extension for Vikings coach Brad Childress before the end of the year, which amazed me because you would have thought the Vikings would want to wait until they see the results at the end of the season considering a deal. It wasn’t like they were in danger of losing Chilly — what NFL team would come after him? Please, that’s an easy one to answer. But LaMonte still got the Vikings to negotiate, and now they’ll be left with Childress long after Brett Favre is gone. I wonder how that will work out. Amazing, right? Not even hard-core Vikings fans are happy with the Childress extension. Imagine how they’ll feel if he doesn’t win the Super Bowl.
LaMonte’s ability to sell his clients is legendary, but what amazes me is that he can keep doing his sales pitch when everyone in the NFL knows it’s coming. He makes sure his clients have the perfect notebooks, the perfect practice schedules and give the perfect presentations, all of which dazzle NFL front-office types who essentially don’t know what to ask or what to look for in an interview.
He also can sell his clients to the media, and LaMonte understands better than most that many NFL jobs are not selected; rather, they’re elected. Having talent doesn’t always mean you get the job — the key is having the right marketing and branding. Talent is meaningless when you walk into an interview with a huge reputation for being smart. The ability to get the job lies in the branding of the reputation. For example, someone once asked me, “If this guy is so smart, give me three examples of things that make him smart?” The reputation for being smart is really what matters -- the fact that you are smart is not really significant. Not many ask for examples; they just accept the reputation. LaMonte is the master of creating the reputation.
He is also the master of re-creating a reputation, as he’s doing with Randy Mueller of the Chargers. Mueller is now in line for two general manager jobs — Seattle and Cleveland -- after he failed to produce in Miami, where he had the power. He can blame Nick Saban for some of the failures with the Dolphins, but after Saban left, Mueller proceed to draft Ted Ginn ninth overall and John Beck as his quarterback of the future in the second round. Now, Mueller has another chance with two teams — all because LaMonte has been able to repackage and rebrand.
LaMonte is a force in the NFL right now. He has the power and the control, but most of all, he has the ability to create illusions that can sell his clients. He would make Alec Baldwin’s character in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” proud — he’s always closing.
LaMonte deserves our award. He’s a power broker who will greatly influence the NFL in 2010.
In the meantime, Happy New Year. Be safe and be back here Monday for more NFL news — which I’m sure Bob LaMonte will be making.
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