This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.
We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:
Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)
Morocco Brown, Colts college scouting director: Interviewed
January 12th, 2021 at 3:59pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
Rams exec Brad Holmes appears to be picking up steam as general manager searches continue across the league. Holmes is flying to Detroit for a second interview with the Lions tonight, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
Los Angeles’ director of college scouting also had a second interview with the Falcons over the weekend, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Schefter writes that Holmes is now “tracking to land a GM job.” Given the success the Rams have had in the Sean McVay era, it’s not too surprising he’s turning into a hot name. Pelissero writes that Holmes is one of the finalists for Atlanta’s job, along with Saints exec Terry Fontenot, and that former Texans GM Rick Smith is still in the mix there as well.
Holmes has had a remarkable journey, staring with the Rams as a PR intern all the way back in 2003 and rising up the ranks of the organization ever since. He became the director of college scouting in 2013. The Lions had been interested in luring John Schneider away from Seattle, but with Schneider getting an extension through 2027 earlier today, that obviously isn’t happening.
December 23rd, 2020 at 11:08am CST by Zachary Links
Rick Smith will interview for the Jaguars’ GM vacancy on Wednesday afternoon, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The former Texans GM is a hot candidate in this cycle, having drawn interest from no less than four teams in recent weeks.
Smith recently interviewed with the Falcons and the Lions are slated to meet with him soon. Meanwhile, the Washington Football Team is also interested in having Smith run the football operations department. Previously, WFT nearly hired Smith before putting the GM role on the back burner.
Smith left Houston after the 2017 season when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and is generally well regarded around the league. He spent 2006-2017 with the Texans, and held the EVP of Football Operations title for his final six years.
The Jaguars have been on the hunt for a new GM since firing Dave Caldwell in late November. Despite holding the worst record in the league, candidates should still see the potential in Jacksonville. The Jaguars just barely missed a Super Bowl berth in 2017 and they may be in position to draft Clemson superstar Trevor Lawrence. Meanwhile, head coach Doug Marrone is on the hot seat, so the incoming GM could have an opportunity to pick his own HC, if Marrone is dismissed.
December 21st, 2020 at 6:33pm CST by Andrew Ortenberg
The Panthers made a big splash Monday by firing GM Marty Hurney. Although the timing was interesting since Carolina’s season will be over in just a couple of weeks, it wasn’t the result of any sudden developments or changes. The move had apparently been in the works for a while, as Albert Breer of SI.com was told that Hurney was in the final year of his contract and that he and owner David Tepper had been talking about an exit for weeks now (Twitter link). Breer adds that the analytics-minded Tepper wants to “modernize” the personnel side. As for names to keep an eye on for the now vacant role, Breer tweets that 49ers VP of player personnel Adam Peters is one to watch. Peters played for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule back when Rhule was the defensive line coach at UCLA.
It sounds like Tepper knows more or less what he wants, and accordingly the relatively new owner told the media on Monday he won’t be using an outside search firm like some teams for the GM opening. To clarify on the modernization, David Newton of ESPN.com reiterates that the Panthers will look for a new GM who “is driven by data and analytics, characteristics that didn’t define” Hurney. Carolina seems to have found their coach of the future with Rhule but they’ve still got plenty of questions to address moving forward, like whether or not Teddy Bridgewater is the long-term answer under center. Who they hire here should tell us a lot about the direction they plan to take.
Now that we’ve broken down most of the Hurney fallout, let’s pivot to the rest of the front office and coaching staff talk around the league:
Former Texans GM Rick Smith looks like a hot candidate this cycle. Smith recently interviewed with the Falcons, and sources told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports that he’ll interview with the Lions soon. That’s not all, as sources also told La Canfora that Washington is interested in having Smith run their football operations. We heard back in January that Washington almost hired Smith before electing not to hire a front office head for the time being, so this isn’t too surprising. VP of player personnel Kyle Smith is currently overseeing things for Washington, but sources told La Canfora that the team is “very likely to fill a traditional general manager spot” this offseason. Smith left Houston after the 2017 season when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and is generally well regarded around the league.
Speaking of guys looking to get back into the league after a hiatus, we might not have seen the last of Marvin Lewis. The former long-time Bengals coach is “under consideration for several head coaching opportunities in 2021,” sources told La Canfora. Lewis was never able to make a deep playoff run in Cincy, but he undeniably did an incredible job turning them from a perennial laughing stock and doormat to annual contender in the AFC North for a while. After spending an impressive 16 season roaming the Bengals’ sideline, he’s spent the past couple years on Herm Edwards’ staff at Arizona State. La Canfora writes that “numerous teams have indicated an interest in speaking to Lewis,” although he doesn’t specifically name any. Lewis reportedly received strong interest from both the Cowboys and Washington during last year’s cycle, and it sounds like this could be the year he makes it back in.
