As if being a general manager wasn't difficult enough already, we now live in an era where you are sometimes expected to be bad on purpose. Texans GM Nick Caserio was criticized all offseason because his team … had a stirring Week 18 comeback victory. Jets GM Joe Douglas knows the feeling well. His club's botching of the No. 1 pick in 2021 led to a domino effect where he was trading for a 39-year-old quarterback two years later.
It's a byproduct of cold, hard math finally taking hold of NFL front offices. Of course you should be as bad as possible if you know you aren't making the playoffs, especially if you lack a franchise quarterback. Simple, yet complicated, as these are professional athletes and coaches. They don't get paid to lose. They get paid to convert 4th-and-forevers against the Colts, even if it means missing out on Bryce Young. Simple, yet complicated. The life of an NFL general manager.
The criteria is the same as always. All front office activity — from players and coaches to draft picks and contracts — is taken into consideration. Past achievements are not forgotten, but recent history is given greater emphasis. Even in a results-based business, the process is vital. Last year's list can be found here. 2021's is here.
RotoPat's 2023 GM Rankings
1. Howie Roseman, Eagles
It took the better part of two decades for Howie Roseman to make himself the center of the Eagles' power structure, but his outlasting of Chip Kelly has led to the greatest heights in franchise history. Roseman has hired two coaches since Kelly was fired. Both have reached the Super Bowl. Roseman's 2017 roster was so good it beat Bill Belichick in the big game with a backup quarterback. Backup magic would prove to be something of a theme after Jalen Hurts progressed from “overdrafted No. 2” in 2020 to “best quarterback in the NFC” and Super Bowl starter two years later. 2022 was a testament to everything Roseman does well. His big swings landed. Hurts became a superstar and A.J. Brown became the long-sought No. 1 weapon. Roseman traded a first-rounder for Brown and still had a top-15 pick to spare. Roseman's talent accumulation also paid off in the form of unmatched star power. Last year's Eagles had six All-Pros and eight Pro Bowlers, both tied for the league lead. Whether it was trading for AJB, ponying up for Haason Reddick in free agency or plucking James Bradberry off the scrap heap in late May, Roseman turned over every stone. And he still ended up with a top-10 2023 selection even after reaching the Super Bowl. In a league that can seem defined by randomness, Roseman tilts the odds in his favor by stockpiling high-end assets and trusting the process to result in a Lombardi every now and then. That might not be the stuff childhood dreams are made of, but it is a clinically successful way to approach modern football.
2. Andy Reid/Brett Veach, Chiefs
With Patrick Mahomes at their disposal, the Chiefs get to play a different game than everybody else. In an era where teams are trading their most valuable assets for offensive weapons — see A.J. Brown and Christian McCaffrey in last winter's NFC Championship Game — the Chiefs traded away one of the very best in Tyreek Hill and it didn't even matter. That's a scary prospect for the rest of the league, but it is still something only made possible by Brett Veach and Andy Reid's elite drafting and adept hole plugging. Isiah Pacheco and CB Jaylen Watson were seventh-round picks last spring. They combined to play 57 snaps in the Chiefs' Super Bowl victory. Mid-season trade acquisition Kadarius Toney scored a touchdown in that game. 2021 dumpster dive addition Jerick McKinnon found the end zone 10 times to help get them there. A move that didn't pan out as expected? Trading a 2021 first-rounder for LT Orlando Brown. So thank goodness 2021 second-rounders C Creed Humphrey and LB Nick Bolton both hit. The Chiefs can't punt left tackle and No. 1 receiver forever, but the combination of Mahomes' presence and the front office's successful crate digging is proving close to impossible to stop.
3. Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch, 49ers
Frustrated by Jimmy Garoppolo's injury issues, Kyle Shanahan did not settle for a field goal when he traded up for Trey Lance. But the uncharacteristically risky move has produced disastrous results through two seasons. Lance has provided just four starts and two major injuries. That new problem boomeranged into an old one when 2022 fill-in Garoppolo also got hurt. Enter the literal final pick of the draft, Brock Purdy. What would have been a catastrophe for any other team came within a game of the Super Bowl because of the foundation Shanahan and John Lynch have laid through aggressive trades, big-time signings and shrewd draft picks. The 49ers have game-changing playmakers on offense and difference makers at every level of the defense. Shanny and Lynch have provided themselves with so much talent that their past two defensive coordinators have gotten head-coaching jobs. This is the House of Shanny. Rival teams have long plundered the offensive brainpower, but the defensive? The elite roster base remains for 2023, but so does the same old question: Who is going to be under center? That ongoing conundrum remains the only thing standing between this offensive genius and another Super Bowl appearance.
