NFL head coaches are constantly talked about and ranked and looked at for their successes or failures. What about the general managers around the league?
GMs never seem to create the same publicity as head coaches despite being in charge of hiring those coaches and acquiring players for them. So, why not power rank the NFL’s current GMs? There are plenty of awful ones and even a few good ones, but who’s the best and who’s the worst? Obviously the worst is Mike Brown, but that’s not even a spoiler. Dave Gettleman wishes he was as bad as Mr. Brown. At least neither of them traded up to draft a kicker in the second round.
It gets even more interesting when looking at the current NFL front offices and realizing the majority of executives and scouts tie back to one of three trees. In some way almost all front offices have a tie to either former Packers GM Ron Wolf, former Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome or current Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. There are not 32 good NFL GMs, there aren’t even 20 good NFL GMs, but who does this job the best? Hint: he has eight Super Bowl rings.
Tier 1- The Big Dawgs
1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots* (2000-present)
If Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots call you, do not pick up. He knows more about football than you. If he wants to trade with you, he knows something you don’t and it’s not worth the risk. Belichick is not only the greatest head coach of all-time, but one of the best GMs of all-time. He has a long history of drafting prototype players that fit his system, and reading the book War Room by Michael Holley gives you a cool look at how it all works for BB and company.
Belichick knows what type of player he needs at each position and how to use them. He also knows how to put together a front office. There are currently four other NFL GM’s (Thomas Dimitroff, Jon Robinson, Jason Licht, Bob Quinn) who worked for Belichick in the Patriots scouting department. Even when Belichick misses, and he does more than you’d think on trades, free agent moves and draft picks, he knows when to cut ties. It ultimately doesn’t hurt the Patriots’ on-field product. Belichick and right hand man Ernie Adams (nobody’s knows for sure what he does, but he’s a genius) have this whole football thing figured out.
Playoff Appearances: 16 of 19 seasons.
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2007 fourth-round pick (John Bowie) to the Oakland Raiders for Randy Moss.
John Schneider, Seattle Seahawks (2010-present)
Just to make you realize how cool Ron Wolf is, here’s a story. John Schneider wrote him a letter when he was in college asking Wolf if he could be a scout for the Green Bay Packers. That led to an internship which led to a scouting job. Nearly 30 years later, Schneider is one of the best GMs in the NFL. Since leaving the Packers for the Seattle Seahawks job in 2010, Schneider has been money.
He hired Pete Carroll away from USC almost immediately. Then in his first draft he took Pro Bowler’s Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate and Kam Chancellor. He followed that up by trading for Marshawn Lynch. Just to flex on everyone in 2011 he drafted Pro Bowler’s KJ Wright, Richard Sherman, signed Doug Baldwin as an undrafted free agent, and signed Brandon Browner from the CFL. Then came his heat check moment: he took future NFL Hall of Famers Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson in the second and third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
In 2013 he managed to sign cast-offs Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril who would be Pro Bowlers for the Hawks. That might be the most dominant four-year span any GM has ever had… there’s an argument that he acquired six NFL Hall of Fame worthy players. Not to mention he picked up starters Walter Thurmond, James Carpenter, Byron Maxwell, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin, Jeremy Lane, JR Sweezy, Derrick Coleman, and Jermaine Kearse through the draft/undrafted free agency in that span. He has just one Super Bowl ring to show for it so far, but Schneider is at an elite GM level right now. The Seahawks were supposed to be in rebuild mode this past season, but made the playoffs yet again in the Schneider-Carroll era.
Playoff Appearances: 7 of 9 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2011 fourth-round pick (Chris Hairston) and a 2012 fifth-round pick (Tank Carder) to the Bills for Marshawn Lynch
Biggest Draft Hits: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson
Biggest Draft Misses: James Carpenter, Christine Michael, Germain Ifedi, Malik McDowell
3. Howie Roseman, Philadelphia Eagles* (2010-present)
The Howie Roseman story is unique. He’s not a true football guy, he’s a law grad who worked his way up from Eagles intern to Eagles GM. This guy ground and crawled through it all to eventually deliver the Eagles their only Super Bowl. He had the guts to fire Andy Reid, and he made the mistake of hiring Chip Kelly, but he lived through it all to hire Doug Pederson and win a Lombardi.
Roseman is a survivor. Many would have left the Eagles when Kelly went power-hungry and exiled Roseman. Once he got rid of Kelly and hired Pederson many hated on the hire, but Roseman knew what he was doing and made a blockbuster move for franchise QB Carson Wentz. He’s done an elite job acquiring talent through the draft, trades, and free agency. Roseman is one of the most well-rounded GMs in the league. He’s been with the team since he was 24, been GM since he was 34, and with the way he’s been running the Eagles in the Pederson era it feels like he’ll be GM for the next decade at least.
Playoff Appearances: 4 of 9 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2016 1st-round pick (traded to Titans to select Jack Conklin), 2016 3rd-round pick (traded to Panthers to select Daryl Worley), 2016 4th-round pick (traded to Raiders to select Connor Cook), 2017 1st-round pick (traded to Texans to select Deshaun Watson), and 2018 2nd-round pick (traded to Colts to select Tyquan Lewis) to the Browns for a 2016 1st-round pick (Carson Wentz) and a 2017 4th-round pick (traded to Vikings then traded to Chiefs to select Jehu Chesson)
Biggest Draft Hits: Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz
Biggest Draft Misses: Danny Watkins, Marcus Smith, Eric Rowe
4. John Dorsey, Cleveland Browns (Chiefs 2013-2017, Browns 2018-present)
How did the Cleveland Browns go from two decades of being an incompetent mess to potentially being the favorite to win the AFC North? John Dorsey came to town. How did Dorsey end up out in Kansas City? The Godfather aka Andy Reid wanted to go with his guy, Brett Veach. Dorsey also had a tendency to rub people the wrong way and wasn’t the best with the salary cap. A protégé of NFL Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, Dorsey has been one of the most elite drafters since leaving the Packers and becoming a GM in 2013. He helped build the Chiefs’ current playoff roster with bold moves in the draft. The man knows how to evaluate talent.
When he got to Cleveland he immediately put together the best front office in the league, hiring Eliot Wolf (Ron’s son) and Alonzo Highsmith away from the Packers. Despite being an old school football guy, Dorsey was smart and kept analytics guru Paul DePodesta (Jonah Hill’s character from Moneyball) in the front office. Just look what he’s done in Cleveland, as he got a franchise QB who people overlooked due to size (Baker Mayfield), took an elite cornerback prospect who people also overlooked due to size (Denzel Ward), traded for Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and acquired multiple other starters through the draft, trades, and free agency. The Browns are relevant thanks to Dorsey.
Playoff Appearances: 3 of 6 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2019 1st-round pick (#17), 2019 3-round pick (#95), Jabrill Peppers, and Kevin Zeitler to Giants for Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon
Biggest Draft Hits: Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, Tyreek Hill, Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield
Biggest Draft Misses: KeiVarae Russell
5. Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh Steelers (2000-present)
Technically Kevin Colbert has been GM of the Steelers since 2000, but has only officially held the title since 2010 when the Rooney’s made him the first GM in team history. In his time in Pittsburgh he’s won two Super Bowls, drafted multiple future NFL Hall of Fame players, and bet on a young Mike Tomlin who had little experience as just the Steelers’ third head coach since 1969. Colbert has never been one to make a splashy trade or signing in free agency, but he’s been one of the best drafters of the century. The Colbert way has been to draft, develop, and win football games. He’s drafted every important player of the century for Pittsburgh, which has made them one of the most winningest teams and given them multiple Super Bowls.
Colbert has struggled more in recent years drafting raw athletes over proven prospects in the first few rounds and it hasn’t paid off consistently. He also traded one of the 10 best wide receivers in NFL history for a third and fifth-round pick. Not great Kev. The real test of Colbert as GM will be seeing how he rebuilds the team when Ben Roethlisberger retires. Of the 19 first-round picks he has made in his career only four can be called true busts, 10 have made the Pro Bowl, and at least three will likely go to the NFL Hall of Fame.
Playoff Appearances: 12 of 19 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2003 1st-round pick (Larry Johnson), 2003 3rd-round pick (Julian Battle), and 2003 6th-round pick (traded to the Jets to select Brooks Bollinger) to the Chiefs for a 2003 1st-round pick (Troy Polamalu)
Biggest Draft Hits: Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell
Biggest Draft Misses: Ziggy Hood, Mike Adams, Jarvis Jones, Senquez Golson, Artie Burns
6. Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons (2008-present)
How did Thomas Dimitroff get his start in the NFL? Well, it’s kind of a funny story. Again, read the book War Room by Michael Holley. Dimitroff’s father Tom Sr. was a long-time coach/scout and worked for Bill Belichick in Cleveland, and that’s where Tom Jr. got his NFL start… as a member of the Browns grounds crew while also serving as a Chiefs part-time scout. He eventually flipped that into a real scouting job and was Belichick’s director of college scouting in New England before becoming the Falcons GM.
Dimitroff essentially built the Falcons after the whole Bobby “I’m not leaving for Arkansas” Petrino fiasco, when he left for Arkansas. His first ever pick for the Falcons was Matt Ryan, the best QB in team history, and since that pick the Falcons have only had three losing seasons in Dimitroff’s 11 years. He’s hit on many defensive players whose selections were questioned at the time, made a blockbuster for future NFL Hall of Famer Julio Jones, and has made Atlanta the destination for ex-GMs to revive their scouting careers. Dimitroff is also the hipster king of the NFL, known for being vegan, cycling everywhere, and looking more stylish than the rest of the NFL.
Playoff Appearances: 6 of 11 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2011 1st-round pick (traded to Chiefs to select Jonathan Baldwin), 2011 2nd-round pick (Greg Little), 2011 4th-round pick (Owen Marecic), 2012 1st-round pick (Brandon Weeden), and 2012 4th-round pick (traded to Vikings to select Jarius Wright) to the Browns for a 2011 1st-round pick (Julio Jones)
Biggest Draft Hits: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett, Keanu Neal, Deion Jones
Biggest Draft Misses: Peria Jerry, Peter Konz
Tier 2- Proven, but Not Elite… yet
7. Rick Spielman, Minnesota Vikings (2012-present)
There was definitely a time when Chris Spielman was the far more famous Spielman brother, but Rick’s making a big push to overthrow him. Rick Spielman joined the Vikings in 2006 after previously being in Miami, that stint ended with him leaving the team after just one season as GM, but not before hiring Nick Saban as head coach. So maybe Alabama should thank Spielman because in an alternate universe Saban might not have ended up in Tuscaloosa if not for failing in Miami.
Since becoming GM of the Vikings in 2012, Spielman has had a strong history of drafting. The majority of the core of the Vikings D was drafted by him and hiring Mike Zimmer as head coach turned them into a consistent playoff contender. Spielman was also the only GM bright enough to draft Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter, and Dalvin Cook as they tumbled down the board. He’s bet on high risk, high reward players and cashed in. He also signed a local kid out of Minnesota State Mankato and bet on his development, and that kid turned into top five NFL WR Adam Thielen. The Spielman-Zimmer combo is one of the best at drafting and developing in the league.
