GM Scenario No.9: The Interview

Jerry Jones by Suzismini.
Jerry Jones by Suzismini.

You’ve just had an interview for your first GM position, but you’re ambivalent about the club’s organizational leadership. Will you take the job if offered?  

What is 2014’s Writer’s Project?

This year’s RSPWP is a different take on team building. I will have 15-20 written scenarios based on true NFL stories provided to me from current and former NFL employees (scouts, players, and consultants). In each scenario, the participating writer is the general manager of an NFL team has a decision to make. Each scenario will have at least two different writers. I will post the writers’ responses and the actual outcome of the case study (if applicable).

Find out more about RSPWP3 and see other GM Scenarios.

GM Scenario No.9: The Interview

You’re the assistant general manager with a successful organization. Your boss is revered as a talent scout and negotiator. He has groomed you since you caught his attention as an area scout.

Your boss is still at the peak of his powers so there’s no shot you’ll succeed him anytime soon. However, he believes you’re ready to take the helm of a front office.  Having a heavyweight like your current boss in your corner is a great door opener.

And when a job opened outside your conference you got an interview. The team has a storied history, but has fallen on hard times. The fan base is loyal, but the roster and coaching staff is a turnstile of young talent that has cycled in and out.

The reason most suspect is the owner. He’s an elder statesman in the league with a great football mind, but he’s a control freak.

He likes to give coaches and staff first-time opportunities and it appears his motivation behind his hiring tendency is that it’s easier to maintain control over all facets of the organization with new people.

The owner did make a rare hiring decision with his last GM, bringing in an experienced administrator with multiple teams. However, the individual in this role had a much better reputation in the media for his work than he did in the league.

Around NFL circles this GM practiced the “remora” behavior in his career; attaching himself to a winner and coasting wherever he went. Eventually, there were enough teams that got wise to the fact that he was a yes-man who talked a better game than he walked. The players on this team had such little contact with the former GM that they referred to the owner as the GM and they called the guy with the actual title a “ghost.”

Although known for your diplomacy in a world filled with ego-driven, combative personalities, you’re not a softie and you’ve never adopted remora behavior during your career. Of course, you began life in the NFL with a $25K salary and doing all of the work that no one wanted to do.

This job could pay somewhere between 3-6 times the amount you’re making as an assistant GM and likely closer to the higher end of that range. It’s difficult to turn own that kind of money.

But your interview with the owner left you ambivalent about a potential offer.  The owner spent a lot of time telling you about his football philosophy and on the surface it was all helpful information:

  • The mentality he expects from a team.
  • The offensive and defensive style he’s seeking.
  • The type of players the team needs to draft.

The problem with what you heard is that while your job title might be general manager in title, you get the sense from the way this owner talked that your role would still be an assistant manager. In fact, you wonder if you’d have as much decision-making input as this team’s GM as you do as an assistant for your current team.

You asked the owner specific questions about his desired football style and players, phrasing the questions to see if the owner considered alternatives to his plans. One of your questions was about run blocking fits for running back styles and he made it clear that he had a very specific stance on the type of players he wanted and he wasn’t veering from it.

The owner also said that you would be expected to keep the current scouting staff and front office employees. When you asked if you would be allowed to make changes if certain personnel don’t work out after year one, the owner’s response was brief:

“RECOMMENDATIONS to me about changes, yes.”

When you asked the owner to discuss weak spots within the organization he told you that football isn’t all that complicated and if he were to offer you the job you’d learn from him that what works is generally simple  and that the hard part is getting people to execute. Then he changed the subject.

You’re concerned that working with this owner could give you the reputation across the NFL as a yes-man. However, what message does it send if you turn down the first opportunity to become a GM? There’s no guarantee you’ll earn this shot again—especially if owners get the idea that you didn’t even want to fight for what you believed in.

You have a call on your cell phone. It’s that team owner’s office. The admin asks if you have time to speak with him.

If he offers you the job do you take it?  Why or why not? Are you concerned about being pegged a yes man? Is there anything you’d try to negotiate with the owner after he makes his offer?

The two writers assigned to this scenario last night will send me their response by next week. Interested in sharing your thoughts? Comment below.

2 responses to “GM Scenario No.9: The Interview”

  1. So much of this scenario depends on personal life goals. How important is money to you, personally? How important is earning the title of general manager, to you?

    Personally, I’d have a pretty easy time of answering this: I would not take this job, unless the owner gives me a guarantee that I’ll have final say over personnel decisions. That I’ll be a general manager in reality, and not just in title. If I can’t get that, then this is new scenario is not an improvement for me: the money’s better, and the title is nominally better, but the job responsibilities are much worse. Moreover, I’ll effectively be a scapegoat for the owner, who has proven to be incompetent so far. In other words: things are going to go wrong, I will not be able to stop them, and I’ll be blamed and eventually fired for them. And that firing is likely to be the end of my career as a general manager, because GMs don’t get many second chances. I am much more worried about that than being seen as a yes-man.

    Given the owners this is modeled on (Jerry Jones/Al Davis/Dan Snyder), I have no shot of actually getting what I’d want, which means I need to do damage control to protect my image. I’d either release a statement or leak comments to the media that say that I turned down the offer because I wanted to stay close to my family, and because I love the organization and situation I am in now. That the owner made me a terrific offer, but that I had to do what was best for my personal life. Do everything to make it sound like I didn’t snub the owner, because I don’t want to be seen as the bad guy.

    I believe that the sort of owner I would want to work for as a general manager would understand my objections and would not hold my turning this interest down against me. I would not be the first person to turn interest down and get chances with other organizations later on, so I am not too worried about that. The worst-case scenario is that I stick around where I am now in a job I love. I don’t see how that’s a problem.

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