Last night, we wrapped up our first-ever ITL GM Academy, and it was a smashing success. For one night each, we had a former NFL GM talk to several young risers in the NFL scouting industry, most of them directors of college scouting, on how to get and excel in the job of NFL general manager.
I can’t say enough about how open and transparent each of our GMs — Tim Ruskell (Seahawks) on Monday, Jerry Angelo (Bears) on Tuesday, Doug Whaley (Bills) Wednesday and Billy Devaney (Rams) on Thursday — was this week. They told stories that I wish I could tell here. “The week exceeded all expectations!,” said one of the participants.
Here are a few nuggets from this week’s speakers.
On owners (former Rams GM Billy Devaney): “You get the job, you do need to develop a relationship with the owner. He’s gonna want access to you, but it’s gotta be a two-way street. If there’s a key injury or you get a chance to make a big trade, and your guy is on some yacht in southern France, you have to have the ability to have access to him. Set up a time every week to meet with him. I mean, over-communicate early with the guy. You want to keep reassuring him that you’re the right guy.
“There’s two kinds of owners: hands-on and absentee. I’ve seen it both ways. Don’t let hands-on owners be a negative. It’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but believe me, the positives far outweigh the negatives.”
On the value of networking (former Bills GM Doug Whaley): “The only reason I got the chance in Buffalo was, in ‘05-’06, the league had a masters program at Stanford and it was a week-long – I got a master’s from Stanford! — and had meetings all day, then at night they would break us up into five-man groups and have us work together. We had 3-4 questions to work on every night. I wondered, why are all of us doing the same questions? Why not all do one question, then we all talk about it afterward? And (Bills executive) Russ Brandon loved that, so when Buddy (Nix) became the GM, Brandon was really promoting me because of my work with Doug at the Stanford program.” Four years later, in 2010, Whaley was hired as the Assistant GM in Buffalo, and took over for Nix as GM in 2013.
On your most crucial hires (former Bears GM Jerry Angelo): “What do you do to offset your weakness, especially if it’s the cap? . . . The Bears let me hire a cap guy, and I hired (former agent) Cliff Stein. He was in my network. Intelligent and hard-working. I interviewed guys with a better resume, but I had a gut feeling on him.
“I wish my draft picks went as well as that hire. But you have to identify someone who is good with the cap.”
On working with your head coach (former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell): “I had all the control, and it was an awesome responsibility. I didn’t take advantage of that. I always worked collaboratively with my head coach, and I feel you have to do that.”
If this kind of thing intrigues you, make sure you sign up for our Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening. We’ll have more about our work this week with tomorrow’s GMs in this evening’s edition. We’ll also talk about the next wave of GM candidates as told to us by people across the game. Here’s last week’s edition. I hope you’ll check it out.