It would seem natural to think that, given the similar jobs they do, NFL war rooms would be cookie cutter and identical. Instead, it would appear that war rooms are like snowflakes – they may look similar, but no teams are truly identical.
The Vikings have undergone a war room shift, with Rick Spielman being named general manager and assuming more of the “final say” power over draft picks. Here is a look at who the other 31 teams have in charge and, when it comes to making the decisions that will drive the franchise forward, who will make the call when their team is on the clock.
Arizona Cardinals – G.M. Rod Graves calls all the shots. He is assisted by head coach Ken Whisenhunt and Director of Player Personnel Steve Keim, but Graves holds all the cards when it comes to making picks or making trades.
Atlanta Falcons – General manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith work closely together in the draft selection process with some input from team president Rich McKay. Dimitroff holds the most power in the event of opposing opinions, but he and Smith have had a strong relationship and are typically on the same page before the draft begins, which help eliminates potential conflict.
Baltimore Ravens – G.M. Ozzie Newsome has built a reputation as one of the best talent evaluators in the league. As such, he takes input from the scouting staff and the coaches, but this is a one-man show from beginning to end.
Buffalo Bills – The front office duties got redistributed after last year’s draft and a two-headed decision team came out of it. G.M. Buddy Nix promoted Doug Whaley to the position of director of player personnel. The two work in concert with input from head coach Chan Gailey on offensive player evaluations. Nix still holds the trump card, but has opened the process to give Whaley more power and pick input.
Carolina Panthers – General manager Marty Hurney oversees roster decisions and is a dictator in the war room. Head coach Ron Rivera will get a chance to have his voice heard more as he enters his second season running the team, but Hurney is the first, last and only word when it comes time to make picks or listen to trade offers.
Chicago Bears – The Bears shook up the front office, firing G.M. Jerry Angelo and hiring Phil Emery – who spent the last three years in charge of college scouting in Kansas City. One of his first moves was to get rid of personnel director Tim Ruskell. Lovie Smith has earned his role in the process, but Emery is building the scouting department in his own image and has the final say on all personnel matters.
Cincinnati Bengals – Rarely is an owner successful as a talent evaluator and Mike Brown tops that list. He and head coach Marvin Lewis make the decisions because, not only do the Bengals not spend up to the salary cap, they don’t have a general manager (Brown appointed himself to that position). Expect the unexpected.
Cleveland Browns – Team president Mike Holmgren runs many of the aspects of the organization, but, when it comes to the draft, general manager Tom Heckert is the man in charge. Holmgren’s voice is loud in the war room and he has imposed his will in the past (see McCoy, Colt), but Heckert is the man who does the legwork and doesn’t draft anyone he doesn’t believe in – regardless of what Holmgren says.
Dallas Cowboys – Owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen are the primary decision makers, especially when it comes to wheeling and dealing – which Jerry has a penchant for. Director of Player Personnel Tom Ciskowski is in charge of scouting and develops a draft board, but, on draft day, it’s a Jones & Son operation.
Denver Broncos – John Elway is in charge of the draft operation – one of the conditions he put on taking the position of vice president of football operations. But, he isn’t alone in the process. General manager Brian Xanders and head coach John Fox are intimately involved in the process, but Elway is carving out his own image – as he proved in the pursuit of Peyton Manning and subsequent trade of Tim Tebow – he is the one who is in charge when it comes time to pull the trigger on a high-profile move.
Detroit Lions – G.M. Martin Mayhew took over for village idiot Matt Millen, who annually set the franchise back on draft weekend. He has done a very solid job and helped transform the Lions from a laughingstock to a playoff team. Mayhew takes input from various sources in the organization, but decisions start and end with him.
Green Bay Packers – Ted Thompson needs two business cards to contain all his titles – executive vice president, general manager and director of football operations – and oversees every aspect of the operation. He became a household name when the Brett Favre saga played out, but he has been large and in charge for some time.
Houston Texans – General manager Rick Smith is the primary decision-maker with help from head coach Gary Kubiak. Smith has the final word on both the draft and free agency and, while he takes into account the knowledge of the coaching and scouting staffs, he is the lone star on personnel decisions.
Indianapolis Colts – For years, Bill Polian and, in recent years, his son Chris, ran the operation. Owner and Twitter enthusiast Jim Irsay ran his mouth, but didn’t make the day-to-day decisions. With the Polians sent away, Irsay hired Ryan Grigson as general manager and Chuck Pagano as his new head coach – both of whom have never held that position before. The Colts war room is going to work itself out this year, but don’t be surprised to see Irsay making the big decisions. Maybe he’ll tweet his picks before he makes them.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Gene Smith has monopolized power in this three years as general manager and, with the firing of Rasputin (a.k.a. Jack Del Rio), he has new people around him whose voices will be heard, but Smith has no persuasive reason to listen to any of them. If he wants to make any call on the team, he has that latitude.