4. Sean McDermott/Brandon Beane, Bills
The good news is you found a franchise player. The bad news is that means the old rules no longer apply. The presence of Josh Allen means Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott are graded on a championship curve. This isn't fair — there are 32 teams and only one of them has Patrick Mahomes — but Beane and McDermott agree with the premise. That was clear from the way they approached their 2022 roster, focusing on final touches and bold flourishes. It didn't really work out — O.J. Howard was a bust, Von Miller got hurt — though there wasn't much to tinker with. That's at least what the Bills thought until the second half of the season, where their offensive line and receiver deficiencies were exposed in vivid fashion. They did what they could to address the situation this offseason, signing LG Connor McGovern and drafting catch-first TE Dalton Kincaid in the first round. Again, these are more “complete the puzzle” type of transactions, but that's the roster and salary cap situation Beane and McDermott's previous good work has them in. Maybe this group will eventually require a reset. For now, the Bills are correct to keep slapping band-aids on this impressive core of stars.
5. Duke Tobin/Mike Brown, Bengals
The Bengals front office is not this high if it didn't stumble into Joe Burrow three years ago. But it did, and it has known what to do with him. Surround him with as many weapons as possible, keep searching for the right mix along his offensive line, and give him a strong defense to make sure he doesn't have to do everything himself. There has also been a change in philosophy: Mike Brown actually spends money in free agency now, especially on blockers. It was the only choice if the Bengals were to have any hope of keeping Burrow on his feet. Their Super Bowl window is wide open and there wasn't time to wait 2-3 years for 2-3 OL prospects to develop. Embracing the open market was the final piece to the puzzle for a front office that has quietly been one of the better drafting units of the 21st century. With Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen standing in the way, a championship might not be in the cards, but the Bengals are doing everything they can to make it happen.
6. Sean McVay/Les Snead, Rams
The weirdest part about the Rams' “Super Bowl or bust” approach wasn't that it worked — it was how much of it didn't. Acquiring Sammy Watkins. Acquiring Brandin Cooks. Extending Todd Gurley. Making luxury picks like Tutu Atwell. Particularly on offense, many of Sean McVay's boldest moves either landed with a thud or outright backfired. But the most important ones hit. Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey, Andrew Whitworth and Von Miller, amongst others, all got a hand on the Lombardi. Even with the setbacks — the Rams incurred $20.15 million in dead money to release Gurley — the process worked. But it took a toll, a mighty one. With Whitworth retired and McVay's latest receiver addition in Allen Robinson flopping, the 2022 Rams were already looking like one of the worst rosters in the league. Then Cooper Kupp and Stafford got hurt. What was left was a group that looked like it hadn't made a first-round pick since 2016, because it hadn't. Too many of the picks the Rams did make were air balled heat checks like Atwell and Van Jefferson. Of the 11 Day 2 selections the Rams made between 2019-22, two were running backs, the same number as offensive linemen. Only one was an edge rusher. That is not how you build a roster. Humbling, but far less so than if the Rams hadn't gotten a ring. They did. Now without a Super Bowl core, McVay and Les Snead have to chart a different course back to the promised land.
7. Bill Belichick, Patriots
What is the Patriot Way at this point? A front office that used to be known for stockpiling draft picks and making the occasional tactical signing or trade remains adrift following the departure of Tom Brady. Bill Belichick of all people can't stop spending on free agents, and not particularly good ones at that. Shockingly, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and many, many more did not light the torch to post-Brady freedom. That flailing about has come amidst the usual, shall we say, “unorthodox” drafting. Sean McVay was caught laughing when the Pats used their 2022 first-rounder on interior offensive lineman Cole Strange. He then went out and had a highly-uninspiring rookie year. Strange at least contributed his first season. That is more than can be said for other recent reaches like N'Keal Harry. Even with the Strange Hail Mary, BB has seemed more dialed in the past few draft weekends. Then again, his most important pick in Mac Jones doesn't seem terribly far ahead of Bailey Zappe on the depth chart. Belichick never needed to shed his iconoclastic ways when Brady was the quarterback. Last year's Matt Patricia fiasco finally forced him to get serious on the sideline. We'll know soon enough if the same focus has been reapplied in the front office.