Playoff Appearances: 3 of 7 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading Percy Harvin to the Seahawks for a 2013 1st-round pick (Xavier Rhodes), 2013 7th-round pick (Travis Bond), and a 2014 3-round pick (Jerick McKinnon)
Biggest Draft Hits: Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks
Biggest Draft Misses: Matt Kalil, Cordarrelle Patterson, Trae Waynes, Laquon Treadwell
8. Les Snead, Los Angeles Rams (2012-present)
Somehow, Les Snead survived the Jeff Fisher era with the Rams and was given a second chance as LA’s GM. Fortunately, Snead went with the exact opposite of old man Fisher with his second try and hired the youngest coach in NFL history, Sean McVay. So if you ignore everything Snead did in the Fisher era he’s been a top GM in the league. Part of being a GM is moving on from a mistake ASAP and correcting it, and Snead clearly did just that. He got the brightest offensive mind in the game, made a blockbuster trade to get a franchise QB, spent money to build an O-line and pass-catching core, and made trades to get defensive pieces.
Snead has been one of the most active GMs in the league since the McVay era began in LA and it’s led to a 24-8 record with a Super Bowl appearance. Also kudos to Snead for not being a coward and selecting Aaron Donald in the first-round, who was just as dominant at Pittsburgh, the Senior Bowl, and NFL Combine as he has been for the Rams. Reminder: NFL GMs are still old school football guys who care if a dominant player is slightly smaller than non-dominant players already in the league.
Playoff Appearances: 2 of 7 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2016 1st-round pick (traded to Browns to select Corey Coleman), two 2016 2nd-round picks (Austin Johnson and Derrick Henry), a 2016 3rd-round pick (traded to Browns to select Shon Coleman), 2017 1st-round pick (Corey Davis), and 2017 3rd-round pick (Jonnu Smith) to the Titans for a 2016 1st-round pick (Jared Goff), 2016 4th-round pick (traded to Bears to select Nick Kwiatkoski), and 2016 6th-round pick (Temarrick Hemingway)
Biggest Draft Hits: Janoris Jenkins, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp
Biggest Draft Misses: Brian Quick, Tavon Austin, Greg Robinson
9. Chris Ballard, Indianapolis Colts (2017-present)
Is it too early to call Chris Ballard a top 10 GM? Probably, but guess what? He is because there aren’t that many great GMs in the NFL and he’s proven a ton over the last year. Sure, he tried to hire Josh McDaniels, but lucky for everybody McDaniels went running back to Belichick, but not before hiring Matt Eberflus as the Colts DC. Scum move Josh, but Frank Reich sure is happy. Ballard eventually landed on the greatest comeback QB in football history, Reich, as his HC and it turns out Eberflus is a genius. Ballard nearly hired a Belichick sleeper cell, but instead lucked into one of the most innovative staffs in the league.
2018 was a great year for Ballard. Andrew Luck got healthy, he ended up with Reich and Eberflus, and he had a dominant draft class. In just his second draft as Colts GM, Ballard drafted two first-team All-Pro players (Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard), a talented starter (Braden Smith), and three big time contributors (Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, and Nyheim Hines). He’s done a great job retaining his own players and making low risk, high reward free agent moves. Ballard is beginning to look a lot like former boss John Dorsey.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 2 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2018 1st-round pick (Sam Darnold) to the Jets for a 2018 1st-round pick (Quenton Nelson), two 2018 2nd-round picks (Braden Smith and traded other 2nd to Eagles to select Dallas Goedert, Colts used trade to select Kemoko Turay), and a 2019 2nd-round pick
Biggest Draft Hits: Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Braden Smith
Biggest Draft Misses: None yet
10. Tom Telesco, Los Angeles Chargers (2013-present)
It’s taken awhile for Tom Telesco to truly turn the Chargers into contenders, but that has more to do with the Chargers being cursed than his management of the team. For most of his tenure the Chargers have dealt with massive injuries and kicking woes, but now it’s all come together. Telesco was a long time scout and executive with the Colts during the Peyton Manning heydays before coming to the Chargers.
Since Telesco has taken over the Chargers he’s been dominant with his first-round picks. Four of the five first-round picks he’s made have made at least one Pro Bowl, and the two that haven’t are Mike Williams, who looks like a future star, and DJ Fluker, a solid starter. He’s also drafted multiple Pro Bowlers and starters in later rounds. Telesco has a knack for finding undrafted players and turning them into solid contributors and even impressive starters. In free agency he tends to find players who play well above their pay grade once in a Chargers uniform. Telesco might be the most underrated GM in the league.
Playoff Appearances: 2 of 6 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Signing Casey Hayward to a 3-year $15.3M deal in 2016
Biggest Draft Hits: Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Joey Bosa, Desmond King, Derwin James
Biggest Draft Misses: DJ Fluker, Manti Te’o, Jeremiah Attaochu
Tier 3- The Young Guns
11. Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears (2015-present)
Prior to the 2018 season Ryan Pace would be much further down this list. The man traded two third-round picks and a fifth-round pick to the 49ers just to swap firsts and move up one spot to select Mitchell Trubisky 2nd overall in a draft with Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. If it weren’t for Matt Nagy that would be looked at as one of the worst trades of the decade. Pace came up in New Orleans as Mickey Loomis’ right-hand man and it’s taken awhile for him to get the Bears rolling, but he’s finally done it. He’s had back-to-back impressive offseasons, nabbing multiple Pro Bowl players and starters.
