The last five years in the NFL has been fraught with changes at general manager around the league, with the Carolina Panthers simply being the next in line. Excitement is in the air regarding a new regime, and a new mind at the helm-- but are new GMs always what they're cracked up to be? Today we look at seven general managers hired between 2008 and 2010, to get an idea whether their organizations are better off, worse off, or about the same as when they look over.
Martin Mayhew-- Detroit Lions
Succeeding Matt Millen couldn't have been that difficult, right? After all, Millen is still regarded as one of the worst GMs in NFL history, and a perpetual draft-day punchline, when the former executive chose to select three wide receivers in a row with successive first round picks.
Of the GMs we're looking at today, arguably Mayhew had the hardest job. So, how does his stack up?
Record as GM: 20-47 (.299)
Key draft picks: Matthew Stafford (2009), Ndamukong Suh (2010)
Questionable draft decision: Trading up for oft-injured RB Jahvid Best (2010)
Coaching moves: Rod Marinelli (2008), Jim Schwartz (2009-present)
If you look at the record in isolation it's hard to see a huge difference between Mayhew's tenure, and that of his predecessor. However, if you look at the change in football culture, finally finding a franchise QB, and a solid history of drafting you see that this is a good team, stuck in an excellent division. Making the change was absolutely the right move.
Thomas Dimitroff-- Atlanta Falcons
The current Falcons' GM had the unenviable task of leading a team torn apart by Michael Vick, and put all the pieces back together. Rich McKay, who led the Falcons from 2003-2008 was a perpetual under-achiever, and without Vick it appeared Dimitroff could go the same way. However, through sound drafting and team building he found a way to succeed.
Record as GM: 49-21 (.700)
Key draft picks: Matt Ryan (2008), Sean Weatherspoon (2010), Julio Jones (2011)
Questionable draft decisions: Sam Baker (2008), Peria Jerry (2009)
Coaching moves: Mike Smith (2008-present)
Smart use of the cap and free agency have made the Atlanta Falcons one of the NFL's premiere franchises. However, questionable draft decisions leaves the organization vulnerable long-term. There have been some tremendous hits with Dimitroff at the helm, but also some big whiffs on draft day.
Mark Dominik-- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In a post-Gruden era, it was Mark Dominik, the 'inside man' who was charged with ushering in a new era of success. He was an unlikely name in a search that had many thinking ownership would look outside for a fresh look. Despite this, they elected to hire a man who had been under their nose the whole time.
Record as GM: 19-35 (.351)
Key draft picks: Josh Freeman (2009), Gerald McCoy (2010)
Questionable draft decision: Arrelious Benn (2010)
Coaching moves: Raheem Morris (2009-2011), Greg Schiano (2012-present)
The biggest SNAFU of Dominik's time was hiring Raheem Morris, and losing two years of a rebuild. Morris lost the locker room quickly, and in his second season the 'player's coach' had a locker room of guys who quit on him, and didn't care about the team's success. Greg Schiano seems to be working out so far, but Dominik is better known as a financial wizard, than a football one.
Scott Pioli-- Kansas City Chiefs
The grand prize in 2009, former New England Patriots' general manager Scott Pioli was looking for a change of scenery, and a chance to build another new dynasty. With a rabid fanbase, ownership on board, and Pioli given free reign to tear the team apart as he saw fit, a wholesale change was supposed to finally bring them to prominence again.
Record as GM: 22-32 (.407)
Key draft picks: Eric Berry (2010)
Questionable draft decisions: Tyson Jackson (2009), Dexter McCluster (2010), Jonathan Baldwin (2011), Dontari Poe (2012)
Coaching moves: Todd Haley (2009-2011 fired mid-season), Romeo Crennel (2011-present)
Questionable decisions has been the MO of Pioli's tenure, and reek of a GM trying to get too smart with the draft. He traded for 'his guy' in Matt Cassel, but showed a complete unwillingness to move on when it was apparent he was not a franchise QB. Now the Chiefs are starting Brady Quinn-- that's how ugly their QB position is.
John Schneider-- Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks were a floundering organization post-Holmgren, and needed someone to right the ship. Along with Pete Carrol, it was John Schneider who was asked to be the brains of the Seahawks.
Record as GM: 18-21 (.461)
Key draft picks: Russell Okung (2010), Bruce Irvin (2012), Russell Wilson (2012)
Questionable draft decisions: Golden Tate (2010)
Coaching moves: None. Pete Carroll was hired prior to Schneider.
It hasn't always been perfect in Seattle, but the team are headed in the right direction. Smart moves through free agency, and in the draft has built an unorthodox, but effective team. The most egregious mistake is the floundering at QB. Between over-trading for Charlie Whitehurst, then signing Tavaris Jackson, trading Jackson, letting Whitehurst leave, signing Matt Flynn, and finally drafting Russell Wilson-- yeesh.
Buddy Nix-- Buffalo Bills
A promotion from within, Nix became the Bills' general manager when Russ Brandon was promoted to CEO. He is an old-school football guy, and a former scout. Heavily involved in talent evaulation, Nix has had his hand in every aspect of the Bills.
Record as GM: 31-39 (.442)
Key draft picks: C.J. Spiller (2010), Marcell Dareus (2011)
Questionable draft decisions: None
Coaching moves: Chan Gailey (2010-present)
It hasn't been the most exciting few years in Buffalo, but that's not wholly a bad thing for a team who had experienced as much mediocrity leading up the present. The management of the salary cap has been impressive, but it remains to be seen whether Mario Williams' $100 million contract was worth it.
Tom Heckert, Jr.-- Cleveland Browns
A former director of player personnel in Philadelphia, it was thought that Tom Heckert, paired with Mike Holgren would finally put everything together in Cleveland. Two great football minds working together, what could go wrong?
Record as GM: 10-29 (.256)
Key draft picks: Joe Haden (2010), Trent Richardson (2012), Brandon Weeden (2012)
Questionable draft decisions: Colt McCoy (2010), Jabaal Sheard (2011)
Coaching moves: Eric Mangini (2009-2010), Pat Shurmur (2011-present)
The biggest crime with the current front office is over-thinking the process. This is a team who could currently have Ryan Tannehill throwing passes to Julio Jones, instead they have a 29-year-old rookie without weapons, and a running back who is already having health issues. It's a case where less could have been more, and now both Heckert and Holmgren are likely gone after the season.
Only one general manager has a record about .500 of this group, however there's little doubt that with the exception of the Browns, each team is a better version of themselves. Time will tell if the Panthers can make the same difference.