8. Brian Gutekunst, Packers
Now what? Three years after Brian Gutekunst lost the battle, the war is over. The sides exhausted, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers agreed to a negotiated peace. That leaves the man who inadvertently started the conflagration, Jordan Love, as the Pack's new franchise player. What seemed like a dubious idea in 2020 is now an intriguing one, though not because of anything that happened in the intervening three years. Nothing happened for Love, aside from a forgettable 2021 spot start in Arrowhead and a more promising 2022 cameo against the Eagles. Now Gutekunst has to pray that a quarterback who entered the NFL on the back of a 20:17 TD:INT ratio season in the Mountain West learned a few things during his interminable time backing up Rodgers. Even if he didn't, Gutekunst has assembled a roster capable of hiding a QB for a season or two. The problem is, if Love has to be hidden in Years 4 and 5 of his career, it will officially mean Gutekunst flunked the biggest stand of his tenure in Green Bay. Love had better be the answer after the drama he accidentally wrought the past three seasons.
9. John Schneider, Seahawks
Referendum results have never been more surprising. Pete Carroll and John Schneider were not the problem in Seattle. It turns out it was Russell Wilson all along. But also still Carroll and Schneider. As tempting as it was to exonerate the Seahawks' brain trust last season, it wasn't Wilson who squandered one important draft pick after another during the aftermath of the Seahawks' back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. It wasn't Wilson who traded two first-rounders for Jamal Adams. It wasn't Wilson who struggled for the better part of a decade to stabilize the offensive line. It wasn't Wilson who seemed helpless as the “Legion of Boom” devolved into one of the worst defenses in the league. That's the bad part. The good part is, even amidst those mishaps and increasing Wilson tensions, Carroll and Schneider still maintained the core of a .500 roster. That was proven when it managed to make Geno Smith comeback player of the year in 2022. We can overlearn the lessons of the Wilson era, or acknowledge that Carroll and Schneider are the kind of football lifers who have earned their job security even as they have made a major mistake or five.
10. Mickey Loomis, Saints
Now in his third decade as the Saints' lead executive, Mickey Loomis is an '80s oilman in a GM's body. This job is rise-and-fall enough as it is. That hasn't stopped Loomis from crafting his own special personnel blend to make things even more boom/bust than the typical laws of football nature. The only reason the Saints had a 2023 first-round pick is because they traded a coach who no longer worked for them. The reason they didn't have any first-rounders to begin with is they swung a huge deal for two of them in 2022. They didn't use either on a quarterback even though Drew Brees was settling into his second year of retirement. Follow all that? It can be hard, but there is never a dull moment in Loomis' front office. Except for this spring. Despite his go-for-broke nature, Loomis thought small at quarterback, signing Derek Carr. Although the move stabilized a foundering QB room, it didn't match the ambition of Loomis' 2022 trade up. That incongruence is in line with the identity crisis that began with Brees' retirement and deepened with Sean Payton's sabbatical. Loomis always gave Payton what we wanted. Now he seems unsure what it is he wants for himself, other than action. The best-case scenario is that hyperactivity keeps the Saints dynamic like their 2022 trade partner Philadelphia. The worst case is the project implodes on itself before a new franchise quarterback or coach can emerge.
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11. Eric DeCosta, Ravens
Eric DeCosta's initial draft class has now played out its rookie contracts. The result was only one playoff win in four years but a .651 winning percentage. A big part of that was a 14-2 Ozzie Newsome afterglow in 2019, though DeCosta's lone losing season was an 8-9 2021 campaign where the Ravens lost their final six games after Lamar Jackson went down with injury. Jackson was hurt again in 2022, but the Ravens still went 10-7 and came within a fumble-six of shocking the Bengals in the Wild Card Round. That doesn't happen unless the talent base is strong. It also happened in spite of a cellar-dwelling skill corps. DeCosta worked hard to rectify that this offseason, signing Odell Beckham and drafting Zay Flowers. Beckham, of course, was an overpay, while the Ravens' failure to extend Jackson until this spring left the entire franchise in something of a holding pattern. With that fog finally lifted, the Ravens appear in excellent overall shape, especially with 2022 first-rounders S Kyle Hamilton and C Tyler Linderbaum looking like hits. An expert free agent bargain finder, DeCosta has his roster in the finishing touches phase.