The hiring of Nagy really set it all in motion, getting a top offensive mind who has the ability to make Trubisky work despite shortcomings. Finally, he made one of the biggest trades of all-time for Khalil Mack and somehow managed to get Gruden to give him a second-round pick back in the deal. Oh Chucky baby you got fleeced. Pace is all-in on creating a contender and it paid off in year one under Nagy.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 4 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2019 1st-round pick (#24), 2019 6th-round pick (#196), 2020 1st-round pick, 2020 3rd-round pick to the Raiders for Khalil Mack, 2020 2nd-round pick, and 2020 5th-round pick
Biggest Draft Hits: Adrian Amos, Cody Whitehair, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, Roquan Smith
Biggest Draft Misses: Kevin White
12. Jon Robinson, Tennessee Titans (2016-present)
Big Jon Robinson is a Patriots front office disciple, so naturally he hired an ex-Patriot in Mike Vrabel as the Titans head coach. Surprisingly, they don’t seem like Belichick sleeper cells, not yet at least. Robinson has yet to have a losing season as Titans GM, with three straight 9-7 seasons. He’s done a nice job through both the draft and free agency, but just hasn’t had much luck with the health and development of Marcus Mariota.
This season might be make or break for Mariota, but the Robinson-Vrabel combo seems poised for a long stay in Nashville. All four of the first-round picks Robinson has made have been promising and look like long-term starters at minimum. He has also found multiple starters through non-first-round picks and hasn’t been afraid to spend to bring in talent. The AFC South is a tough division (wow imagine saying that like three years ago), but the Titans have the firepower to consistently contend for a playoff spot as long as Mariota keeps it together.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 3 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2016 1st-round pick (Jared Goff), 2016 4th-round pick (traded to Bears to select Nick Kwiatkoski), and 2016 6th-round pick (Temarrick Hemingway) to the Rams for a 2016 1st-round pick (traded to Browns to select Corey Coleman, Titans used trade to select Jack Conklin), two 2016 2nd-round picks (Austin Johnson and Derrick Henry), a 2016 3rd-round pick (traded to Browns to select Shon Coleman), 2017 1st-round pick (Corey Davis), and 2017 3rd-round pick (Jonnu Smith)
Biggest Draft Hits: Jack Conklin, Kevin Byard
Biggest Draft Misses: Kevin Dodd
13. John Lynch, San Francisco 49ers (2017-present)
Remember when the 49ers hired John Lynch as GM and everybody everywhere was pissed? Good times. All the good ol’ football boys within the brotherhood of the NFL were not happy that Lynch didn’t have to work his way up to the top. This isn’t a John Elway situation though, as in a former NFL Hall of Fame type player taking over and going power hungry and running a team into the ground.
Turns out Lynch is smart and surrounded himself with a great and experienced front office (Martin Mayhew, Adam Peters, Ran Carthon, Keena Turner), hired a brilliant young head coach (Kyle Shanahan), and traded just a second-round pick for a potential franchise QB (Jimmy Garoppolo). He’s also made some strong draft picks to build a young exciting core, hasn’t been afraid to sign free agents, and knows when to cut ties with a player. If Jimmy G can stay healthy, this team is in great shape over the next few seasons, and that starts with the work Lynch has done while in charge.
Playoff Appearances: 0 of 2 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Traded 2018 2nd-round pick to Patriots (traded to Lions to select Kerryon Johnson) for Jimmy Garoppolo
Biggest Draft Hits: George Kittle, Mike McGlinchey, Fred Warner
Biggest Draft Misses: Reuben Foster
14. Brandon Beane, Buffalo Bills (2017-present)
When the Bills hired the combo of Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane as their HC and GM nobody was overly excited. Two years later and they’ve done a better job in Buffalo than anybody could have predicted. They got the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and that alone deserves an applause. McDermott and Beane worked together in Carolina from 2011-2016 before coming to Buffalo and the strong relationship has paid off on the field.
Beane has done a terrific job getting players that fit what McDemott wants to do on D and it’s shown on the field with the Bills having a top defense in both season they’ve been there. Beane has not only built a young defensive core, but he wasted no time pursuing a potential franchise QB in Josh Allen. Allen was way overdrafted and didn’t play well at all as a rookie, but at least Beane went and got his guy. In free agency he’s made an effort on offense to build around Allen and to grab starting-caliber defenders. Beane’s done more with less than many NFL GMs.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 2 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Traded a 2018 1st-round pick (Vita Vea) and two 2018 2nd-round picks (MJ Stewart and Buccaneers traded other 2nd to Patriots to select Duke Dawson) to the Buccaneers for a 2018 1st-round pick (Josh Allen) and 2018 7th-round pick (Austin Proehl)
Biggest Draft Hits: Tre White, Matt Milano
Biggest Draft Misses: None yet
15. Brett Veach, Kansas City Chiefs (2018-present)
It’s pretty crazy that John Dorsey was so abruptly shown the door in Kansas City for right-hand man Brett Veach. Dorsey can rub some the wrong way and Veach has been a career Andy Reid guy. Veach was with Reid in Philly from 2004-2012 and has been with him in Kansas City his entire tenure. Some would argue Dorsey was shown the door and replaced by Veach because Reid has more control over decisions this way.
In his short time as GM Veach has done a steady job, but it’s hard to break down many of his draft picks because it’s still so early in their careers. Moving on from Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Eric Berry to create cap space was a bold, but smart move for the future. He inherited players like Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Chris Jones, but has also brought in guys like Tyrann Mathieu, Sammy Watkins, and Kendall Fuller. Veach has played it safe so far and has done a solid job managing the cap, something Dorsey is known for struggling with, but it feels more like Reid’s calling the shots than Veach.
Playoff Appearances: 2 of 2 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a 2020 2nd-round pick
Biggest Draft Hits: None yet
Biggest Draft Misses: None yet
Tier 4- Old Guys Who Drafted Top Players in Team History
16. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys (1989-present)
Technically Jerry Jones is the Cowboys GM, but at this point it sure seems like his son Stephen is the one calling the shots. That’s a good thing, otherwise Cowboys fans would have Johnny Manziel instead of future NFL Hall of Fame guard Zack Martin. Jerry was the architect behind the 90’s Cowboys dynasty, built Jerry World aka AT&T Stadium aka the NFL’s first mega stadium, and turned the Cowboys into the NFL’s most expensive franchise ($5B). In his prime Jerry was the perfect combo of football guy and business tycoon. He pulled off the greatest trade in NFL history moving Herschel Walker for the pieces to build a 3x Super Bowl champ.