Kansas City Chiefs – G.M. Scott Pioli is still looking to replicate his success in New England, but he found Todd Haley a lot more of a headache than help. Romeo Crennel will have a voice in who gets drafted, but the final decision will come down to Pioli and assistant G.M. Joel Collier.
Miami Dolphins – If you read banners trailing behind small aircraft, you already know that general manager Jeff Ireland is the man in charge. New head coach Joe Philbin will have some say in recommending offensive players, but Ireland views himself as the smartest guy in the room and makes decisions under that belief.
New England Patriots – The Pats have long maintained a collective decision-making process. Bill Belichick puts his stamp on everything, but, when it comes to the draft, it’s a group decision. Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio has a reputation as a good talent evaluator and veteran draft guru Floyd Reese is in the mix with his opinion. Caserio arguably has the last word, but Belichick typically gets what he wants.
New Orleans Saints – Rick Reiprish, welcome to your life! Reiprish is the director of college scouting and his job has been to present recommendations to general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton. With Payton and Loomis out of the picture, the Saints may find themselves with Reiprish holding the keys to the franchise. However, the Saints traded their first-round pick last year to draft Mark Ingram and were stripped of their second-round pick due to Bountygate. So, his role may be reduced simply by circumstance.
New York Giants – General manager Jerry Reese is one of the most respected G.M.’s in the game and has done a solid job replacing Ernie Accorsi. Tom Coughlin has some input in the process, but Reese makes the calls and College Scouting Director Marc Ross works closer with him than Coughlin.
New York Jets – This is two-man operation with general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Personnel Director Terry Bradway. The Jets have a lot of voices, including head coach Rex Ryan and V.P. of College Scouting Joey Clinkscales, but they both are more in an advisory capacity of players they really like for their system. Tannenbaum makes the final call, but does so with the agreement of Bradway.
Oakland Raiders – The death of Al Davis throws a new spin on the process, because Uncle Al was the driving force of the franchise. The team hired Reggie McKenzie at the new general manager, but, thanks to desperation moves over the past few years, the Raiders don’t have a pick in the first four rounds, so McKenzie’s job will be more as an observer than having an active role in shaping the roster.
Philadelphia Eagles – Andy Reid has monopolized power like few head coaches. G.M. Howie Roseman came in after Reid was entrenched, so his role is to provide evaluations of players and team president Joe Banner oversees free agency with Reid. A lot of coaches wield power because their jobs depend on getting the most out of the roster, but nobody has more authority and autonomy over his process than Reid.
Pittsburgh Steelers – G.M. Kevin Colbert leads a staff that has been one of the best drafting organizations in the league for years. Head coach Mike Tomlin’s opinions are giving a lot of merit, but Colbert is charged with making the final decisions.
St. Louis Rams – The Rams fired longtime G.M. Billy Devaney and hired Les Snead, who spent the last 13 seasons with the Falcons. He is getting his footing, but it should be noted he was hired after the Rams already had hired head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher held a lot of sway in the Tennessee Titans war room and the same is expected in St. Louis, giving him more power than most first-year coaches possess.
San Diego Chargers – Both G.M. A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner have been given a reprieve after a second straight season is which they faded down the stretch. Smith still calls the shots in terms of the draft, while he and Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye work together in free agency and potential draft weekend trades.
San Francisco 49ers – Trent Baalke made the most of his first season as general manager, being named executive of the year, helping transform the Niners to a 13-3 record and home field in the NFC Championship Game. Head coach Jim Harbaugh gets some say on how the roster is determined, but it is Baalke’s call on draft day.
Seattle Seahawks – When Pete Carroll was hired, he was given a significant say in how the Seattle roster would be constituted. He and general manager John Schneider have worked together quite well in the first two seasons and apparent equals. To date, they haven’t disagreed much on the direction of the team, but it is believed that, if push were to come to shove, Carroll holds the hammer in Seattle.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – G.M. Mark Dominik is the only voice of note in the Bucs war room. In the four years he has been G.M., prior to this offseason, it was essentially up to him to make all the draft decisions to help build the roster. While the team finally got involved in free agency this year and made a couple of high-profile signings, they maintain the philosophy that the team will be built through the draft and it’s all Domenik all the time.
Tennessee Titans – For years, Mike Reinfeldt and Jeff Fisher worked hand in hand as G.M. and head coach. Last year, Reinfeldt was elevated to C.O.O and promoted Vice President of Personnel Ruston Webster to G.M. The Titans were thrilled with last year’s draft and, with Fisher out of the picture, Webster will have more autonomy than any decision-maker in recent Titans history has had on his shoulders.
Washington Redskins – Before he accepted the head coach job, Mike Shanahan insisted on having the last word on all roster decisions – who stays, who goes, who gets signed in free agency and who gets drafted. Snyder and G.M. Bruce Allen have a say in critical decisions as to the roster makeup of the team – and both were intimately involved in the trade to get to the No. 2 draft pick and Robert Griffin III, but Shanahan has the predominant voice in the war room and the organization in general.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.