12. Jerry Jones/Stephen Jones, Cowboys
What can Jerry Jones say? He knows how to draft a first-rounder. They remain the lifeblood of this roster, including Zack Martin and CeeDee Lamb on offense and Micah Parsons on defense. But Jones celebrated one hit a little too long. His undying Ezekiel Elliott devotion created cap complications that dovetailed into poor decisions like trading Amari Cooper. The Zeke saga is emblematic of Jones' bad habit of making tough decisions a year too late instead of a year too early. It means the Cowboys are seemingly always operating off their back foot as they try to round out an annually impressive core. Some seasons there is enough slack in the line to win 10-12 games. 2021 and 2022 were both such campaigns. Too often, however, the bottom falls out despite the stars at the top. Even with Dak Prescott's on-field foibles, that star power continues to shine brightly. This team is a contender. We'll see if that's enough to overcome the annual depth issues in 2023, which look acute at pass catcher and could become a problem along an aging offensive line.
13. Brad Holmes, Lions
Holy heat check, Batman. Nearing the end of their impressive, methodical rebuild, the Lions entered the draft with the No. 6 and 18 picks. In other words, they could add two impact players at premium positions instead of projects or lottery tickets. Instead, they emerged with an off-ball linebacker and change-of-pace running back. Not the way fans or fantasy managers drew it up. In addition to being used at unorthodox spots, the selections also spoke to a deep belief in Jared Goff's 2022 comeback campaign. Where Goff's recent career trajectory makes last year look like an outlier, the Lions saw a multi-year answer under center, and no need to use that impressive draft capital to move up for, say, Anthony Richardson. These are bold decisions indeed, ones that will decide whether the Lions break out of their decades-long morass or fall back into another 6-8 win doom loop. Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell had done nearly everything right up until this offseason. That calls for benefit of the doubt. Doubt is just the natural state of being with a franchise that hasn't gotten out of its own way since 1991.
14. Chris Grier, Dolphins
From untenable power-sharing agreements to tanking allegations, Chris Grier has seen it all during his seven years in Miami. That is except for a playoff victory. With three straight .500-plus campaigns, Grier's rosters are inching ever closer to an achievement that hasn't happened since the year 2000 in Miami. Whether they get there depends on a couple of hefty gambles paying off. Grier has treated the offensive line as an afterthought. That's a bit of a problem since his would-be franchise quarterback has one of the league's most concerning injury histories, including concussion issues that led to retirement whispers. Grier needs his blockers to coalesce and keep Tua Tagovailoa upright. If they can, all the ingredients are there for the Dolphins to pair an offensive juggernaut with a quietly strong defense. Elite defensive mind Vic Fangio has been brought in to complement burgeoning offensive genius Mike McDaniel. All that is good. It's also a high-wire act for a top-heavy roster replenished by just eight total draft picks over the past two years, zero of which came in the top 50. Whether it is Grier, McDaniel or owner Stephen Ross, this front office is shooting its shot. 2023 would be the most painful miss yet for one of the 21st century's most disappointing franchises.
15. Joe Douglas, Jets
At first the Jets were a coach away, so they hired Robert Saleh. Then they were a quarterback away, so they acquired Aaron Rodgers. Now they are one 8-9 season away from Joe Douglas losing his job if Gang Green doesn't deliver in 2023. The biggest move of Douglas' four-year Jets career has taken the training wheels off his front office. No more being graded on an Adam Gase curve. Douglas set the stage with a smashing 2022 draft, where his first-round selections of Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson turned into a pair of rookie of the year awards. It was a necessary corrective on a 2021 offseason that saw Douglas stake his future on Zach Wilson's unproven college past. That pick is one of the biggest NFL disasters of the past five years, one that would have doomed nearly any other front office. That it didn't in New York is something of a miracle for Douglas, but his past two springs have proven the benefit of the rarest of NFL virtues: Patience. Douglas' process has this roster on the verge of something great. Now all that is left are the results or a pink slip.