Finally, a few notes via Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com. The Falcons managed to turn their season around a bit after firing Dan Quinn, although things have started to go off the rails again in recent weeks. The initial success led to some buzz that interim coach and former Bucs head coach Raheem Morris could be a candidate for the full-time job, although Pauline throws some cold water on that. Pauline says there’s a “very slight chance” they keep Morris, noting people who he has talked to won’t completely rule it out. That being said, he hears that Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy is still at the top of their list.
Anthony Lynn and the Chargers have now won back to back games, but Pauline writes he’ll need a “miracle” to save his job. One source he talked to put the odds of Lynn returning at 20 percent, and he writes that’s a best-case scenario for the embattled Los Angeles coach. Lynn has made a number of high profile game management blunders in recent weeks, and Pauline writes the consensus of “well-connected” people is that he’ll be fired. With a talented roster and a stud young quarterback in Justin Herbert, the Chargers’ job should be an attractive one.
While a lot of these decisions already appear to be more or less set in stone, Pauline says that Giants GM Dave Gettleman’s status is genuinely undecided and up in the air. He writes that it’ll depend on what happens the rest of the year (presumably whether the G-Men win the NFC East), and that there’s been no “definitive decision.” However, Pauline does say that as of right now he hears the Giants are “more comfortable” getting rid of Gettleman and bringing in someone new to work alongside first-year coach Joe Judge, who people inside the building are apparently “ecstatic” about. As one that could seemingly go either way, the situation in New York will be one of the most interesting to monitor the last couple weeks. What happens with Gettleman could also very well determine whether the team runs it back with Daniel Jones or looks for a new quarterback this offseason.
The Falcons are off and running on their first GM search in 12-plus years. In addition to interviewing ex-Texans GM Rick Smith and eyeing meetings with Saints exec Terry Fontenot and Rams staffer Brad Holmes, the Falcons met with one of their own staffers.
Falcons director of college scouting Anthony Robinson joined Smith in interviewing for the position Friday, the team announced. Robinson is in his second year in his current position but has been with the team much longer.
With the Falcons since Thomas Dimitroff‘s arrival in 2008, Robinson worked through the ranks as a scout with the franchise during most of Dimitroff’s tenure. Prior to his 2019 elevation to the scouting director post, Robinson worked as a Falcons area scout.
Smith is the highest-profile name connected to this search thus far. He is expected to draw interest from multiple teams, though the former Houston front office boss has yet to be mentioned as a candidate for the other GM vacancies. Smith has been out of football since stepping away from his Texans post after the 2017 season, but the longtime GM has been eyeing a return to the league for a bit now. The Texans’ GM from 2006-17, Smith was there for the franchise’s first four playoff berths and swung the 2017 trade for Deshaun Watson.
It will be interesting to see if the Falcons join the Lions and Texans in meeting with ESPN’s Louis Riddick. The Jaguars are also interested in the first-year Monday Night Football analyst, though they have not set up an interview.
The next several weeks will bring extensive news on the GM front, with four teams having fired their top front office executives this season. Other teams may create additional vacancies, and Washington remains in the mix to add a top decision-maker to its front office. Here is the latest from the GM circuit ahead of what will be an unusually busy marketplace:
Despite Texans owner Cal McNair declaring executive VP Jack Easterbywill not rise to a GM role, the current Texans power broker is expected to have plenty of input as to which exec the franchise hires to replace Bill O’Brien, Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com note. Easterby has emerged as a key voice for a Texans franchise in transition, outlasting O’Brien in the Houston front office despite the lack of a personnel-related background.
Houston, however, remains high on New England exec Nick Caserio, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Should the Texans circle back to Easterby’s former Patriots coworker, it would continue an off-and-on two-year saga. The team tried to hire Caserio in 2019, but a unique clause in his Pats contract prevented a move. The long-coveted GM prospect is now on a new Patriots contract. However, the Giants — who also have a high-profile ex-Caserio coworker in power (Joe Judge) — have interest as well, should they fire Dave Gettleman.
Robert Saleh figures to receive consideration to be a head coach again, and early buzz has emerged he is interested in pairing with a familiar face if he lands a job. The 49ers defensive coordinator is interested in bringing the team’s vice president of player personnel — Adam Peters — with him to his next destination, according to Fowler and Graziano. The 49ers hired Peters in 2017, the same year they brought in Saleh, and he has helped the franchise rebuild from one of its lowest points.
Rick Smith is set to interview for the Falcons’ GM role, but La Canfora adds that the ex-Texans GM is expected to meet with at least one other GM-needy team. The Jaguars and Lions are the current teams in need — discounting what would seemingly be an untenable Texans reunion — though Smith was connected to Washington last year. Washington did not hire a GM but may look to do so in 2021. Smith served as Houston’s GM from 2006-17.
