Are NFL Draft Results Enough to Evaluate a NFL GM? Probably not (Part 2)

Will the Panthers draft the future replacement for Thomas Davis?

Well, we've had a lot of fun at CSR attempting to gauge the effectiveness of Marty Hurney where drafting talent is concerned. To refresh your memory, we introduced a system here, and with minor refinements revisited it here and here. And as with any such system, it received its fair share of detractors.

The problem here is, a player's success is not just about their talent. It's about the talent around them, the coaching they receive, and the philosophy of the coaching staff. A GM can draft a great man corner, but if the coach plays zone all the time then he may find himself watching instead of playing. Was that a good pick? What can you say about selecting a running back when you already have a great one on your roster? Do you need two star quality backs or just one, with a change-of-pace guy behind him on the bench? We all love Jonathan Stewart, but was he the best pick we could have made?

Maybe if we didn't have DeAngelo Williams he would have been, but that year we really needed an offensive lineman. But instead of taking Chris Williams, Branden Albert, Gosder Cherilus or Jeff Otah we grabbed Stewart, and then traded away our 2009 first round pick to take Otah later. That in turn led to a desperation trade in 2009 that cost us our 2010 pick, which we could have used to take Tim Tebow, right?

Ok, maybe the pick wasn't THAT bad in retrospect, but the bottom line is that we took a running back when we already had a great one. So he's a great player, but he isn't Hurney's best pick by far.

It's not just need that causes confusion, it's the effort to compare a wide receiver with a defensive tackle. They're two very different positions, so how do you measure how effective each selection is? Granted, some people probably believe you can just look at their Madden ratings, but those kind of armchair GMs have probably stopped reading already.

So we looked at appearances, starts, pro bowls, and all pro games. It's about all you have. And it's no surprise that others feel the same way, it's really about all you can use unless you have insanely in-depth stats (and Barnwell probably does, but uses these anyway).

Our conclusion? Hurney's a top ten GM as far as drafting players is concerned. We haven't looked at his cap management (stellar), we haven't looked at the quality of his coaching staffs (I'm pretty happy with them), and we haven't looked at his ability to make good trades or sign good free agents (meh...). We've just looked at the draft.

Is that enough? Probably not....we will look at these other factors...after the jump...

Perhaps a better way to judge Marty Hurney's job performance is by the impact he's had on the win/loss record. After all, it's the GM who hires the coaching staff, and who assembles the roster. And there are so many variables there that almost can't find a way to measure each that doesn't open you up to all kinds of criticism.

We use the word impact because it's easy to look good if you get 10 wins every year, but what if you get those wins because you inherited a roster with Tom Brady under center and Bill Belichick coaching? That doesn't say you're a good GM, it says you know how to stay out of the way.

When it's bottom line time, we should look at the difference between what the club was doing before the GM got there, and what it has done since. Since the average tenure for a non-owner GM in the league is four years, we'll go back four years to get our measurement. Of course, such a number is meaningless without comparisons, so we will add in all the other current GMs, and to make it fair to the new guys (who skew the hell out of these ratings), we won't go back further than how long they've been employed.

That gives us the following table:

Team General Manager Start Year Tenure Prior Avg First Four Years Overall Initial Difference Overall Difference
San Francisco 49ers Trent Baalke 2011 1 6.0 13.0 13.0 +7.0 +7.0
San Diego Chargers A. J. Smith 2003 9 5.5 9.8 9.8 +4.3 +4.3
Carolina Panthers Marty Hurney 2002 10 5.3 9.0 7.9 +3.8 +2.7
Atlanta Falcons Thomas Dmitroff 2008 4 7.5 10.8 10.8 +3.3 +3.3
Houston Texans Rick Smith 2006 6 4.5 7.8 7.8 +3.3 +3.3
New York Giants Jerry Reese 2007 5 7.3 10.0 9.8 +2.8 +2.6
Seattle Seahawks John Schneider 2010 2 4.5 7.0 7.0 +2.5 +2.5
Kansas City Chiefs Scott Pioli 2009 3 5.0 7.0 7.0 +2.0 +2.0
Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones 1989 23 6.8 8.0 8.6 +1.3 +1.9
Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Colbert 2000 12 8.5 9.5 10.6 +1.0 +2.1
New York Jets Mike Tannenbaum 2006 6 7.3 8.0 8.5 +0.8 +1.3
Miami Dolphins Jeff Ireland 2008 4 7.0 7.8 7.8 +0.8 +0.8
New Orleans Saints Mickey Loomis 2002 10 6.5 7.0 9.0 +0.5 +2.5
Baltimore Ravens Ozzie Newsome 2003 9 9.3 9.5 9.7 +0.3 +0.4
Cleveland Browns Tom Heckert, Jr. 2010 2 4.5 4.5 4.5 0.0 0.0
Buffalo Bills Buddy Nix 2009 3 6.0 5.3 5.3 -0.7 -0.7
Detroit Lions Martin Mayhew 2008 4 5.3 4.5 4.5 -0.8 -0.8
New England Patriots Nick Caserio 2008 4 13.0 12.0 12.0 -1.0 -1.0
Philadelphia Eagles Howie Roseman 2010 2 10.0 9.0 9.0 -1.0 -1.0
Arizona Cardinals Rod Graves 2002 10 6.3 5.0 6.5 -1.3 0.3
Jacksonville Jaguars Gene Smith 2009 3 8.0 6.7 6.7 -1.3 -1.3
Denver Broncos Brian Xanders 2009 3 8.0 6.7 6.7 -1.3 -1.3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark Dominik 2009 3 7.3 5.7 5.7 -1.7 -1.7
Washington Redskins Bruce Allen 2009 3 7.3 5.0 5.0 -2.3 -2.3
Green Bay Packers Ted Thompson 2005 7 11.0 7.8 9.6 -3.3 -1.4
Cincinnati Bengals Pete Brown 1991 21 8.3 3.5 5.9 -4.8 -2.3

Pretty interesting stuff, huh?