Somehow he’s managed to be a relevant and solid GM into his 70s (again, Stephen is playing a major role in that) and the Cowboys have made the playoffs in 15 of his 30 seasons. Even if he threw away one of the best NFL coaches ever in Jimmy Johnson because of his ego he has managed to keep the Cowboys consistent. They’ve had a winning record in four of the last five seasons. Jerry’s always been able to attract marquee free agents (Deion Jones, Charles Haley, La’Roi Glover, etc.) and 17 of his 28 first-round picks have made a Pro Bowl. Say what you will about Jerry, and his partying and his bus, in his old age, but he’s one of the most important GMs in NFL history and still seems to be cooking at 76.
Playoff Appearances: 15 of 30 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading Herschel Walker, 1990 10th-round pick (Mike Jones), 1990 10th-round pick (Pat Newman), 1991 3rd-round pick (Jake Reed) to the Vikings for Issiac Holt, David Howard, Jesse Solomon, Alex Stewart, 1990 1st-round pick (traded to Steelers to select Eric Green, Cowboys used trade to select Emmitt Smith), 1990 2nd-round pick (traded to 49ers to select Dennis Brown), 1990 6th-round pick (traded to Saints to select James Williams), 1991 1st-round pick (traded to Patriots to select Pat Harlow, Cowboys used trade to select Russell Maryland), 1991 2nd-round pick (traded to Oilers to select Darryll Lewis), 1992 1st-round pick (traded to Patriots to select Eugene Chung, Cowboys used trade to draft Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson), 1992 2nd-round pick (traded to Chiefs to draft Matt Blundin, Cowboys used trade to select Jimmy Smith), and 1992 3rd-round pick (traded to Patriots to select Kevin Turner)
Biggest Draft Hits: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Larry Allen, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware
Biggest Draft Misses: David LaFleur, Bobby Carpenter, Felix Jones, Morris Claiborne, Taco Charlton
17. Mickey Loomis, New Orleans Saints (2002-present)
For some reason it’s not talked about enough that Mickey Loomis has been running both the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans at the same time since 2012. That’s hysterical, I wonder which he’s been focussing on more? The guy’s probably been trying to get Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to give up basketball and play for the Saints. Anyway, this isn’t about him mismanaging the Pels, it’s about him kind of managing the Saints. Is he a good GM? Probably not, but he did luck into Sean Payton which led to him lucking into Drew Brees.
Prior to 2006, when he hired Payton and signed Brees, he hadn’t made the playoffs in any of his four seasons. On the other hand, he has drafted many of the best players in team history and the Saints won a Super Bowl during his tenure. Loomis is a classic case of is this guy good or is it the NFL Hall of Fame QB and head coach? We’ll never know, but it’s worth noting since hiring Jeff Ireland as assistant GM they’ve been drafting at a higher-level. One thing is certain, until Gayle Benson sells the Saints/Pelicans that Loomis will be running them both.
Playoff Appearances: 7 of 17 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Signing Drew Brees to a 6-year $60M contract in 2006
Biggest Draft Hits: Jahri Evans, Alvin Kamara, Jimmy Graham, Cameron Jordan, Michael Thomas
Biggest Draft Misses: Johnathan Sullivan, Robert Meachem, Sedrick Ellis, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Stephone Anthony
18. Marty Hurney, Carolina Panthers (Panthers 2002-2012, 2017-present)
Funny thing about Marty Hurney is he was a journalist and PR guy for Washington before making his way into the NFL front office business. He’s on his second stint as the Panthers GM after they realized Dave Gettleman isn’t good at his job. Although he has a tendency to overpay to retain players and has put together a handful of poor trades in his time as GM, he has drafted the majority of the best players in Panthers history.
His hit rate on first-round picks is pretty great, and in his first stint with the Panthers eight of his 10 first-round picks reached a Pro Bowl. One of the two that didn’t was Chris Gamble, who was a starter all nine of his seasons in Carolina. The other that didn’t was Jeff Otah, the worst decision of Hurney’s career. Outside of the first-round Hurney is basically throwing darts at a board for his selection. He means a lot to the Panthers history, but it shouldn’t be long until new owner David Tepper brings his own guy to Carolina.
Playoff Appearances: 4 of 13 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2008 2nd-round pick (traded to Vikings to select Tyrell Johnson), 2008 4th-round pick (Mike McGlynn), and a 2009 1st-round pick (traded to Bills to select Eric Wood) to the Eagles for a 2008 1st-round pick (Jeff Otah)
Biggest Draft Hits: Julius Peppers, Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil, Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly
Biggest Draft Misses: Jeff Otah, Everette Brown, Jimmy Clausen, Amini Silatolu
Tier 5- Unproven, but Trending up
19. Eric DeCosta, Baltimore Ravens (2019-present)
Well, the Ravens only GM in their history has officially retired. Ozzie Newsome was the man. NFL Hall of Fame tight end, first African-American GM in NFL history, and two Super Bowls as GM. “The Wizard of Oz” will be missed. Eric DeCosta gets the Ozzie bumped on this list, he’s been his right hand man for basically 20 years and learned everything from Newsome. He’s been with the Ravens through all of their success and knows how to run this team.
Ozzie and DeCosta are the kings of the comp pick game, consistently letting guys get overpaid somewhere else while the Ravens cash in with high round compensatory picks. DeCosta already let the Packers overpay Za’Darius Smith, the Jets overpay CJ Mosley, and the Bills and Cardinals pay John Brown and Terrell Suggs. DeCosta knows how to play the game Ozzie invented. He also signed Earl Thomas to a cheaper deal than many expected to assemble the league’s best secondary.