16. Jason Licht, Bucs
Jason Licht was 34-62 without so much as a playoff appearance in six years before he stumbled upon his One Weird Trick for relevance: Signing the greatest player in league history. Tom Brady produced the requisite Super Bowl, but the bill ended up coming due before the meal was even finished. After a strong but Lombardi-less 2021, the Bucs became one of the worst division winners of all time in 2022 as an aging roster with a recycled coach did the same thing over but got a far different result. It wasn't the definition of insanity considering the previous two years, but it was a collapse easy to see coming in hindsight. The offensive line got worse as the skill corps got older. Lacking premium draft picks or bountiful cap space, the defense was allowed to stagnate. None of this is exactly Licht's fault. It is now his very large problem with Brady in retirement. Licht's pre-TB12 track record does not inspire confidence, while his 2023 plan is one of surrender. His Baker Mayfield/Kyle Trask QB combo is passing the buck to the 2024 draft class. Perhaps Licht will get the No. 1 pick and USC's Caleb Williams. The last time he built around a No. 1 overall quarterback, he went 34-62. What Licht learned during his Brady interregnum will define the next five years of Bucs football.
17. Chris Ballard, Colts
Chris Ballard has lost control of this ride, but he doesn't want off. At one point famous for assembling one of the league's most complete rosters, Ballard is now better known as the general manager who loves elderly or washed-up quarterbacks, sometimes at the same time. Not anymore. Ballard took owner Jim Irsay's not-so-subtle Jeff Saturday hint. No more thinking small. Ballard shattered his Philip Rivers mold with April's selection of Florida QB Anthony Richardson. Quite literally everything Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan were not, Richardson arrives with the widest range of potential outcomes as any quarterback in recent memory. Thankfully, he won't be working with Saturday. Ballard made a solid hire at head coach when he plucked Shane Steichen away from the Eagles. In his two short years under Nick Sirianni, Steichen gained invaluable experience with dual-threat quarterbacks, run-based offenses and more pass-heavy schemes. He will be ready for whatever Richardson's inexperience throws at him. That's good because the rest of the roster has fallen from its 2019-20 heights. Now that he has finally settled his biggest question, Ballard can get back to work on rebuilding his offensive line and stockpiling defensive difference makers.
18. Andrew Berry, Browns
Is Andrew Berry going to be defined by a move he didn't even make? Because there are “ownership moves” and then there is what Jimmy Haslam did with Deshaun Watson. That is not to say there is evidence Berry was against it. It doesn't matter now, anyways, as Watson is defining everybody's future in Cleveland. With Berry, it has left him with a paucity of draft resources the past two years. He used this spring's second-rounder on an aggressive but high-risk move for Elijah Moore. We know fantasy managers love Moore. NFL coaches? Not as much, at least so far. Despite his recent lack of draft capital, Berry has still built a strong offensive line and solid skill corps. The defense has enough intriguing pieces to at least be a net neutral, and probably a strength. We don't know what Berry would have done if Watson hadn't caught Haslam's attention. We do know he could be scapegoated and fired if Watson's 2023 goes as poorly as his 2022 debut.
19. Joe Schoen, Giants
Joe Schoen and Dave Gettleman have at least one thing in common: They both invested major resources in Daniel Jones. That was the uneasy capstone to Schoen's otherwise irreproachable first year. The hits began with Schoen's very first decision, where he won the head-coaching sweepstakes for Bills OC Brian Daboll. It was Daboll who turned Jones from albatross to potential franchise player despite a skill player cupboard left bare by Gettleman's years of mismanagement. Elsewhere was a home run first-rounder in Kayvon Thibodeaux, a rebuilt offensive line on the fly, and an admirable ability to avoid panic moves despite a weak overall roster. That is where Jones' re-signing comes in. It's an enormous bet on one good year, especially since the line and receiver corps remain works in progress. Jones and Daboll won't be catching anyone by surprise in 2023. A risk, but probably one Schoen had to take. Offseason additions like Bobby Okereke and Darren Waller have made this a better team. If 2022 first-rounder Evan Neal can progress and 2023 first-rounder Deonte Banks joins Thibodeaux as a hit, Schoen will be on to something.
