Nick Caserio, George Paton among NFL general managers in the hot seat


The carousel of the NFL’s general manager never gets as much attention as the seemingly constant turnover of league coaches.

In general, there’s less GM turnover from year to year — this helps your job security when watching games from the suite, sitting next to the owner, and can point out everyone’s faults — and general managers generally have a much lower profile than coaches. But some changes are inevitable and, no doubt, there will be changes in these ranks in the upcoming offseason. Firing a general manager mid-season — as the Tennessee Titans shockingly did with Jon Robinson on Tuesday — can be complicated, with preparations for free agency and the draft already underway. These moves usually come after the season and, with increasing frequency in recent years, right after the draft.

There’s been growing talk about the changes the Houston Texans are making to the front office after the season, and several executives I’ve spoken with believe GM Nick Caserio isn’t on some basics. as solid as it was in the past. Caserio’s longtime ally, Jack Easterby, a former team chaplain in New England when Caserio was there and who became Houston’s most influential executive, was abruptly fired in October. The Texans are the only one-win team in the NFL and face another impending coaching decision; having Caserio fire Lovie Smith a year after also making David Culley a one-and-done seems untenable to some in the NFL agent and executive communities. Starting entirely from scratch might have better optics.

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If the Texans do, in fact, think another coaching change is in order, several general managers I spoke to said they don’t think Caserio will still be around to fire Smith and be part of the next one. hiring cycle. Houston’s rebuilding has been agonizing, signs of progress have been limited at best, and Houston ownership has been erratic since Cal McNair took over after his father’s death in 2018.

“Keep an eye out for that one,” said a senior NFL official who has interviewed the Texans in the past and is familiar with the organization, but spoke on condition of anonymity because he is prohibited from publicly discuss other organizations. “I don’t think Nick can fire another manager, especially with Easterby gone. I hear there is more to come there.

The job security of Denver Broncos general manager George Paton also remains a matter of speculation in the league. The trade and signing of Russell Wilson was a total flop, the hiring of rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett seemed doomed from the start – and it was all done before a new group arrived of property. The Waltons have unlimited resources, so eating up the contracts for a coach and general manager may not seem so prohibitive to them. There’s a growing consensus that Hackett won’t be coming back – “They can’t sell this to their fans in 2023,” a managing director said – and three executives I spoke to think changes at the front -office are more likely than not in Denver.

Executives expect the Arizona Cardinals to have a new coach next season as well, although it remains to be seen whether general manager Steve Keim, who has overseen a myriad of poor rosters and made up most of the Arizona coaching staff will be fired.

The Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers have already fired their coaches. Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks has strong support within the organization; the team played hard for him despite an obnoxious quarterback situation, and several executives believe it’s possible Wilks will land the full-time job. That would bode well for Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer, who began parting ways with outgoing coach Matt Rhule in 2021, according to many people familiar with the dynamic. Avoiding a coaching hire would help his cause.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard has apparently been castrated by owner Jim Irsay’s handling of the coaching and quarterbacking situations. Irsay said Ballard was safe, but he also gave Frank Reich repeated votes of confidence before firing him to hire Jeff Saturday, despite the latter having no experience above the high school level. It remains to be seen if Saturday is long for this task or what big jinks Irsay could do next.

I also keep hearing that a Jaguars front office shake-up is coming, with Trent Baalke possibly remaining in another role but with his future as general manager very much at stake. Coach Doug Pederson could come away with more power in Jacksonville.

Three professions that have marked

With a month to go before the trade deadline, I asked a few executives how they would review some of the most critical acquisitions now that these players have settled in with their new teams.

The Baltimore Ravens’ first seven were significantly better with Roquan Smith joining Patrick Queen at inside linebacker. It was a steep price to pay for a potential hire — a second- and fifth-round pick — especially for an off-ball linebacker who doesn’t provide much passing rush, but the move paid off. “He’s been an impact player for them,” said an NFL general manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to criticize other teams. “Integrate perfectly. But I still think they needed a receiver more than a linebacker.” Indeed, Baltimore’s passing offense has been among the worst in the NFL since Week 4.

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Christian McCaffrey has been a mainstay for the San Francisco 49ers, who need his dual threat skills more than ever with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo set to miss the rest of the season. Running game, short passing and screens will be even more vital with rookie Brock Purdy leading the attack. Of course, McCaffrey staying healthy will be the litmus test given his long history.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had an improved offense and a better team since they dumped disgruntled receiver Chase Claypool, who did little for the Chicago Bears. Pittsburgh will get one of the best second-round picks for a player who wasn’t in his future. “The Steelers thundered [the Bears]“, said the general manager. “And they took Claypool out of their quarterback’s ear.” Indeed, rookie Kenny Pickett has gone four games without an interception after throwing eight in his first five appearances.

Joe Burrow will be a factor in the MVP equation. Count on it. He topped Patrick Mahomes on Sunday, a week after Mahomes broke down in the red zone against a horrific Los Angeles Rams defense. His clutch gene is off the charts, and the return of Ja’Marr Chase has paid immediate dividends for a team that has won eight of its last 10 games. During that 10-game streak, Burrow has the NFL’s highest passer rating (111.4) while completing 70.4% of his passes. His 22 touchdowns in that span are just one behind Mahomes, and Burrow has thrown just four picks in those 10 games. …

The Los Angeles Chargers defense continues to suffer, the franchise is unable to rack up wins and quarterback Justin Herbert is not in a pattern that plays to his strengths. All of this portends a major shift, with coach Brandon Staley’s job security in jeopardy. “They wasted the cheapest three years of Herbert’s career,” said an NFL general manager, who is not authorized to speak publicly about other franchises. “[Staley] Must go. They can’t keep it. …

Many people in the league noticed that the Dallas Cowboys put up 33 points over the Colts in the fourth quarter on Sunday night. Don’t underestimate how disrespectful many in the coaching community have found Irsay’s handling of the Saturday hire. It was personal for Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, a former Colts assistant, and it felt personal for the Cowboys coaches as well. On Saturday, leaving Matt Ryan until the bitter end to absorb more hits was a bad look. Don’t be shocked if others, if they have the chance, also increase the score.


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