Few things inspire a more helpless feeling amongst fans than an incompetent general manager.
Yes, the quarterback is the key to success in today's NFL, and it's tough to win a Super Bowl without the right head coach. But none of that is possible without first finding the right man to construct the roster.
A quality general manager is hard to find. Once in place, however, a successful general manager leads a functioning front office and is able to sustain long term success for an NFL franchise.
At least one team will be looking for a new general manager this offseason. The Carolina Panthers have already fired Marty Hurney. Other NFL teams are sure to follow suit. Notably the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs appear headed towards a front office reconstruction.
But where do the best general managers come from? It's a tough question to answer. Often times, high profile names don't fill these jobs. Just like a head coaching candidate has to be the right fit with the owner, general manager and player personel, a general manager candidate has to mesh with ownership.
The best general managers often rise through the ranks of scouting. But a good scout doesn't necessarily make the best general manager. While talent evaluation plays a critical role in a general manager's success, so much more goes into the job.
Often times, the best way to find the next big general manager is to look at successful front offices and find the key figures in those front office.
Let's take a guess at some of the best candidates for general manger openings.
Marc Ross, Director of College Scouting, New York Giants
Marc Ross has already been interviewed for general manager jobs in the past, and seems like a strong candidate to make the jump this offseason. Few teams have drafted as well as the Giants have during Ross' tenure as director of college scouting. Jason Pierre-Paul and Hakeem Nicks are among the most notable picks during his five years, but Ross has been a part of putting together two Super Bowl rosters. I think he will get his chance at the big time this offseason.
Eric DeCosta, Assistant General Manager, Baltimore Ravens
Eric DeCosta has worked for Ozzie Newsome for the past 17 years. That alone makes him an intriguing GM candidate. Take into account that he has performed a variety of roles in the Ravens' front office, including Director of College Scouting and Director of Player Personel, and DeCosta becomes a very attractive option for team's looking for a general manager. He is thought to be the man who will replace Newsome when his career is over, though, so it may be tough for a team to lure him away.
Omar Khan, Director of Football and Business Administration, Pittsburgh Steelers
Omar Khan is thought of as one of the finest salary cap and contract negotiating experts in the NFL. He has worked with the Steelers since 2001, helping to bring the team a pair of Super Bowl titles. Pittsburgh obviously wants to keep him in the fold, so he will be a tough guy to land. He is not as highly regarded for his personel decisions, so that could make some teams hesitant about giving him full control.
Mike Maccagnan, Director of College Scouting, Houston Texans
Few teams have developed the type of roster depth that the Houston Texans have over the past four years. Mike Maccagnan has played a vital role in the draft process for the Texans and has proven himself as a talent evaluator. That doesn't always translate into success as a general manager, but it's not a bad starting point. He should be on the radar of teams seeking a new GM.
Brian Gutekunst, Director of College Scouting, Green Bay Packers
Brian Gutekunst has truly worked his way up from the bottom in the scouting world. He started off as an intern and has now been with the Packers for 14 years after a brief stint in Kansas City. The Packers are widely regarded as having one of the most successful scouting departments in the entire NFL. Gutekunst may be young, but he has tons of experience in evaluating talent.