20. Tom Telesco, Chargers
Tom Telesco has been the Chargers' general manager since 2013. He's lost more games than he's won and never played after January 14. That he still has his job is a testament to either remarkable ownership patience or distraction. Our guess is the latter for a franchise that has played in three different stadiums since Telesco's arrival. So we have established that most GMs with Telesco's track record would have been fired by now. What is going to bring things to a head in L.A.? Telesco's “Jason Licht moment” — a development that changes the course of a talented but long-suffering roster — should have been the arrival of Justin Herbert in 2020. Instead, the Chargers' hamster wheel has kept on spinning. Questionable coaching, a biblical amount of injuries, and embarrassment in all the biggest moments. Before the Chargers couldn't hold a 27-0 Wild Card lead, they couldn't consummate a Week 18 tie to make the playoffs in 2021. It can sometimes feel difficult to know who to blame for the Chargers' Chargerness, but it's really not difficult at all. Telesco has spent 10 percent of the average American male lifespan leading the Chargers' front office and never so much as sniffed a Super Bowl despite having Philip Rivers and Herbert at his disposal. It's possible that's the worst luck of all time. It's also usually the cue to give someone else a try. Telesco needs to be graded on a make-or-break scale from here on out.
21. Terry Fontenot, Falcons
Terry Fontenot is an explorer. Since becoming Falcons general manager in 2021, he has made three skill player selections inside the top eight, none of which were a quarterback. That is an unusual way to build a team, to put it mildly. Fontenot has been less adventurous down the board, using 16 of his remaining 20 selections on defenders or offensive linemen. The approach predictably went to 7-10 nowhere with Matt Ryan in 2021 before a more palatable 2022 7-10 with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder. Despite the identical record, Atlanta's point differential improved from -146 to -21. It was a more watchable product. It simply remains unclear what the end goal is. Fontenot is building around the run game and defense without investing premium picks on defense. He was more active on the open market this spring, spending on DT David Onyemata, LB Kaden Elliss and S Jessie Bates. He also made a zero-risk addition when he flipped a fifth-rounder for former Lions first-round CB Jeff Okudah. Not bad, though Ridder remains a zero-upside “plan” at quarterback. Zagging to the run as the rest of the league goes all in on the pass, Fontenot can't be accused of falling victim to groupthink. We'll find out soon enough if he would have been better off following the crowd.
22. Trent Baalke, Jaguars
A second chance that seemed bound to go poorly, Trent Baalke indeed found himself dead to rights when Urban Meyer flamed out after only 13 games. Instead of a pink slip, Baalke was handed a new lease on life. Owner Shad Khan hiring Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson to replace Meyer was important. Even more consequential for Baalke was the blank check he was handed in free agency. Although initially maligned for his Christian Kirk/Evan Engram/Zay Jones/RG Brandon Scherff/LB Foyesade Oluokun/DT Foley Fatukasi/CB Darious Williams spending spree, Baalke ended up buying the core of a division winner, one that improved from 3-14 to 9-8. That's something you can only pull off with a quarterback on a rookie contract, while playing in the AFC South makes miracles possible. It was still Baalke's first taste of success since the earliest days of his Jim Harbaugh partnership in San Francisco. Now he needs to avoid the disastrous drafting and front office infighting that doomed the second half of his tenure in the Bay Area. Trevor Lawrence's presence provides wide latitude for error, though Pederson was known for a power struggle or two in Philadelphia. It could still go either way for Baalke in Duval.
23. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Vikings
Second-year GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has found something Rick Spielman never did: A holding pattern. Whereas Spielman was all hyperactivity, all the time, Adofo-Mensah has yet to really put his stamp on this roster. On the face of it, that's a good thing. The Vikings, after all, just won 13 games for only the second time this century. But anyone who watched the Wild Card Round knows this 53-man isn't particularly close to competing for a Lombardi. Somehow, those 13 wins came in spite of a negative point differential. The home playoff game they produced ended with Daniel Jones passing an overmatched Vikings defense out of the building. In terms of high-end talent there is Justin Jefferson, 28-year-old Danielle Hunter and … maybe late-blooming LT Christian Darrisaw? This group is frankly closer to a gut job than Super Bowl. Adofo-Mensah admitted as much this offseason when he became the first Vikings GM since seemingly 1993 not to extend Kirk Cousins. If Cousins and company can run back last year's miracle, great. If not, Adofo-Mensah is going to have to dive into the overdue work of rebuilding this roster.
