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The GM-coach relationship

The two must work well together for the franchise to succeed. Greg Gabriel

Print This August 02, 2010, 01:01 PM EST

An item that sometimes gets overlooked, yet is one of the most important aspects of a successful franchise, is the relationship between the general manager and the head coach. It is imperative that they have similar philosophies and a strong working relationship. I’m not saying that they have to be best friends, but they have to be able to get along and make important decisions together.

From a schematic point of view, if the GM does not believe in the coach’s offensive and defensive philosophy, then problems are imminent. It is also important that they agree on personnel. What type of player will work best in the schemes? Who might those players be?

This holds true during both the offseason and the season itself. Let’s start with end of season meetings and moving forward.

Usually after the season, the head coach and the GM sit down and review all aspects of the product on the field. First, they look at player personnel. The position coaches usually write up each of their players, giving strong points and weak points and where they see the player fitting moving forward. The GM and head coach will review these write ups and discuss the players themselves. They have to agree on who stays and who goes. If they don’t, then friction can and will develop.

After the review of players, it’s onto free agency. Again, there has to be agreement on what players to go after. The discussion will include what the player will cost from a contractual standpoint and how they see him fitting into either the offensive or defensive scheme.

The same can be said about college prospects for the draft. There has to be agreement on what the player brings to the team. Who does he replace and how high do we have to draft him to make sure we get him? If there are character issues then those issues have to be debated. A decision is made on whether or not the club wants to deal with those issues. If it’s agreed upon that they want the player and can live with his issues then at what point during the draft does the team pull the trigger on taking him? There is always a risk/reward factor involved. With all that being said, it’s the GM’s job to not only get the coach the best players but also the best players that fit his scheme.

Ozzie NewsomeICONGM Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh have produced a consistent contender in Baltimore.

Once in training camp, there can be almost daily meetings on personnel issues. When it gets to cut down time, these meetings become more and more important. A coach may want to keep a veteran player because of the trust the coach has in the player. The GM may want to keep the young rookie because of what he can be. It is at this time that there has to be some give and take. The question that has to be answered is “what is best for the franchise” both short term and long term. In the NFL, only one person has absolute control of the 53-man roster. That person is either the head coach or the GM. Regardless of who has control of the roster, coach and GM have to agree on these personnel decisions.

If the GM has final say, he may try to make the coach keep/draft/sign a certain player. If the coach is adamant that he doesn’t want him then this does not bode well for that player succeeding. Bottom line is that you can’t “force a player down the coach’s throat.” It doesn’t do anyone any good.

Some teams who have had success in the last few years where there is a strong GM/head coach relationship are:

Baltimore – Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh
Arizona – Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt
Pittsburgh – Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin
N.Y. Jets – Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan

There are, of course, others. But needless to say, the stronger the relationship between GM and coach, the stronger the franchise will be.

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