It turns out, by the only yardstick that really matters, Marty Hurney was very effective in turning around the Panthers.

In the four years before he took control, the Panthers averaged 5.3 wins a season. In his next four years, they went to 9.0.

That's not too shabby. In fact, it's better than most. But it's the next column that really tells the story.

Since those first four years, the Panthers have actually gotten worse. Yes, we had a 2 win season. But that happened on his watch, and it's also something few GMs survive.

Seasons like that represent institutional problems, and there were a couple of reasons for ours that can be laid directly at Hurney's feet. Basically, he does a poor job of managing his veteran talent--John Fox isn't the only one who holds on too long.

Let's go back to the imaginings in part one of this article. So you don't need to look, here's the crucial one.

Imagine, if you will, having to summon someone into your office to give them bad news. This person is at the peak of his profession. He's worked his entire life, sacrificed untold hours in the gym and film room, played through injuries and pain, and basically suffered through a lot to achieve his ultimate dream. And it's your job to take it all away from him, to tell him that he isn't good enough.

Marty Hurney is the guy who has to end players' dreams. And from all accounts, he's just not very good at it. He makes attachments to his players, and wants to believe that they can still play, and that they want to play for the Panthers.

John Fox was often criticized for staying with his vets for too long, but Marty Hurney is the reason they were still on the roster, and he's especially at fault for neglecting to find replacements for the favorites.

Take Mike Minter. How many 33 year old safeties are there in the NFL? How many with chronic knee issues? In 2007, he announced his retirement in the preseason. Where was the guy on the bench who was ready to take his place? In the previous four drafts, the Panthers made one attempt to get a replacement in Nate Salley. How long did Hurney expect Minter to play?

Everyone and his brother knew we needed a replacement eventually, but he stuck with the guy he knew, who of course would tell him he could go another year, and he got burned.

Consider Jake Delhomme. In all the time he was a Panther, they never adequately addressed the backup QB position. So when he fizzled, there was no one waiting in the wings to take over. It's really easy to say "should-a, could-a, would-a" where the draft is concerned, but the Panthers always seemed to add a "don't wanna" to that list where the QB is concerned.

A GM with a better eye towards the future may not pass over Aaron Rodgers in favor of Thomas Davis. Or he may not wait five more years before drafting another one. And of course that's a cheap shot, as 30 other GMs made the same mistake, but it's not like the best we could do was another undrafted free agent, that's just what we chose to do.

Julius Peppers didn't want to play in Carolina. He turned in a crappy season, and then turned down the opportunity to be the highest paid defensive player in the league. A GM who wasn't so personally attached to his players may recognize that, and may understand that throwing more money at someone who's already worth 100 million may not work.

Instead, we went through the whole franchise tag debacle and watched him walk with no compensation. In the meantime, New England got a first round draft pick for Richard Seymour.

And that's really Hurney's achilles heel. He's great at cap management, and he has a very good knack for finding talent in the draft. He's also struck gold in two coaching searches, and he's rarely pursued a big name free agent that he didn't get. He probably has more job security than any other non-owner GM in the league.

His problem is, he's a sentimental guy who's utterly passionate about the Panthers and their players. When that was combined with John Fox, who loved veterans, it resulted in a roster where they paid far too much for players who had been here far too long.

If it wasn't for the intervention of Jerry Richardson that resulted in a roster purge, the Panthers would probably have completed 2010 with 6-8 wins again, drafted a good player (but not a potential superstar), and would remain on the .500 treadmill that they've been on throughout Hurney's reign.

Maybe Hurney's learned from that whole episode, and won't be so confident that guys will continue to play at the top of their games when they're obviously past their primes or...coming off multiple in injuries.

Case in point: LB Thomas Davis. I don' t think anyone faults Hurney for bringing Davis back to let him try what has never been done in the NFL...return to the field after 3 major surgeries on the same knee. Where he should be faulted though is not having a back-up plan for the WLB position.

We don't need a temporary stop gap either; our zone blitz defense places a premium on linebacker play, and we need a long term solution at all three positions. If Davis is not able to complete his comeback (shades of Dan Morgan) a lot of fans will probably say "What were you thinking?". And they'll be right to question him.

Maybe Rivera will help Hurney with the decision-making and when to cut guys loose, so those behind them can develop. His background suggests he has a bit of a thick skin, and his experience as a player will probably provide some needed perspective.

We won't know the all answers right away but we will have a little more insight by Saturday. For now, there are few people that you would rather have deciding who the next rookie crop will be. And you can bet that finding a replacement who's as good as he is in all the other areas won't be easy.

As far as this Thursday is concerned? In Hurney we trust.

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