The Texans’ dismissal of Brian Gaine as GM last week was part of a trend, but probably not a trend anyone is discussing much these days. I think Gaine’s exit is the latest confirmation that the center of power has changed from the general manager to the head coach, especially in the last 2-3 years. Consider:

  • The Bills gave first-time head coach Sean McDermott almost complete control of decision-making after the team cleaned house in the scouting department in April 2017, just four months after hiring him.
  • Similarly, just a few months after hiring Adam Gase as head coach, the Jets allowed Gase to force out GM Mike Maccagnan and bring in a GM with which he is far more comfortable, Joe Douglas.
  • The Panthers and the Chiefs — two teams with tenured, established head coaches — each fired respected GMs in the summer of 2017, a previously unheard-of move with training camp just weeks away.
  • The Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, who had been fired at Texas Tech, as their new head coach though he had no previous NFL experience. Then they spent the No. 1 pick on his guy, a player that the team will have to completely reshape their offense to fit and dumped last year’s first-round QB.
  • In New Orleans, GM Mickey Loomis doesn’t even spend all his time on the Saints, as he also has a leadership role with the NBA Pelicans. Most of his duties are business- and cap-related, anyway.
  • Though Falcons Assistant GM Scott Pioli left on his own terms after the draft, his departure gives head coach Dan Quinn a much stronger hand in the organization’s direction.

That’s eight teams (Bills, Cardinals, Chiefs, Falcons, Jets, Panthers, Saints and Texans) that have acted decisively to hand the iron in the organization to the head coach, or that have a structure that doesn’t put the locus of strength in the front office. You can expect other teams to copy them, given that five of those eight teams have been in the playoffs at least once since 2017.

Reasons for this are multiple.

  • The real innovation in football is taking place at the college level offensively. NFL teams are doing what they have to do to find college coaches that can bring in new ideas.
  • Today’s NFL rules strongly favor the offense, so you better have a head coach that can take advantage of that. If that means increasing his authority, you have to do it.
  • NFL coaches pay is skyrocketing. It’s not nearly as easy to just dump a coach and eat his salary as it used to be.

So what does this mean for scouts? It’s probably not good news. The GM is to scouts as the head coach is to assistant coaches, which means evaluators are probably not gaining in influence. It also means teams are likely to lean more on their coaches for draft decisions. This doesn’t say good things for where scout pay is headed.

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