While much of the focus this time of year is on the Head Coaches under pressure, front office staff at struggling teams also can find themselves on the proverbial ‘chopping block’ as owners evaluate how best to turn their franchises fortunes around in 2016. The reality of the business of the NFL is that someone has to take the fall for poor performance as fans look for proactive owners to inject new life into teams. The executives below, be it by virtue of cap mismanagement, poor drafting or bad free agent acquisitions may be searching for alternate employment come January.
Ruston Webster, Tennessee Titans
Firing a coach in the middle of the season can end up reflecting on the GM in one of two ways. If the team rallies around the interim and performs better the coach was the problem, not the talent. However, if the team continues to struggle to compete even under new leadership then the talent can be seen as the problem. This appears to be the problem in Tennessee as the ousting of Ken Whisenhunt has highlighted that the problems with the team run deeper than the coaching. Webster may also end up looking for new employment following the end of the season.
Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis Colts
Chuck Pagano is likely gone in Indianapolis at the end of the season and the bigger question is whether Grigson may also be shown the door. The thought entering 2016 was that one or the other would lose out in a power struggle but the poor performance of the team this season despite the team seeming poised for a Super run might lead to a complete clearing of house. While Grigson was lauded for his success in quickly turning a 2-14 team into a winner recent acquisitions have not led to continued success. A litany of failed trades (Trent Richardson springs to mind) and poor / luxury drafting that hasn’t addressed major roster weaknesses mean it wouldn’t be surprising to see Grigson gone.
Ray Farmer, Cleveland Browns
Once again Cleveland is a mess, and owner Jimmy Haslam would not surprise many if he blew the whole thing up once more and started from scratch. The roll call of first round picks under Farmer reads Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving. With that track record I am unsure I would again be trusting him with a likely top 5 pick and as the track record in Free Agency ($9million for Dwayne Bowe anyone?) isn’t much better, Farmer may be on even thinner ice than Head Coach Mike Pettine.
Doug Whaley, Buffalo Bills
Reports out of Buffalo are that Whaley could be in trouble which is a little surprising. Recent draft picks Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby look like stars and trading for Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy has led to a major step forward offensively in terms of talent. The problems the Bills have faced this year have largely been down to the Defense adapting to Rex Ryans scheme which doesn’t seem to suit the personnel currently which is a coaching issue and not a talent one. Whaley deserves the opportunity to continue the good work he has started in Buffalo as the Bills strive for relevance once again.
Jerry Reese, New York Giants
Similar to Tom Coughlin, Reese has been given a lot of leeway in New York (rightly) having brought two Super Bowl titles to the Meadowlands. The time may have come, however, for the team to go in a different direction as the roster is in flux and depth problems have been clear to see for a few years now. RB and LB in particular have been below par positions on the Giants team for a number of seasons and Reese has been unable to bolster the depth chart and plug the gaps. It might be time for the team to go in a new direction and refresh the organisation throughout.
Mickey Loomis, New Orleans Saints
Can anyone name a worse defense in football than New Orleans over the last couple of years – I’ll wait?! High priced free agents like Jarius Byrd have come in and underperformed and helped to leave the Saints with one of the worst cap situations in the whole NFL. The team looks as though a complete overhaul of the roster is needed and success may take some time to return to ‘The Big Easy.’ Loomis may not be seen as the right guy to lead that rebuilding project.
Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons
Many see the Falcons as a team that has underachieved over the last few seasons and one that has been trending in the wrong direction. Mike Smith was fired after the 2014 season, largely because of his inability to ‘toughen up’ a team that lacked physicality. That the change of coaching staff has not led to an immediate upturn in performance (despite the early season mirage) reflects badly on a GM many thought wouldn’t survive last years organisational restructure. In fairness to Dimitroff, there have been very few calamitous draft and free agency decisions made by the Falcons who have a core of young talent (Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant, Vic Beasley) drafted in recent years on which to build. It might be prudent to give Dimitroff another season to work with Dan Quinn to again build a contender in the NFC.