Playoff Appearances: N/A
Biggest Blockbuster: Signed Earl Thomas to a 4-year $55M contract in 2019
Biggest Draft Hits: N/A
Biggest Draft Misses: N/A
20. Brian Gutekunst, Green Bay Packers (2018-present)
Going from Ted Thompson to Brian Gutekunst must be shocking for long-time Packers fans. Thompson, who came up with the Packers and NFL Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf, was notorious for not doing anything in the NFL offseason. The man basically slept through it and ignored the whole idea of it, other than signing Charles Woodson in 2006. Well, Gutekunst came up under Thompson, but boy-oh-boy does he attack the NFL offseason in a different way.
He already made a blockbuster trade in the 2018 NFL Draft to acquire an extra first-round pick in 2019 and also made a move to draft Jaire Alexander, who was a stud as a rookie. Also in what feels like a big F YOU to the Thompson strategy he has been spending LARGE in free agency. He’s given Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, and Billy Turner a combined $182M with $57M guaranteed just this offseason. These signings will define the Gutekunst era. He also fired Mike McCarthy (thank God no more slant-flat passes every third play), and went with the young and unproven Matt LaFleur. Gutekunst is definitely attempting to put his own stamp on the Packers.
Playoff Appearances: 0 of 1 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Traded a 2018 1st-round pick (Marcus Davenport) to the Saints for a 2018 1st-round pick (traded to Seahawks to select Rashaad Penny), 2018 5th-round pick (traded to Rams to select Micah Kiser), and a 2019 1st-round pick (#30) then traded Saints 2018 1st-round pick (Rashaad Penny) with a 2018 3rd-round pick (traded to Steelers to select Mason Rudolph) and 2018 6th-round pick (Jacob Martin) to the Seahawks for a 2018 1st-round pick (Jaire Alexander) and 2018 7th-round pick (Kendall Donnerson)
Biggest Draft Hits: Jaire Alexander
Biggest Draft Misses: None yet
21. Mike Mayock, Oakland Raiders (2019-present)
Can we all take a second to put some respect on Mike Mayock’s name. The king of NFL Draft media, he will be missed. Mayock has been the GM of the Raiders for less than three months and he’s already doing things, and doing things is better than not doing things (See: Brown, Mike). He fleeced the Steelers for Antonio Brown, signed top free agent OT Trent Brown, signed a top free agent WR in Tyrell Williams, and signed a top DB free agent in Lamarcus Joyner. Also lets not sleep on him reuniting AB with Vontaze Burfict to potentially set up the greatest season of Hard Knocks ever. Mayock has also done a nice job cleaning up some of the mess Gruden made last season as the Raiders shadow GM. The best part is that Mayock still has three first-round picks to play with in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Playoff Appearances: N/A
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading 2019 3rd-round pick (#66) and 2019 5th-round pick (#141) to Steelers for Antonio Brown
Biggest Draft Hits: N/A
Biggest Draft Misses: N/A
22. Brian Gaine, Houston Texans (2018-present)
Brian Gaine is only the third GM in Texans history since they joined the league as an expansion team in 2002. Prior to Gaine, Rick Smith was in charge from 2006-2017 and classic old man yells at cloud meme Charley Casserly ran the show from 2002-2005. After one season there isn’t much to say on Gaine, but the unknown is better than knowing a GM sucks, so here’s Gaine above other GMs. We’ve seen him ignore all the cap space the Texans have so far this offseason despite there being many solid O-line free agents and that being the Texans biggest need. So maybe he’s not a good GM? But he hasn’t taken a kicker in the second-round so it could be worse?
In his only draft as Texans GM he was without a first and second-round pick (compensation in a trade with the Browns to get Deshaun Watson), but still managed to snag a first-round talent in the third with Justin Reid. Gaine also selected rookie contributors Keke Coutee and Jordan Thomas, both of whom look like future starters. Can’t put him higher, but can’t put him lower because he’s never drafted a kicker and hasn’t screwed up the good situation he inherited… yet.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 1 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Signing Tyrann Mathieu to a 1-year $7M contact in 2018 (I know… Gaine has done basically nothing of note, so here we are)
Biggest Draft Hits: Justin Reid
Biggest Draft Misses: None yet
Tier 6- Could Be Fired Tomorrow or Could Be Here Forever
23. Jason Licht, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014-present)
This guy really drafted a kicker in the second-round and the kicker wasn’t even good. That alone should put him as the worst GM in football. Luckily for Jason Licht, he’s acquired many offensive weapons in his time in Tampa, and despite no playoff appearances there always seems to be hope going into the season. Also, bringing back Bruce Arians and the boys is elite. Licht’s lack of success can be tied to the lack of development of Jameis Winston. The pair is now on their third head coach since Licht took Winston first overall in 2015.
Basically the success of Licht as a GM is now dependent on Bruce Arians being able to unlock Winston’s ability as a franchise passer. The team does have sick weapons with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and Cameron Brate thanks to him so that’s not bad. But also remember… this guy drafted a bad kicker in the second-round so maybe he’s just the worst GM in the NFL?
