Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Decision-makers, who makes the call in the draft room.
Gary Kubiak was hired ahead of Rick Smith in 2006, so it was a coach endorsing a general manager as opposed to the more traditional way around. They both have roots in Mike Shanahan’s Denver regime and the compatibility from their long relationship makes for a decision-by-consensus environment as opposed to a big division-of-power setup. Smith’s got a large scouting staff -- some argue too large -- but resources are not an issue for a first-class organization where owner Bob McNair spends what is needed to produce the best chances at success.
Team president Bill Polian has an excellent track record as a talent-finder and his team is built almost exclusively through the draft, a formula that’s worked for a team that’s consistently won double-digit games during his tenure. He trusts his scouts and the team’s systems, which are evolving under Jim Caldwell as he heads into his second year as coach. Polian has a shrewd feel for who’s overvalued and who’s undervalued and for what will be available when. He also knows he’ll be able to fill some roster spots with undrafted rookies ideal for what the Colts do. Owner Jim Irsay has full faith in Polian’s record and résumé.
General manager Gene Smith has control over the draft and the roster. But having come up as a scout and with an early background in coaching, he knows the value of input from people he trusts. Jack Del Rio is no shrinking violet, and his strong opinions are certainly factored in as Smith hits on the popular “consensus” model. Owner Wayne Weaver is looking to be more involved as the Jaguars press to sell tickets and get into the playoff picture. But those who think that means he’ll be moving name cards on draft day are overreaching.
Jeff Fisher has never sought to be a coach/GM but his power in personnel decisions certainly increased a few years ago when Floyd Reese was dumped and Mike Reinfeldt was hired. The Titans talk constantly about consensus. Reinfeldt controls a well-organized scouting staff and measures input from Fisher’s staff as well. Then the two ultimately come to an agreement. It seems to me Fisher is far less likely to wind up with a player he doesn’t want than Reinfeldt is to call a name that might not be his first choice at a specific slot. While Bud Adams made the call on Vince Young in 2006 when it was still Reese’s operation, he’s not regularly meddling.