Duke Tobin

Breer On GM Search, Harbaugh, Draft

When it comes to being a GM, is it more about who you know than what you know? In his latest column, Albert Breer of The MMQB spoke with one league official who suggested that the NFL’s career development advisory panel has something of a fraternity-vibe.

It’s all full of nepotism. It’s a joke. And it starts with Charley Casserly,” the personnel man said.

Casserly rejected the idea that he, Ron Wolf, Bill Polian, Ernie Accorsi, John Madden, Tony Dungy and Carl Peterson are aiming to line up their friends with jobs, but he did acknowledge that connections help.

It’s so different than it is with coaches,” Casserly said. “Coaches are so clearly defined. You know who calls the plays, you see them on TV, coordinators have press conferences. It’s just not like that in scouting. Are they pro? College? None of them are making big decisions. What you need is networking. It’s not politicking.”

Casserly was directly involved with the Jets’ coach and GM search process in 2015. Gang Green wound up hiring Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan – two former co-workers of Casserly’s.

Here’s more from Breer:

  • Breer identified the following executives as people who could immediately jump into a GM job somewhere: Chiefs VP of player personnel Chris BallardPatriots VP of player personnel Nick Caserio, Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCostaSeahawks co-director of player personnel Scott FittererTexans director of player personnel Brian GainePackers director of player personnel Brian GutekunstSeahawks co-director of player personnel Trent KirchnerCowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay, Cardinals VP of player personnel Terry McDonoughVikings assistant GM George PatonFalcons assistant GM Scott PioliBengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin, Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf.
  • The widespread feeling in NFL circles is that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will be back in pro football eventually, even if it’s not happening right now. For his part, Harbaugh says that he is incredibly happy as the Wolverines’ coach.
  • Is Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen the next under-the-radar quarterback prospect a la Carson Wentz? It was Craig Bohl who recruited Carson Wentz to North Dakota State and he is now Allen’s coach at Wyoming. It’s hard to say whether the 6’5″, 222-pound signal caller has the same kind of talent, but his stock is rising. “He’s a big ol’ kid with a big arm, and he’s pretty athletic too,” said one AFC exec. “We gotta learn more about him, but the tools are there.” Allen, a redshirt sophomore, has plenty of time to develop.
  • Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck recently predicted that Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush will be an “incredibly high draft pick” this year. Apparently, talent evaluators do not agree. “He may get drafted late because of the [lack of] quality at the position,” said one area scout assigned to CMU. “He’s an accurate thrower with deceptive athletic ability to extend plays with his feet. Not a dynamic or explosive athlete, but good enough to avoid the rush and create at times. Average arm at best, but he’s got solid touch on intermediate and deep balls. He just lacks elite velocity.”

Bengals Exec Duke Tobin On FAs, Boldin, LaFell

Along with owner Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis, director of player personnel Duke Tobin is part of the triumvirate that has reinvigorated the Bengals in recent seasons, turning the organization into an annual contender that has made five straight postseason appearances. Tobin’s behind-the-scenes work hasn’t gone unnoticed, as both the Titans and Lions requested interviews this offseason as they sought to fill their respective general manager vacancies. But Tobin is still in Cincinnati, and he recently spoke with Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com about the club’s roster, potential free agent additions, and his own future.Duke Tobin (Vertical)

[RELATED: Reviewing the 2016 Cincinnati Bengals offseason]

On whether the Bengals could add a veteran free agent:

We have the ability right now. We have a spot open so we’ve talked about some things. We feel good about the roster as it is. If there’s an opportunity to add another piece at the right position at the right price, we’ll think about doing it. From our standpoint in personnel, the roster is never set. We’re always open to improvements if we can find them. Who knows what will happen, but it’s a pretty quiet time around the Bengals facility right now.

On whether Cincinnati has considered free agent receiver Anquan Boldin:

I don’t like to proclaim yes or no on anybody that’s out there, but we have not had any discussions with him. We feel pretty good about some young guys that we have in that position group. It’s a position group that’s in flux, and it’s a position group that’s going to have to step up – particularly with [Tyler] Eifert out early in the year. We’re going to have to have some production from there and we have some good candidates. So we want to see when we get going in the preseason who steps up and who raises their hand and says, ‘I’m the guy.’ Hopefully multiple people will do that.

On how the club weighs signing a free agent:

I think you always weight the ramifications of adding a guy. Anybody that we bring in at this time of the year is going to have to make his way. We’re not going to be signing anybody – I don’t care if it’s an eight-time Pro Bowler or a college free agent – there’s no guarantee for anybody you bring in at this point. Whoever we sign if we sign somebody will have to prove their value and will have to make the club. And they’re going to have to be better than who we already have on the club. At the end of the day we’ll make some tough cuts – we always have – and this year won’t be different. But we’re going to keep the 53 best players for sure.

