Yasinskas: Team-by-team decision-makers

Originally Published: May 15, 2008
By Pat Yasinskas |

A team-by-team look at who carries the power in personnel decisions:

Arizona Cardinals

To be clear, general manager Rod Graves isn't the guy who negotiated Rod Tidwell's contract in "Jerry Maguire." But he is the guy who found a way to keep Larry Fitzgerald in Phoenix while building a roster that looks as if it has a chance to be competitive. Coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't powerless, but Graves might be the most powerful general manager you've never heard of.

Atlanta Falcons

General manager Thomas Dimitroff was brought in from New England's front office, but he'll be operating in a much different structure. Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith are on equal footing when it comes to personnel matters. Former general manager Rich McKay is now team president and is focused on the business side, but he still has some input on the football side.

Baltimore Ravens

If general manager Ozzie Newsome doesn't take every personnel shot, he's a strong point guard who doesn't do much passing and takes the ball to the basket. His power should only increase with the departure of coach Brian Billick and the arrival of John Harbaugh.

Buffalo Bills

General manager Marv Levy retired after last season, and that led to some major changes. The Bills promoted Russ Brandon, who'd been running the business side of the franchise, to chief operating officer. The Bills said Brandon fills the general manager role, but they also gave former Levy underlings Tom Modrak and John Guy vice president titles. That setup might leave coach Dick Jauron with more power than he had under Levy.

Carolina Panthers

Pretty much a classic case of 50-50 powers. Coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney pride themselves on saying that none of their decisions have ever come down to final say. They listen to input from assistant coaches and the personnel department and say they've always been able to reach a comfortable consensus.

Chicago Bears

General manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith don't have big egos and have drafted well. Angelo clashed with previous coach Dick Jauron, but Smith was his handpicked replacement, and that has brought harmony and a balanced relationship.

Cincinnati Bengals

Coach Marvin Lewis continues to hold most of the power here and might have more freedom from ownership than any other coach in the franchise's modern history. But Lewis' repeated willingness to take chances on guys with character issues could be his eventual downfall.

Cleveland Browns

The days of coach Butch Davis ruling over everything really set this franchise back. But general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel, who pride themselves on working in tandem, finally have the roster they've wanted.

Dallas Cowboys

After keeping his ego in check for most of the Bill Parcells era, owner Jerry Jones is back doing what he loves to do. It's his world, and Wade Phillips just happens to live in it.

Denver Broncos

The joke around the Broncos' complex is that coach Mike Shanahan orders the toilet paper for the rest rooms. But we're not sure even that's a joke.

Detroit Lions

Against the wishes of fans and logic, president and chief executive officer Matt Millen remains the primary decision-maker. Then again, coach Rod Marinelli doesn't come across as the kind of diplomat you'd want working the phones on a trade or negotiating a contract.

Green Bay Packers

General manager Ted Thompson got plenty of power when the role was pried from former coach Mike Sherman. Thompson's voice only got stronger with the arrival of coach Mike McCarthy. Thompson is on his way to becoming one of the league's most powerful general managers.

Houston Texans

General manager Rick Smith sticks to the personnel side and coach Gary Kubiak to the on-field stuff. But they meet somewhere in the middle when it comes time to make decisions.

Indianapolis Colts

On the surface, coach Tony Dungy and president Bill Polian are the NFL's oddest couple. Polian's a fireball and Dungy an iceberg, but they always seem to balance each other out and make strong mutual decisions.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Coach Jack Del Rio is the face of this franchise, and he has plenty of clout. But vice president of player personnel James Harris, who stays out of the limelight, is a stronger partner than most people realize.

Kansas City Chiefs

Carl Peterson is the president, general manager and chief executive officer. In other news, coach Herm Edwards does at least get to tell his captains whether to call heads or tails before the coin toss.

Miami Dolphins

This team has gone through a lot of changes in structure in recent years with former coaches Nick Saban and Cam Cameron passing through quickly. Tony Sparano is now the coach and Jeff Ireland the general manager. But there is little doubt who really is buying the groceries here. It's executive vice president Bill Parcells.

Minnesota Vikings

Brad Childress might have more power than any other coach who never really has won anything. Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman has some say in the draft, but Childress makes the bulk of the decisions.

New England Patriots

This structure is a throwback to the old days, with coach Bill Belichick having absolute power on everything. Vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli is basically an administrator. You can't argue with the results.

New Orleans Saints

General manager Mickey Loomis' power has grown since the arrival of coach Sean Payton. Former coach Jim Haslett usually overshadowed Loomis. But the structure between Payton and Loomis is much more balanced.

New York Giants

General manager Jerry Reese took over for retired Ernie Accorsi just in time for last season's Super Bowl run. Coach Tom Coughlin has a lot of say in personnel matters, and you can't argue with the recent results of this shared-power system.

New York Jets

Coach Eric Mangini might have come out of the Bill Belichick system, but he doesn't operate in a New England-style front office. The Jets use much more of a democracy, with general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Mangini having a pretty balanced relationship.

Oakland Raiders

Perhaps the most one-sided structure in the league. Managing general partner Al Davis makes all the decisions. That worked for decades but hasn't for most of this one.

Philadelphia Eagles

Coach Andy Reid also has the title of executive vice president of football operations, and that gives him final say over personnel matters. President Joe Banner stays behind the scenes but is a top-notch administrator and has done a strong job of managing the salary cap through the years.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Director of football operations Kevin Colbert might not be the biggest name in the league, but he calls most of the shots with lots of input from coach Mike Tomlin.

St. Louis Rams

There's a somewhat mysterious structure in St. Louis, although it's pretty obvious Scott Linehan is strictly a coach. Jay Zygmunt has the general manager title, along with being president of football operations, and Billy Devaney (executive vice president of player personnel) and Tony Softli (vice president of player personnel) have nice titles. But all that doesn't seem to matter because longtime president John Shaw reportedly overruled them all as the Rams selected Chris Long over Glenn Dorsey in this year's draft.

San Diego Chargers

After a tumultuous relationship with former coach Marty Schottenheimer, general manager A.J. Smith appears to have found the perfect complement in Norv Turner. There's no question Smith runs the personnel side, and you can't argue with his drafts. Turner's opinions are valued, but he mostly sticks to coaching.

San Francisco 49ers

Scott McCloughan was promoted from vice president of player personnel to general manager after last season, and that has created a shift in power away from coach Mike Nolan. McCloughan says the change in his role was only in the title, but the 49ers wouldn't have made the move if they still wanted Nolan calling all the shots.

Seattle Seahawks

Mike Holmgren used to wear all the hats, but that didn't work. The Seahawks brought in president Tim Ruskell, a veteran personnel man, to create a system of checks and balances that has worked out well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jon Gruden's clash with former general manager Rich McKay made headlines. Current general manager Bruce Allen, a Gruden friend from his Oakland days, keeps a low profile but might have more power than most people realize. The Bucs have used first-round picks on defensive players in the past two drafts, and it's hard to imagine Gruden's doing that on his own.

Tennessee Titans

Coach Jeff Fisher clearly is the boss here. He survived a power struggle, and Floyd Reese didn't. Mike Reinfeldt is by no means a puppet, but Fisher's longevity and his spot as co-chairman of the competition committee make him one of the league's more powerful coaches.

Washington Redskins

It used to be that owner Dan Snyder pulled all the strings. But that apparently has changed during a quiet offseason. Vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato has become increasingly powerful and was fully behind the hiring of coach Jim Zorn.

Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter