This week, the pro and college football world was stunned by Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage’s resignation. Angus R. Cooper II, the Chairman of the Mobile Arts and Sports Association, immediately launched a search committee and is actively engaged in accepting applications and seeking to fill the vacancy.
Savage was an inspired hire. Not only had he been an NFL GM (with Cleveland 2005-08), but he is a Mobile native and Alabama grad. Since assuming the reins of the game in May 2012, he’s consistently kept the number of draftees at around 90 players while introducing innovations like adding underclassmen and bringing the game’s production and promotion into the 21st century. He had other ideas, like a Junior Showcase, that looked promising and exciting but never came to fruition, unfortunately.
Savage will be a hard act to follow. Though we don’t yet know who’s shown, or will show, interest, let’s have a little fun and look at some names that might make sense (in no certain order).
- Ozzie Newsome, GM, Ravens: Newsome is in his final season in Baltimore, and this might be his golden opportunity to return to Alabama (he’s from Muscle Shoals) and stay involved in a more relaxed role. As a former Tide player (and a member of the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame, Class of ’89, as well as Savage’s former boss in Baltimore, he checks all the boxes. He’s respected, connected and proven. The only negative is that he wouldn’t be able to assume the reins until after Baltimore’s season ends.
- Tony Softli, Executive Director, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: Tony has one of the things Savage had when he arrived: plenty of NFL experience, including 15 years spent with the Rams and Panthers (four of those as the Rams’ Director of Player Personnel). He also has something Savage didn’t have: extensive all-star game experience. Though the 2018 roster wasn’t the best of his five-year run, Tony has given the game stability and a sharp eye for talent since he arrived on the scene in 2013.
- Marc Ross, former V.P., Player Evaluation, for the Giants: Like Tony, Ross has an impressive NFL pedigree, having worked for the Bills and Eagles along with the Giants. He’s also Ivy League-educated as a Princeton grad. At 45, he’s plenty young enough to continue Savage’s innovations and expand them. Energy shouldn’t be a problem. And speaking of Ross, his former boss, ex-Giants GM Jerry Reese, wouldn’t be such a bad candidate, either, though we expect to see him in an NFL front office role again soon.
- Jeff Foster, President, National Football Scouting: This would probably be a step down in station and money for Jeff, but the job might involve less pressure and almost as much football. He’s done a great job at National, though with the NFL threatening to start moving the combine from its Indy home, maybe it’s a good time for him to look around.
- Ryan Grigson, former GM, Colts: Though he doesn’t have Southeast roots, this might be the right opportunity. He’s coming off a tough tenure with the Colts, followed by a short stint with the Browns, so the Senior Bowl could restore momentum to his career. And like Ross, he’s between jobs right now, so he could start immediately.
- Blake Beddingfield, former Director of College Scouting, Titans: An Alabama grad and native of Huntsville, Beddingfield would be coming home. He’s well-regarded across the league and highly organized, and he knows talent. He’s also well-liked and polished. Blake is another one who might not be as sexy as other candidates, but he could be an excellent pick who sticks around for a long time in Mobile.
- Doug Whaley, former GM, Bills: Like other ex-GMs on this list, Whaley has football connections by the bushel, knows evaluation and is highly regarded. The only negative would be his lack of ties to the area and his possible reluctance to relocate to South Alabama.
Do these names make sense? Want a few more? In today’s Friday Wrap, we’ll look at some candidates that might be home-run hires if the powers that be (and the candidates themselves) are willing to take a few risks. It comes out this evening (6:30 p.m. CT), it’s totally free, and you can register here. And if there are any we’re missing, let us know on Twitter.