On what the Bengals saw in free agent pickup Brandon LaFell;

We wanted some experience and he’s got that. We liked his size. We liked that he’s played in a number of different systems. And I don’t think that the game is too big for him. Any time that you change teams there’s a transition and he’s going through that right now. He’s like anybody else on our team – he’s going to have to prove his worth and make his way and we hope that’s the case. But we felt like we needed to add another veteran presence there after losing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu and hopefully he’ll fill that and be the guy that we think he is.

On his future in the Bengals’ front office:

When I came here in ’99 – and this is another thing that my dad (ed. note: former Bears/Colts GM Bill Tobin) did for us when we were in Chicago – I fully committed to the Bengals and wanted to be here long term. I wanted to make myself valuable to the club and make an entire career out of this and they gave me an opportunity to show that. There are very few organizations like the Cincinnati Bengals and people like the Browns and Blackburns to work for and it’s just a really neat situation and I’m thankful for the opportunity that I have here. I really can’t imagine wanting to be somewhere else and wanting to work for another team. Sure the challenges would be fun, but we have challenges here to work through that keep me occupied. I’m very happy to stay and be a part of it.

North Notes: Tucker, Tobin, Steelers, Bears

Veteran kicker Justin Tucker is eligible for free agency this offseason, but it sounds like the Ravens plan to keep him in the fold. Tucker confirmed on Monday that negotiations between the team and his agent have been ongoing for quite some time, according to Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun.

“My agent [Robert Roche] and these guys have been talking, on and off, for a better part of a year, year and a half,” Tucker said. “At this juncture, I’m kind of letting it all just unfold how it’s going to unfold.

“I’m optimistic that something will get done, but at the same time, like I said, the only thing that I can really concern myself with as a player is just improving and making sure that wherever I end up, I know I’m going to end up where, God willing, I’m supposed to end up, but the only thing that I can take care of is my own personal business, and that’s making myself the best kicker possible.”

Tucker, 26, has been a little shakier during the last two seasons than he was in his first two years, missing five field goal attempts in 2014 and seven in 2015. However, all but one of those misses came from 50+ yards, and he converted all 29 of his extra-point tries in 2015, so he’ll be in line for a nice raise from Baltimore.

Here’s more from around the NFL’s North divisions:

  • Bengals personnel chief Duke Tobin received requests for general manager interviews from both the Lions and Titans, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). According to Schefter though, Tobin intends to remain in Cincinnati long-term.
  • DeAngelo Williams may not be able to play against the Bengals this weekend, but the Steelers don’t intend to bring in a veteran running back for the game, head coach Mike Tomlin said today. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link), the Steelers would roll primarily with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman if Williams can’t go.
  • Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who is entering his second year as Chicago’s GM, says that he may have to rely on free agency more in the program’s early stages because of the team’s needs, tweets Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. Hopefully, the GM added, that reliance on free agency will diminish over time.
  • Pace made some other interesting comments during his conversation this week with the media, giving quarterback Jay Cutler a vote of confidence and insisting there’s no rift between the team and tight end Martellus Bennett. Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times has the story on the Bears‘ plans to build around Cutler, while Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com passes along the GM’s comments on Bennett.

Latest On Browns’ Ray Farmer, Mike Pettine

Earlier this month, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggested that it’s not realistic to expect Browns general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine to both return to Cleveland next year. According to Rapoport’s report, the deteriorating relationship between the coaching staff and the front office made it “unfathomable” that the Browns would want to have Farmer and Pettine continue working together in 2016.

Today, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) explores that same line of thinking. Citing sources within the Browns organization, Cole reports that Farmer’s seat appears hotter than Pettine’s, with the head coach considered the more likely candidate to keep his job. Cole’s sources indicate that Farmer’s draft selections and roster decisions are more to blame for Cleveland’s struggles this season than the job Pettine has done with the talent – or lack thereof – he has been given.

While Cole doesn’t go so far as to say that the Browns will fire Farmer in January, it sounds like that’s a realistic possibility. If owner Jimmy Haslam does decide to replace Farmer, Cole expects Chris Ballard (Chiefs), George Paton (Vikings), and Duke Tobin (Bengals) to receive consideration for the job, since those executives are viewed by the NFL as some of the top general manager candidates around the league.

With one week until the NFL’s Black Monday, I’d imagine there are several scenarios still in play in Cleveland, but it sounds like any outcome that involves both Pettine and Farmer staying in their current roles is extremely unlikely.