24. Omar Khan, Steelers
Omar Khan's first season was a winner. It was also entirely non-representative. These were outgoing GM Kevin Colbert's players, right down to new “franchise quarterback” Kenny Pickett. Colbert made his last act a desperation heave to replace Ben Roethlisberger. We assume Khan acquiesced, but it creates the very real possibility that the move that defines his tenure was made before it even began. Khan is now hoping Colbert's groceries don't go stale before he can cook a meal. Although 2022 remained the year of Colbert, Khan did get in on the action with a mid-season fleecing of the Bears. That's when he flipped Chase Claypool — who was clearly out of coach Mike Tomlin's plans — for what ended up being the No. 32 overall pick. Highway robbery. In the draft, Khan planted his first flag when he traded up for Georgia OT Broderick Jones. Khan may not have picked Pickett, but he is still sensibly building around him. Steeped in Colbert's highly successful “Steelers Way” — he has been in the Pittsburgh front office since 2001 — Khan deserves a long leash as he refreshes Colbert's winning formula.
25. Ryan Poles, Bears
Ryan Poles had two first-year assignments: Tear it down and pray Justin Fields is good. It was mission accomplished on both fronts, with Poles beginning his tenure by trading Khalil Mack for second- and sixth-round picks. While Mack continued his decline in Los Angeles, Fields began his ascent in Chicago. Of course, it was mostly as a runner. Lacking a strong offensive line or anything resembling a receiver corps, Fields tucked first and passed later. The man needed help. Enter Poles' Year 2 assignment. Tasked with the fateful decision to either use the No. 1 pick on a quarterback or build around Fields, Poles wisely chose the latter. He overpaid for Chase Claypool, acquired D.J. Moore, used the No. 10 overall pick on potential franchise tackle Darnell Wright and splurged on free agent guard Nate Davis. Poles also went to work on the rest of the roster in free agency, signing EDGE DeMarcus Walker, LB Tremaine Edmunds and LB T.J. Edwards. Poles has decided his gut job can become a quick fix. For the sake of prime time football watchers — the Bears are once again there three times in 2023 — we hope he's right.
26. Ron Rivera/Martin Mayhew, Commanders
One reason this front office's big ideas haven't worked? They haven't had any. Tampering — allegedly — with Andrew Luck is as creative as it has gotten in Washington during Ron Rivera's reign as football czar. To make matters worse, the can't-miss defender missed. Chase Young had the looks of the next great pass rusher until tearing his ACL. Now he's appeared in just 11 games in two seasons and had his fifth-year team option declined. That's a hardship but not enough to explain Rivera's squad being stuck in the seven-win zone. Rivera has done a reasonably good job populating the defensive side of the ball, while the offense admittedly has playmakers. There just isn't the high-end talent to put the operation over the top. With no quarterback and a new owner coming for 2023, Rivera is going to have to revisit the 12-13 win heights of his best Cam Newton years to have any shot at retaining his job for 2024.
27. Scott Fitterer, Panthers
In the NFL, you gotta serve somebody. Scott Fitterer had two somebodies, neither of whom seemed to know much about professional football. Brash-but-clueless coach Matt Rhule has been banished back to the college ranks, but brash-but-rich owner David Tepper isn't going anywhere. Tepper seems to be taking a mulligan on his first half decade in charge, leaving Fitterer atop the front office while making a more traditional hire at head coach. Not that the impatience is gone. We don't know who ordered the Bryce Young code red, but it was the boldest gambit by any franchise this offseason. Like hiring Rhule, it's high risk. Unlike hiring Rhule, there is a more credible NFL infrastructure in place to tap into the potentially high reward. Frank Reich is a more sensible sideline running mate for Fitterer as he embarks on the rest of his NFL life without Rhule. With Rhule and Tepper calling the shots, it was impossible to know what Fitterer stood for. With a franchise player to build around, we are about to find out.
