Mazurek: General managers have the toughest job in the NFL
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, April 27, 2017
Would you like to know the hardest job in sports?
No, it’s not the person who has to type up the closed captioning for Charles Barkley.
No, it’s not an NHL goalie, nor is it an NFL quarterback, although both positions are extremely challenging to play at a high level.
The hardest job in sports is actually the guy or gal who has to pick who plays quarterback.
And for general managers across the NFL, the toughest day of the year comes on Thursday, as the 2017 version of the League kicks off in Philadelphia.
And what makes a GM’s job on draft day so darn hard boils down to two things: immense pressure and working with incomplete information.
To say there is a lot of pressure on GMs to get their picks right on draft day seems like an obvious thing to say, but just how important the draft is actually gets understated.
Everyone knows you can’t win in the NFL without a good quarterback, and you can’t win a Super Bowl without a great one. But where do you get that franchise quarterback? You hardly ever get one through free agency, because if a team has a quarterback good enough to be franchise material, they wouldn’t trade him and would pay him enough for him not to leave.
So, for teams that lack the most essential component of success, that franchise quarterback has to come from the draft.
So if you’re a GM, the pressure to find your team’s next franchise starter is huge. You pick an under-the-radar cornerback in the fourth round to give your team solid depth at the position? No one cares. You trade up to steal away a first-round caliber player in the beginning of the third round? No one will give it a second glance.
But if you can’t find a quarterback, you’re done. Period. Full stop.
It doesn’t matter if there don’t seem to be any good quarterbacks in the draft the year you have an OK pick. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick in 2000. Joe Montana was taken in the third round. Just last year, Dak Prescott was picked in the fourth round and led the Cowboys to the playoffs with the best record in the NFC. But knowing those unlikely success stories makes the job even harder.
Also making the job harder is the fact that GMs aren’t playing with a full deck in their war rooms. So much depends on accurately evaluating potential quarterback prospects, but how much can you truly know about a 21-year-old player who started for just a year in college? Some draft experts say Mitch Trubisky may be the first quarterback taken, yet he only started at North Carolina for one season. If you’re the GM of the Jaguars or the Browns, would you bet your job on a guy who only started a single year?
You can talk to coaches, interview the player, do background checks, but that doesn’t and can’t give you a definitive picture of anyone.
Despite all that, let’s say you find a quarterback you like. You think he’ll fit your system and you like his attitude. But, oh, what’s that? The Chiefs traded up to the pick right in front of you and took him? Too bad. Your fanbase will surely understand that you had him all vetted and picked out, but you just got outmaneuvered for him.
Am I saying to cut your GM some slack when he trades up to pick Patrick Mahomes? No. All I’m suggesting is the job is harder than it looks.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.