Eric Galko’s Decision on “Change Horses?” (RSPWP III)

Can Vick stay heathy? Tanier believes the mobile quarterback is worth the risk as his starter.
Galko recognizes the talent of his current quarterback, but he believes he can find a better fit. See below. Photo by Keith Allison.

See why Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko is willing to horse trade and take the heat for doing so.

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.5: Change Horses in the Middle of the Stream?

It’s not easy being a new general manager, especially for a team that has been on the cusp of winning and has provided a teasing excitement to the fan base. In short, there’s no way to please anyone as this new job approaches.

We have a coaching staff still in place from the previous regime, and while it’s a strong one, it’s neither one that’s hand-picked nor one that I can feel confident that we can consistently reach agreement. We have a quarterback that, despite his tremendous talents and highlight reel capability, hasn’t been able to take the team to the Promised Land that is the NFL playoffs. And finally, we have an opportunity to rebuild, retool or attempt to restart the franchise’s offense, with the ultimate goal of long-term playoff stability.

As a general manager, my goal is simple: to provide my coaching staff a roster that has Super Bowl-level talent at every position. My philosophy doesn’t allow for closeness and optimism. There’s a caliber of player that is Super Bowl-level material, and it’s my job to put unique and prepared talent in position to win championships. Playoff berths are great, division titles are cherished, but if you’re not aiming to win the Super Bowl, you’re selling your franchise short, both in the short-term and down the line.

That being said, and as hard as it would be, I think it’s time to move on from our quarterback. Seemingly like a mix between Brett Favre and Michael Vick, both with the excitements and frustrations, it’s time to change the tide and find a quarterback that fits the offense and team mentality better. Ideally, there would be a way to harness his unique talent and put him in position to set up the offense for success, but that simply hasn’t happened in five years.

And as a new GM, I can’t bank on the staff retooling the offense during his progression with flaky optimism that it may work out. He’s had his turn to emerge as a capable and Super Bowl-worthy passer, but I can’t afford to stake my job on a quarterback that hasn’t shown the signs I require in the most important position on the field.

So with the idea of moving on from my quarterback in mind, my current strategy isn’t unlike what the Cincinnati Bengals did in the 2011 draft. The goal of my draft strategy is to secure both the top-end, promising receiver that is expected to be available at 15th overall, and find a way to secure my franchise quarterback later in the draft (a la the Bengals grabbing AJ Green and Andy Dalton).

To secure my franchise quarterback, who I’ll delve into in a minute, I’ll need to find a suitor who can offer me a late first-round pick or multiple mid-rounders so that I can secure my small school passer in a trade-up opportunity. With the recent success (Dalton, Kaepernick, Wilson and Foles), it isn’t naïve to think that a second-round quarterback (or one traded-up for in the late first) isn’t a legitimate franchise quarterback option. The Broncos and Bengals received a tremendous package for Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer, respectively, and it isn’t unreasonable to think the same is possible for this quarterback as well.

As for why this new quarterback is the answer, the answer lies in the system. In today’s NFL, it’s about finding quarterbacks that fit your system, not forcing passers into a scheme that isn’t conducive to their success. Despite being a small school prospect, the scouting report on the quarterback boasts maturity, leadership and quick-learning ability. He also displays plus awareness in the pocket and experience in the West Coast offense. Every quarterback will need time before they’re ready, but I’d much rather go with a quarterback I can trust mentally and that fits the current system as opposed to one that requires a scheme overhaul to potentially take the next steps.

A key part of this scenario relies on finding a veteran quarterback to battle with and tutor my rookie passer before draft day–ideally a quarterback like Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel or someone in that vein. At a minimum, it should be someone who can provide an immediate starter and veteran presence in a locker room that, after trading the team’s leading passer, will certainly be divided early on.

It’s certainly a risk to move on from a quarterback who has proven he can handle the NFL game and  a rookie, especially when the fan support and likely ownership may put further pressure on me as my plan develops. If this rookie busts, it’ll likely cost me, and my coaching staff, their jobs, and that pressure isn’t easy to take. However, as a new general manager hoping to last for a long-time in the NFL, it’s essential that I put the organization in a position where I can see the Super Bowl future, rather than banking on a past failure to bail me out

Matt’s Notes

In contrast to Josh Liskiewitz, Eric intimates that his current coaching staff is on the hook for this quarterback and he’d rather start anew. Perhaps Eric also hopes that if it comes down to it, he can buy some time with the team by firing the old staff.

Even so, Eric knows what he wants and he’s willing to make the difficult decision and take the initial heat for it. His take is decisive and rooted in high standards.

Eric Galko is the Owner/Editor at Optimum Scouting. He also provides NFL Draft Content for Sporting News and he’s a contributor at National Football Post. You can email him at or follow him on Twitter @OptimumScouting.

2 responses to “Eric Galko’s Decision on “Change Horses?” (RSPWP III)”

  1. I like the decisiveness, but I have a different perspective around offensive coaches. What I hear described is a decent coach with a good scheme. That is a majority of NFL (and college) coaches. It works when the talent fits, it fails when the talent doesn’t, and it makes it very easy to blame the talent level for any failings. In an ultra-competitive environment, this is rarely the optimal long-term strategy. It works only when the perfect franchise players are in place for a long time (e.g. Peyton Manning’s offense). Alright coach + good scheme covers Mike Martz and Charlie Weiss’ time at Notre Dame. Martz’s offense fell apart without a top 5 Oline, Kurt Warner, and hall-of-fame caliber skill players. When Weiss couldn’t recruit the level of talent Tyrone left him with, his schemes that took ND to the top of college football stopped working. These coaches were unable to be flexible and use the talent they had left.

    There is another way to coach; the way that Bill Bellicheck coaches the Pats, or Gus Malzahn at Auburn changes schemes. Bellicheck can run a Brady dink/dunk, a run heavy Dillon attack, or a protect Matt Cassel from everything and rely on the defense scheme. Gus Malzahn’s offenses range from 80+% passing to 90% rushing depending on his players. That is flexibility and great coaching. This is a tangential issue from Mr. Vlummer, but it does intersect this problem; if our coach cannot attune his schemes to best maximize the mix of players we provide, it makes our job as GM far more difficult and it makes it more difficult to regularly be a super-bowl challenger. It is much easier to be a challenger if we don’t have to skip drafting Dexter McCluster because our coach will just try to plug/play him at receiver (see also Schottenheimer + Tavon Austin). That same view holds true for slow running backs (Marion Grice), tall lanky not-speedster CBs (Brandon Browner), or undersized 1 gap DLineman (Geno Smith, Aaron Donald). While Mr. Vlummer may not be the answer, I’m not sure our coaches are the answer, either.

    If we’re going to take big risks on players, shouldn’t we also consider taking some risks around finding better coaches?

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