28. Dave Ziegler/Josh McDaniels, Raiders
It would be hard to be worse than Mike Mayock, but Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels are giving it their best shot. Hired in tandem, Ziegler supposedly has final say on the 53-man roster, but he didn't follow McDaniels from John Carroll University to Denver to New England to Las Vegas to overrule his college roommate. That could be a problem, as McDaniels' personnel style seemed as brash as ever in 2022, passing on the nitty gritty of team building to instead trade his first two picks for Davante Adams. He continued to hunt for short cuts in 2023, lavishing free agent riches on ex-Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo and Jakobi Meyers. McDaniels has certainly inherited Bill Belichick's cutthroat nature but seemingly none of his patience. That was the worst possible combination during his first head-coaching go-round in Denver, and it is showing no signs of changing 1.5 years into his Raiders tenure.
29. George Paton, Broncos
Between the Russell Wilson debacle and Sean Payton miracle, George Paton's job is already on life support. In fact, it's quite possible there is already no path forward for Paton in the Mile High City. If Wilson remains in irreversible decline, it sets up a power struggle Payton can't lose. If he rebounds to become a star again in Payton's system, it sets up a power struggle Paton can't win. He can only hope to prove himself useful as Payton's No. 2. That was hard to do this offseason with the Broncos out of premium draft picks after trading for Wilson and Payton. The lone feather in Paton's cap is his excellent 2021 draft class headlined by first-round CB Patrick Surtain and second-round runner Javonte Williams. So it is bad news for Paton that Williams is currently rehabbing a devastating knee injury and Payton is already talking up veteran journeyman Samaje Perine. Paton desperately needs this offseason's free agent splurge on OT Mike McGlinchey, OG Ben Powers and DT Zach Allen to pay off. If it does, Payton might believe he's found a credible running mate in Paton.
30. Nick Caserio, Texans
Is Nick Caserio actually the worst general manager in football? It's hard to say. That's because he spent his first two years on the job overseeing the front office about nothing. No notable draft picks. No free agent plan beyond signing a bunch of special teamers. No long-term coaching solution with a pair of one-and-dones in David Culley and Lovie Smith. No discernible reason for existing at all after Bill O'Brien at least made sure things were never boring. That finally changed this winter. The Texans thought beyond the next five minutes when they hired gifted Kyle Shanahan disciple — and Houston company man — DeMeco Ryans to replace Smith. They then took a stand on the personnel front, using the No. 2 overall pick on prospective franchise player C.J. Stroud before cashing in some of their imposing picks cache to move up to No. 3 for potential defensive linchpin Will Anderson. Any trade chart will tell you the Texans' Anderson move was a gross overpay, while first-round trade ups for non-quarterbacks have an inglorious history. It was still refreshing to see the Texans actually want something. To actually do something. To remember this isn't a philosophical exercise. This is football, this is America. You have to spend money to make money. You have to take action to make action. You absolutely, positively must do something beyond signing special teamers. That moment is finally now in Houston. For Caserio, 2023 is year zero after years of doing zero.
New Hires (Alphabetical Order)
Ran Carthon, Titans
A longtime Kyle Shanahan understudy, Ran Carthon arrives in Tennessee as Mike Vrabel's new wingman. That this is Vrabel's franchise became abundantly clear in December when he won a low-visibility power struggle with former GM Jon Robinson. Robinson had a propensity for botching all his biggest moves. Carthon just needs to convert some of his as he works alongside a head coach with a knack for turning lemons into lemonade. The goal, of course, is to get Vrabel some better groceries, but his coaching ability provides margin for error. Robinson's problem was that he used all his up. Carthon should be able to do better. An initial first draft class where Carthon found value at No. 11 in OL Peter Skoronski and didn't force the issue at quarterback, letting Will Levis come to him on Day 2, provides hope that the new guy is indeed on his way to cleaning up Robinson's mess.
Monti Ossenfort, Cardinals
A perennial GM candidate, Monti Ossenfort has landed in a place of perennial dysfunction. His job is to stabilize, something he did with a meat-and-potatoes head-coaching hire in Jonathan Gannon and textbook trade down from No. 3 overall in the draft. In addition to badly needed extra draft capital, Ossenfort still managed to select a potential cornerstone tackle in Paris Johnson after a trade back up to No. 6. Beyond that, Ossenfort's first year will be one of waiting on Kyler Murray. First, for the erstwhile franchise player to get healthy. Second, for the 25-year-old quarterback to finally take the next step in his development. If he doesn't, Ossenfort will be tasked with overseeing a complete teardown, one he probably won't have the luxury of seeing through.