Last week, with very little change taking place across the NFL scouting community this summer, we looked at the people who will be the NFL's general managers of the near future, at least according to the dozens of scouts and executives that we spoke to. It was a media- and agent-free list, which made some of the names a little surprising. In case you're new to the Friday Wrap, you can survey last week's edition
As we surveyed the league, we found that not only did we get testimonials on lots of capable people, but they didn't all fit neatly
into the same category. That left us to follow up with an expansion of the list this week. We'll start off with a few names that were quite popular, but that might be a slightly harder sell to owners for one reason: age.
Highly respected post-hype names
These guys have interviewed with multiple teams over the years, or have at least been mentioned as good candidates, and remain good ones though they aren't as sexy anymore. The big problem: most are on the wrong side of 50. There's a trend in GM hires, and
it isn't a good one for the 40-plus crowd
George Paton, Assistant GM, Vikings: "Respect the heck out of him." "Can take charge of the room." "Really like him." Kinda no-nonsense and salty. Has done a tremendous job. Well-known.
Will McClay, V.P. of Player Personnel, Cowboys: "Can never get him out of Dallas." "He's the guy that runs the team." "Wants to be there, doesn't need the attention and the title. Does a really good job." Completely sets the table on both the college and pro side for
Alonzo Highsmith, Personnel Executive, Seahawks: Passionate evaluator and true grinder. Loves scouting, loves evaluating. Not a political person, well-liked but doesn't play 'the game.' Every owner wants to build through the draft. Why not give Highsmith, who lives and breathes evaluation, a shot?
JoJo Wooden, Director of Player Personnel, Chargers: An ex-player at Syracuse, he started off on the pro side but has honed his college skills under longtime Los Angeles GM
On the horizon
Some of these names weren't mentioned often, but with great enthusiasm by those who did. In the right situation, we could see some of these leap-frog others.
Mike Borgonzi, Director of Football Operations, Chiefs: Has been with GM
Brett Veach helping out, and has done a nice job. No-nonsense guy. Ivy League-educated.
James Liipfert, Director of College Scouting, Texans: Infectious personality, energy and passion. New England on his resume. Smart. Has won everywhere he's gone. Not afraid to take chances.
Dan Morgan, Director of Player Personnel, Bills: "He's a good one," said one respondent. "Might need another year or two but he will be a GM," said another. Another Seahawks product. Morgan's rise has been meteoric since ending his playing days in '09.
Anthony Robinson, Director of College Scouting, Falcons: Though he's only been on the job a year, he's shown great promise. He just needs a little more time.
Jamaal Stephenson, Director of College Scouting, Vikings: Stephenson is almost the definition of "stays in his lane," but he's well-thought of and has been a part of a successful organization. It also doesn't hurt that he's from the
Charley Casserly tree; the former Redskins and Texans GM has become pretty influential at hiring time.
Mark Sadowski, Director of College Scouting, Bears: "Off-the-charts smart." Excellent worker and evaluator and highly organized. "No scout or evaluator is better with IT, analytics, systems, coding." Very strong in people skills. Very connected.
Matt Winston, Assistant Director of College Scouting, Dolphins: Among the people we heard from was an unsolicited junior member of Miami's scouting department. When people are coming out of the woodwork to sing your praises, you know you're doing something right.
Ian Cunningham, Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Eagles: Cunningham is an ex-player who cut his teeth in one highly regarded organization (Baltimore) and who has spent the last couple years on a fast climb through another.
Terrance Gray, Director of College Scouting, Bills: Well-kept secret, strong football knowledge, even-keeled and good communicator, knows what he doesn't know.
Ryan Cowden, V.P. of Player Personnel, Titans: Very intelligent, college background, polished, savvy on the tech side/analytics.
Joe Hortiz, Director of Player Personnel, Ravens: Time should be now. Does a lot for the team. Developing on the pro side. Has been there a long time. Has college and pro experience. He's been a really good behind-the-scenes guy; may be time for him to take the stage.
Matt Bazirgan, Director of Player Personnel, Texans: Excellent person, good communicator, very good evaluator, fair, easy to like.
Kyle O'Brien, V.P. of Player Personnel, Lions: Harvard education. Came up in the New England system. Great personality. Very smart and thorough.