George Paton has been on the GM radar for years — most notably this year, when the Vikings assistant GM backed out of consideration for the Browns job — but has remained in Minnesota. If Paton is to leave a job he is clearly quite fond of, La Canfora notes it may have to be for a West Coast franchise. A UCLA alum, Paton was in contention for a 49ers GM job that went (out of nowhere) to John Lynch in 2017. That said, JLC speculates the Bears could be interested. It is not certain they will fire Ryan Pace, but this has certainly not been a good year for the exec that traded up for Mitchell Trubisky.
Smith landed an NFL GM gig before recently fired Falcons personnel boss Thomas Dimitroff, rising to that post in Houston in 2006. Smith stayed in that job for 12 years, stepping down after the 2017 season to care for his wife after a breast cancer diagnosis. Tiffany Smith died in January 2019. Rick Smith expressed interest in returning to an executive role late last year and was connected to the yet-to-be-filled Washington GM vacancy earlier this year. A clearer path may emerge in Atlanta.
Fontenot surfaced in the Jets’ GM search last year, interviewing for the job that went to Joe Douglas, and was connected to the Falcons recently. Promoted from Saints pro scouting director to assistant GM earlier this year, Fontenot has been with the Falcons’ top rival for 16 years.
Holmes has lived in Atlanta for several years, scouting ACC and SEC talent, and is serving under ex-Falcons exec Les Snead with the Rams. Snead rose to his current role after working under Falcons president Rich McKay from 2009-11. Holmes has been with the Rams throughout Snead’s eight-plus-year tenure.
Should the Falcons hire Fontenot or Holmes, it would lead to the NFL sending draft picks to another NFC team. The NFL passed a recent initiative aimed at increasing minority hires for GM posts. Both Fontenot and Holmes are Black, which would lead to either the Saints or Rams receiving two Round 3 picks if they were hired for the Falcons post. Smith is also Black but does not apply to this newly implemented rule, being an executive free agent.
It is unclear when these interviews will take place, but the Falcons can begin that process sooner than their coaching interview circuit. The Falcons fired Dimitroff and Dan Quinn in October after an 0-5 start.
Interim Falcons head coach Raheem Morris has his team playing well following Dan Quinn‘s dismissal, and it has caught the attention of Atlanta decision-makers. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Morris has a good chance to be named the team’s permanent HC after the season.
Under Morris, the Falcons have gone 3-1, and the one loss was a 23-22 heartbreaker against the Lions that came on a last-second score (and if not for a poor decision by running back Todd Gurley, Detroit wouldn’t even have had the chance to possess the ball for the game-winning drive). Atlanta’s performance has improved on both sides of the ball, and Morris’ leadership abilities represent another highlight on his resume.
The fact that Morris has now been with the Falcons in a number of different roles since 2015 further helps his cause, as do his strong ties with team president Rich McKay. He was one of the youngest head coaches in league history when he helmed the Buccaneers from 2007-09, and it looks like he might not be too far away from another shot, whether that’s with the Falcons or someone else.
For now, though, Atlanta is focused on replacing deposed GM Thomas Dimitroff. La Canfora says the club is putting its list of candidates together and hopes to hold some interviews next month. Former Texans general manager Rick Smith, who also has a history with McKay, is one person the club would like to meet with.
Presumably, whoever the new general manager is will get to choose the team’s permanent head coach, but that person will have to give strong consideration to Morris if the Falcons continue to play well down the stretch.
There have been conflicting reports as to whether former Texans GM Rick Smith is ready to return to football, but if this morning’s report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com is accurate, Smith will be back in the league sooner rather than later.
In the wake of Washington’s dismissal of former team president Bruce Allen, owner Dan Snyder thought long and hard about replacing Allen with Smith, per Schefter. Snyder and Smith met in the Bahamas multiple times and discussed their plans for putting the Redskins back on the right track, but Snyder ultimately elected to make a fundamental change to his team’s power structure and run the franchise through his new head coach, Ron Rivera, rather than through a team president.
Sources expected a deal with Smith and the Redskins to get done, but an entirely different dynamic was probably the right way for Snyder to go. The conversations with Washington, though, suggest that Smith is going to return to a prominent position in the NFL in the near future. Smith’s wife passed away of cancer last January, and Smith left the Texans at the end of the 2017 to care for her and his three children.
As we heard when the Rivera hire was reported, the Redskins are expected to wait until after the draft to hire a GM, per Schefter (Twitter link). Snyder believes he has the people in place to get through free agency and the draft, though there will be changes to the front office after the draft is over. Louis Riddick has already been connected to the GM job, and John Keim of ESPN.com says Colts exec Morocco Brown is another name to watch out for. Interestingly, it does not sound as if Smith is a GM candidate for the ‘Skins.
In other Redskins news, Rivera is hiring former Panthers LBs coach Steve Russ to serve in the same capacity in Washington, per Schefter (via Twitter). Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio tweets that Rivera is also bringing on former Chargers assistant DBs coach Chris Harris to be the Redskins’ DBs coach.