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NFL AM: General Managers On The Hot Seat

Find out which GM’s likely won’t survive Black Monday.

Charlie Bernstein



The head coaches that may lose their jobs at the end of the season are certainly more publicized, but for every head coach that has failed, there was a general manager that hired him wrongly.  We’re going to take a look at some GM’s that could be looking for work at season’s end.

Dave Caldwell, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have been historically bad during the Dave Caldwell-Gus Bradley era, and that puts everyone in the organization on notice, or at least it should.

The team is certainly more talented now than when he took over, but it hasn’t resulted in wins, which is obviously the goal.

The one thing that Caldwell has going for him is that the roster could be very good, but the head coach has been historically atrocious.  Unfortunately, he’s the one who hired the head coach, so that falls on Caldwell too.

Caldwell has seemingly missed with his three high first-round picks:

Luke Joeckel- No. 2 overall, 2013

Blake Bortles- No. 3 overall, 2014

Dante Fowler, Jr.- No. 3 overall, 2015

He has also tried to supplement these misses with free agency and he’s getting very little return from tight end Julius Thomas and defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

In summation, Caldwell has hired the wrong head coach, missed on three of his four first round picks (none lower than pick No. 3), and wasted the owner’s money in free agency.  If there’s ever been a recipe for getting fired, it looks very similar to that.

Not to mention a 14-43 record.

Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis Colts

We stay right in the AFC South for our next hot seat general manager, and that’s Indianapolis’ Ryan Grigson.  Let’s start with the positives for Grigson:  He has won a pair of division titles and made the playoffs a third time in four and half seasons as Colts GM.

As we look a little deeper, the best thing he’s done as general manager was draft quarterback Andrew Luck, the most obvious no-brainer draft selection in nearly 20 years.  Luck has been the main reason for the team’s success, but he’s seen the roster deteriorate around him as Grigson has called the shots.

Since selecting Luck in 2012, here are Grigson’s first-round picks:

Bjorn Werner- No. 24 overall, 2013

No first round pick in 2014, traded for Trent Richardson

Phillip Dorsett- No. 29 overall, 2015

Ryan Kelly- No. 18 overall, 2016

Since Grigson has put his stamp on the team, they have turned into one of the worst rosters around a great quarterback that we’ve ever seen.  He hasn’t adequately protected the team’s most important investment and Luck has been hurt over the last two seasons.

The win-loss record might not be that bad, but the direction that Indianapolis is headed speaks volumes about the job Grigson has done.  He went on a free agent shopping spree before last season which netted them Frank Gore, Andre Johnson and Trent Cole, all past their prime.

He had the ability to build a champion around a great young quarterback on a rookie contract and failed to do so.  The biggest indictment of his tenure has to be the trade of a first round pick for Trent Richardson, perhaps the only two-team transaction in the last decade that the Cleveland Browns have clearly been deemed the winners of.

Rick Smith, Houston Texans

While we’re in the AFC South, let’s check in with our good friends in Houston and their general manager Rick Smith.

Smith has been the GM in Houston for 11 seasons and he has been a part of the three division titles that the team has won, along with three of their last place finishes.  Smith’s Texans are currently in first place in the AFC South.

So why is he on the list?

The Texans are a first place team, but it’s mostly by default, as the rest of the AFC South is simply atrocious.  Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien have repeatedly passed on drafting a quarterback early, and they’re left with one of the worst starters in the NFL in Brock Osweiler who they significantly overpaid in free agency (four years, $72 million).

Although it’s more than likely that Houston will be hosting a playoff game this January, they aren’t a legitimate contender until they get an answer at quarterback and they really haven’t had one in Smith’s entire tenure.

Compared to the jobs that Dave Caldwell and Ryan Grigson have done, Smith should be safe, but wasting the owner’s money to cover up your fear of a young quarterback isn’t a particularly good look.  Especially when you’ve won just two Wildcard Round playoff games in 11 years (against the Andy Dalton/Marvin Lewis administration).

Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers

It may seem like the days of Steve Young and Jerry Rice since the 49ers were legitimate contenders, but it was just three years ago that the team gave Seattle all they could handle in the NFC Championship Game.

How the mighty have fallen.

Trent Baalke was given the title of General Manager in 2011 and promptly took the 49ers to a pair of NFC title games and a Super Bowl in the first three years.

Well, Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh.

After the two butted heads, the 49ers have simply been a dumpster fire and now they have one of the worst rosters in the NFL.

Baalke has had the unique opportunity to hire three head coaches, and the only constant since Harbaugh left is that they will have a last place football team.

There hasn’t been much of a return from his drafts since the 2011 season, and 2014 second-round pick Carlos Hyde is the only selection that looks like he could be an impact player, when healthy.  San Francisco has seen multiple players retire prematurely under his watch (Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Anthony Davis), and perhaps his best draft pick, Aldon Smith, has been suspended multiple times before being waived by the team before last season.

The 49ers are in a downward spiral and they have no legitimate answer at quarterback.  Baalke hired Chip Kelly to be the head coach, right after Kelly’s personnel decisions decimated a good Philadelphia Eagles franchise.

The brain trust of Baalke and Kelly is equating to exactly what we thought: a 1-9 start with plenty more losses to come.

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.

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