Playoff Appearances: 0 of 5 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Getting the band back together in Tampa aka the Arizona Cardinals playoff coaching staff (Bruce Arians, Todd Bowles, Harold Goodwin, Byron Leftwich, Mike Caldwell, Larry Foote, Kevin Ross, Amos Jones, Rick Christophel)
Biggest Draft Hits: Mike Evans, Ali Marpet, OJ Howard, Chris Godwin
Biggest Draft Misses: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence, Roberto Aguayo
24. Bob Quinn, Detroit Lions (2016-present)
The first question that needs to be answered is are Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia just Belichick/Patriots sleeper cells? Probably maybe. Quinn is in the process of overhauling the Lions and building them in the Patriots mold, as he was with the Pats front office from 2000-2015. We’ll see how it turns out, as it generally doesn’t end well for Pats copycats. Quinn hasn’t done much of note in his tenure with Detroit other than bring in ex-Pats like Patricia, Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman, and Danny Amendola. He’s attempted to build an O-line through the draft and free agency, which is a positive. Also trading for Snacks Harrison, signing Marvin Jones, and drafting Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson were big hits. The 2019 season will be the year we get a firm idea of what kind of GM Bob Quinn will be going forward.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 3 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Signed Trey Flowers to a 5-year $90M contract in 2019
Biggest Draft Hits: Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson
Biggest Draft Misses: Jarrad Davis, Teez Tabor
25. Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals (2013-present)
The Cardinals previous four GMs (Rod Graves, Bob Ferguson, Buddy Ryan, and Larry Wilson) had the team reach the playoffs three times in 25 seasons so honestly Steve “Keim Bomb” Keim is doing a better job than them. The team has only made the playoffs 10 times since the Bidwell family took over ownership in 1933 so really Keim probably has unlimited job security. In reality his biggest success came when Bruce Arians was coaching the team and he acquired Carson Palmer as QB.
With the six first-round picks he’s made as Cardinals GM you can argue he has missed on them all other than Josh Rosen, and now he’s trying to trade Rosen?? He did trade for Chandler Jones and has made some solid Day 2 and 3 selections. Luckily for Keim he’s been in the Cardinals organization since 1999 and they aren’t used to any success so if he makes the playoffs twice each decade he’ll be GM forever.
Playoff Appearances: 2 of 6 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2013 6th-round pick (traded to Texans to select David Quessenberry) and a 2014 7th-round pick (Shelby Harris) to the Raiders for Carson Palmer
Biggest Draft Hits: Tyrann Mathieu, John Brown, David Johnson, Budda Baker
Biggest Draft Misses: Jonathan Cooper, Deone Bucannon, DJ Humphries, Robert Nkemdiche, Haason Reddick
26. Chris Grier, Miami Dolphins (2016-present)
The Dolphins have been irrelevant for a long time now, making Chris Grier the perfect GM for them. Ok, maybe that was a little harsh, and for the first time in the Grier era it looks like Miami is attempting to get themselves out of NFL purgatory. Embrace the tank, baby! In the Grier era the Dolphins are 23-25 and have been pulled down by the likes of Adam Gase and all-time bad GM Mike Tannenbaum, but no more! They have an interesting staff led by Brian Flores and have brought talented former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie into the front office. With full tank mode happening this is Grier’s first real shot to prove what he is as a GM. In his tenure it’s never felt like his team and they haven’t had any truly marketable players. If the tank goes as planned the Grier-Flores duo could be trending up by 2021.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 3 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading 2016 1st-round pick (traded to Browns then to Titans to select Jack Conklin) to the Eagles for Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and 2016 1st-round pick (Laremy Tunsil)
Biggest Draft Hits: Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick
Biggest Draft Misses: Charles Harris
27. Mike Maccagnan, New York Jets (2015-present)
Poor Jets fans. They finally get their franchise QB in Sam Darnold, but then they went and hired the staff of Adam Gase, Dowell Loggains, and Gregg Williams. That’s probably the worst HC-OC-DC trio in the NFL. Honestly, Mike Maccagnan has been making some strong personnel moves lately, but this dude just can’t get it all right and hired this staff. Go with Todd Bowles, anybody at OC, and Kacy Rodgers at DC over this trainwreck. Great you got Lev Bell, Jamison Crowder, Kelechi Osemele, and CJ Mosley so far this offseason, but it won’t matter when your head coach is having a staring contest with poor Sam Darnold instead of coaching him. Maccagnan also gave Trumaine Johnson a 5-year $72M contract last offseason and nobody knows why.
Playoff Appearances: 0 of 4 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2018 1st-round pick (Quenton Nelson), two 2018 2nd-round picks (Braden Smith and other 2nd traded to Eagles to select Dallas Goedert), and a 2019 2nd-round pick to the Colts for a 2018 1st-round pick (Sam Darnold)
Biggest Draft Hits: Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams
Biggest Draft Misses: Devin Smith, Christian Hackenberg, ArDarius Stewart
28. David Caldwell, Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-present)
David Caldwell is that GM you thought would be fired after two or three years, but here he is entering his seventh season in Jacksonville. Now to be fair at this point he’s closer to Tom Coughlin’s puppet than a real NFL GM, but he’s still got the title so here we are. Let’s give Caldwell some credit, he has made some awesome Day 2 picks, but he also whiffed on back-to-back-to-back top three picks.
With Caldwell in charge the Jaguars have picked top five in five out of his six seasons and only Jalen Ramsey can be called a hit from that group. Luke Joeckel and Blake Bortles were big misses, Dante Fowler was shipped out of town, and Leonard Fournette hasn’t justified his selection (also don’t take running backs that early). In the Caldwell era the Jaguars have gone 30-66 with a 10-6 season in 2017 when Coughlin came aboard boosting that win total. Jacksonville should clean house.