Ryan Poles, Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Chiefs: Great person, great evaluator.
Bills Director of Pro Personnel
Malik Boyd, Patriots consultant
Eliot Wolf and Eagles Director of Pro Scouting
Brandon Brown also drew acclaim, but just missed the cut. A solid year from their teams in 2020 might vault them into the discussion for any '21 openings.
Our search for the best candidates to move up doesn't end here, and we'll continue to hunt high and low for the evaluators that will be leading teams in the near future (especially the ones you don't always read about). It's not always easy in a business where the best don't like to toot their own horns. In the meantime, here's a look at what else we saw, heard, read and said in the world of college and pro football this week.
"The week exceeded all expectations!:"
That's the (unsolicited) feedback we got from one participant in our first-ever
ITL GM Academy
this week, and it's hard to argue. Our team of former GMs (
Tim Ruskell, Jerry Angelo, Doug Whaley
) each took a night this week discussing everything about the job of general manager, from the interview to the media to how to get along with the owner and plenty more. With ITL's Neil Stratton moderating, this week's participants (mainly college directors) heard never-told stories, observations and tips from the voices of experience. It was fun and informative, and you can read about some of the highlights
in this week's post on Succeed in Football
But wait, there's more:
This week, we held our attendees to only directors and national scouts. However, we have good news. We're adding one more night of education and information next week, and it's open to all active NFL evaluators, from scouting assistant to team president. And the better news - it's free! We'll have Kansas City-based
Tony DeFeo (
read about him here
, an industry executive who will discuss analytics, how to balance traditional scouting with new methods, and most importantly, how to talk about them fluently (even when you aren't sure how you feel about them). Ever worried that an interviewer would ask you what your plan for analytics would be in the organization, and you'd be stumped? Tony can help. Tony has
spoken at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference
; has been
quoted in the New York Times
; and built data analysis departments in San Francisco and Ann Arbor. Tony will join us at 7 p.m. CT Thursday, and if you'd like to be part of it, contact us. As always, all participants will be held confidential, questions are encouraged, and we won't be recording it in order to encourage candor and transparency. It will be another great night of professional development for the scouting community, and it will cost nada. We hope you can join us.
The ITL Rising Contract Advisor Newsletter: Normally, by now, we'd be two weeks into our popular series aimed at the next class of contract advisors. Obviously, there's been nothing normal about 2020, but our silence will end in a week. A week from Monday (June 29), we'll launch into our series as we begin telling the success stories from several agents who got certified last summer. As always, we'll provide tips on how to pass; lessons learned from Year 1; and the personal stories of people who went to Washington, D.C., last year, hoping they had what it takes to work with NFL players. We're ready for some semblance of a routine again. Thanks for your patience. We'll be back soon.
We found the time for four reports this week.
, we pulled out a few nuggets from NFLPA Executive Director
conference call with contract advisors. We also looked at a potential transfer and more.
, we looked at bad news on the bond market for one mega-agency; updated the
Scouting Changes Grid
; and what the transition in Iowa City could mean come January.
, we looked at one major NFL star's change in representation, a top LSU prospect's agency commitment and the latest with
The Spring League
. Finally, on Thursday, we looked at
the Ravens' latest scouting moves
, as well as athletic director vacancies and an all-star game that might see some scouting transition soon. We'll have more next week. Check out all our reports from this year
We're done talking about hot GM prospects, but we're far from finished talking about the game. Over the next week, we'll have several of our signature
reports. We'll catch you up on the latest scouting moves, developments from colleges, recruiting notes and much more. Also, the ITL Scouting Department will break down five more schools (
Memphis, Miami (FL), Miami (OH), Michigan State
) in our
Team Scouting Reports
series. Also, as we discussed earlier, we'll have one last session in the
ITL GM Academy
on Thursday, this one no charge. We're also due to have our
Agents by Total Clients
lists next week, and we'll keep plowing ahead with updating
our practice exams
for the 2020 NFLPA agent exam, presuming that still happens. We'll also stay on the case for our next book, ScoutSpeak, which we're pretty excited about. We hope you are, too. Of course, those are just the headlines. We'll also be here for all our clients, whenever they need us, and however, they need us. That means you if you're part of our team, and if you're not,
why not join us?