The GM Decision: An Organizational Perspective

There's a story from Malcolm Gladwell, who is a frequent writer for Grantland and the New Yorker, that describes the perspective of a young father and immigrant from India. He enrolls his daughter, who isn't much older than 10, into a youth basketball league, and even volunteers to coach (despite never having played or watched basketball in his life). In order to prepare, he reads a rule book and watches some NBA games.

He then goes on to win nearly every game in the season.

His secret? He utilizes full court press, knowing the younger kids can't do much about it and points off turnovers are much easier than setting up an offense and running plays. They pretty much sweep away everyone until parents, coaches, and even the refs tell him to stop because opponents are upset they can't even take a shot.

In summation, the father is a "David vs. Goliath". He is not culturally assessed in American tactics and even the game of basketball, but approaches it from an outsider's point of view. He doesn't try to beat Goliath at his own game, he plays his own game in Goliath's court.

The Carolina Panthers, in choosing a GM, should do just as much.


How Smitty probably views life - via

The Panthers have a small market team and a small market attitude. There's nothing wrong with it, really, since you'll find that can give us more passionate fans and and a proverbial chip-on-the-shoulder outlook on life. But it also creates an attitude where the Panthers are constantly challenged to play up to the level of larger markets.

Thanks to salary caps and such, the NFL doesn't have to worry about competitive inequality as much - but it still is a concern. When a free agent considers where it should go, markets like NY and SF get far more attention. Why shouldn't they - premier locations, fantastic history, and much more attention.

When Carolina tries to capitalize on that, they are unlikely to succeed. Imagine our likelihood to get desired players, staff, resources, etc. over thousands of occasions. Over the long term, we lose out. When we try playing by everyone's model, we lose. This is why we must search for alternative measures - define the market and create circumstances in which you can be favored.

Thus, when we search for a GM, we should find ones that can ably hire personnel, maintain strong relationships among players and staff, and negotiate contracts. Their ability to scout players is far overrated and not a key aspect in determining team success.

Efficient organizations (and thus winning ones) allocate resources and skills well. We should thus allow and encourage the scouting department to make the decisions of who we want and reduce the impact that a GM or JR has in making the decision. He pulls the trigger, but the scouting department should do 100% of the aiming.

Take the Patriots as a prime example of the kind of organization and structure we want within Carolina. Belichick is a coach and knows what works best on the field. His scouting department does a phenomenal job evaluating players. The reason they have so much success is because Belichick is telling the scouting department what kind of players he needs to succeed and his scouts go find them. If his scouts were taking guesses at what might be the best players on the field or who the best players were, then the scouts (and thus the team) is not allocating resources/skills effectively. This inefficiency carries throughout the organization and translates to an ineffective team.


Pictured to the right: A total jerk... and a winner - via

You'll note the same in Chip Kelly, who was and will continue to be one of the hottest coaching prospects until he finally leaves Oregon. When he began, he didn't search for top-ranked recruits - he actually acquired players with unique skill sets to match his offense accordingly. His results speak for themselves.

You'll note the exact opposite with the Cowboys. He has one championship (1994) since taking over in 1989, something he is far from adept at. Frankly, to only have one championship in 23 years (and he wasn't starting from scratch like the Panthers, the Cowboys were well-established), is pretty bad. He and Mike Brown (the only two owner-GMs) are, I would describe, notoriously inept at evaluating talent consistently and making personnel decisions. I'm sure both are great businessmen - scouts, not so much.


Pictured left: Just a jerk... - via

I would thus strongly advocate hiring people who are going to bring a fresh perspective to what it takes to win, not necessarily just those who have been with winning teams.

I loved the hiring of Ernie Accorsi for this exact reason. JR isn't making the sole decision to hire a GM, he's getting outside opinions.

However, it encourages me to say neither NY Giants' Dave Gettleman or Marc Ross are as attractive as they appear. They are certainly well qualified, from a strong culture of winning, but I want to see a new approach. We've tried recycling personnel like defensive coaches and a strong emphasis on running the ball. But to what degree of success? Having both are important, but prioritizing air offense is better. At the turn of the decade, when the NFL realized interest and money followed throwing the ball, it changed the rules to cater to QBs. Belichick was one of the earliest to note this.

I'd like to see the Panthers give a chance to Jim Popp of the Montreal Alouettes.

He'll give a different view, perhaps the change Carolina so desperately needs. Frankly, JR can continue sticking to the status quo and keep hoping for a win. Statistically, we'll win a championship eventually. But I'm looking for more than an eventuality. I want and we deserve a dynasty.


Source of hockey, the word "sorry", and maybe a new GM? - via

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