Playoff Appearances: 1 of 6 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Signing Calais Campbell to a 4-year $60M contract in 2017
Biggest Draft Hits: Allen Robinson, Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue
Biggest Draft Misses: Luke Joeckel, Blake Bortles
Tier 7- Power Hungry Dictator with Way Too Much Job Security
29. John Elway, Denver Broncos (2011-present)
But John Elway won a Super Bowl as a GM! That’s not wrong, but look at the big picture with Elway and he’s really just signed Peyton Manning and cashed in on it. If Elway wasn’t a god in Denver, his job security would be a lot more uncertain. His draft history is some of the worst among active GMs, as he’s really only hit on Von Miller and Bradley Chubb who were essentially can’t miss EDGE prospects. Elway does a good job bringing in proven talents through free agency, but can’t evaluate or draft for his life. It’s bad, and he’s terrible with QBs. Since hitting on Manning, who was horrid when they won a Super Bowl, he has missed on Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Case Keenum… let’s see how a washed Joe Flacco does for him. The man just loves tall QBs with big arms and doesn’t care about anything else. George Bernard Shaw said, “he who can does; he who cannot, teaches.” Maybe Elway being able to play QB is the exact reason he has no damn idea how to evaluate them?
Playoff Appearances: 5 of 8 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Signing Peyton Manning to a 5-year $96M contract in 2012
Biggest Draft Hits: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb
Biggest Draft Misses: Sylvester Williams, Montee Ball, Cody Latimer, Shane Ray, Paxton Lynch
30. Bruce Allen, Washington* (Buccaneers 2004-2008, Washington 2010-present)
Every rumor out of Washington about Bruce Allen and how he runs this team is bad. That makes him the perfect counterpart to Washington’s owner Dan Snyder, probably the worst owner in all of major North American sports. Nepotism is oh-so-strong in the NFL and Bruce Allen has the benefit of being the son of NFL Hall of Fame head coach George Allen (Bruce’s brother George is the former senator of Virginia, all of the connections for ol’ Brucey). Allen has basically been in total control of Washington for a decade. In that decade Washington has made the playoffs twice in nine years, mismanaged RGIII which led to him being a miss, refused to pay Kirk Cousins, and helped big dawg both Mike Shanahan and Scot McCloughan out of town with smear campaigns. There’s a bad word for guys like Bruce Allen, and Dan Snyder for that matter…change the team name already.
Playoff Appearances: 4 of 14 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 2012 1st-round pick (traded to Cowboys to select Morris Claiborne, Rams used trade to select Michael Brockers), 2012 2nd-round pick (Janoris Jenkins), 2013 1st-round pick (traded to Bills to select EJ Manuel, Rams used trade to select Tavon Austin), and a 2014 1st-round pick (Greg Robinson) to the Rams for a 2012 1st-round pick (Robert Griffin III)
Biggest Draft Hits: Aqib Talib, Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Kirk Cousins, Brandon Scherff
Biggest Draft Misses: Gaines Adams, Robert Griffin III, Josh Doctson, Su’a Cravens
31. Dave Gettleman, New York Giants (Panthers 2013-2016, Giants 2018-present)
Hahahahahaha oh man, this guy traded Odell Beckham Jr. and he did it for a mid-first-round pick, a late-third-round pick, a starting guard, and a box safety. Remember this guy had just said Landon Collins wasn’t worth a contract because he’s a box safety and then he trades for a worse one. Oh yeah, he also had to give up an above-average pass rusher to trade one of the most talented pass catchers of all-time. Sure, Gettleman’s playoff consistency was strong in Carolina, but when you really look at it he didn’t draft too many important players for that franchise. The majority of the players leading the way for the Panthers playoff teams were drafted by Marty Hurney. We can never forget that he also passed up Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen for a running back #2 overall, a true football guy. Gettleman is basically that old man who doesn’t understand anything other than this fake idea about being a football guy.
Playoff Appearances: 3 of 5 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon to the Browns for a 2019 1st-round pick (#17), 2019 3-round pick (#95), Jabrill Peppers, and Kevin Zeitler
Biggest Draft Hits: Kawann Short, Trai Turner, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey
Biggest Draft Misses: Kelvin Benjamin, Kony Ealy, Vernon Butler
32. Mike Brown, Cincinnati Bengals* (1991-present)
The man declined the Ricky Williams entire draft trade from Mike Ditka and the Saints to draft Akili Smith…he also traded up to the #1 pick in 1995 to take one of the biggest bust running backs in NFL history. Luckily for Mike Brown, he owns the team so he will never, ever, ever be fired. It’s not even like he bought the team, as he inherited it from his father Paul Brown, who’s an NFL Hall of Fame head coach/GM and the man who the Cleveland Browns are named after. Unlike his genius father, Mike Brown is bad at this football thing. He runs the Bengals like a ma and pa bed and breakfast. They don’t spend money and they don’t seem to do a great job of scouting. Brown barely has a front office and that’s probably why Marvin Lewis was head coach for 16 years. Since 1999 it’s basically been Brown, Duke Tobin and Duke’s father Bill. Honestly, Brown would probably hire any guy off the street as a scout if they were willing to work for coffee instead of money.
Playoff Appearances: 7 of 28 seasons
Biggest Blockbuster: Trading a 1995 1st-round pick (Kerry Collins) and 1995 2nd-round pick (Shawn King) to the Panthers for a 1995 1st-round pick (Ki-Jana Carter)
Biggest Draft Hits: Chad Johnson, Carson Palmer, Andrew Whitworth, Geno Atkins, AJ Green
Biggest Draft Misses: David Klingler, Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith, Keith Rivers, Cedric Ogbuehi
*= De facto GM (performs GM duties despite other title)
Top GM Candidates
Eliot Wolf, Cleveland Browns
Alonzo Highsmith, Cleveland Browns
Scot McCloughan, Free Agent
Nic Caserio, New England Patriots
Reggie McKenzie, Miami Dolphins
Trent Kirchner, Seattle Seahawks
Louis Riddick, ESPN Analyst
George Paton, Minnesota Vikings
Scott Fitterer, Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy Raye III, Detroit Lions
Lake Dawson, Buffalo Bills
Scott Pioli, Atlanta Falcons
Brandon Hunt, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brian Xanders, Los Angeles Rams
Will McClay, Dallas Cowboys
Jeff Ireland, New Orleans Saints
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