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Draft Analysis

The Backgrounds of NFL GMs

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: April 5, 2020, 4:01 am ET

It’s more important than ever for an NFL general manager to be more than a “football guy” this offseason. Teams will be faced with drafting alone from home likely via Zoom just like how we’ve done with our virtual happy hours. How well a GM can communicate during chaos is going to be key, and that’s assuming that every GM is even capable of opening his email and logging into a new account. This column will go through the backgrounds of these current NFL GMs.

 

Football Playing Experience

Approximately 80% of the current NFL General Managers played at least some college football, but that does not mean they were stud players. In fact, only a handful of them played football at a Division I university, and only the 49ers’ John Lynch and the Broncos’ John Elway had serious NFL careers. This is more evidence that playing football at the highest level in the world and evaluating talent are two completely different skill sets. It’s definitely possible to climb the front office ladder as a non-athlete. In fact, it’s probable that we see more and more non-college athletes in GM positions over the next decade, especially if owners continue to put more eggs into the analytics basket.

GM

Team

College football experience?

Andrew Berry

CLE

Yes

Ryan Pace

CHI

Yes

Brett Veach

KC

Yes

Joe Douglas

NYJ

Yes

Jon Robinson

TEN

Yes

Brian Gutekunst

GB

Yes

David Caldwell

JAX

Yes

Steve Keim

ARI

Yes

Tom Telesco

LAC

Yes

Eric DeCosta

BAL

Yes

John Schneider

SEA

Yes

John Lynch

SF

Yes

Jason Licht

TB

Yes

Duke Tobin

CIN

Yes

Les Snead

LAR

Yes

Bill O'Brien

HOU

Yes

Chris Ballard

IND

Yes

Thomas Dimitroff

ATL

Yes

Rick Spielman

MIN

Yes

John Elway

DEN

Yes

Mike Mayock

LVR

Yes

Bill Belichick

NE

Yes

Dave Gettleman

NYG

Yes

Jerry Jones

DAL

Yes

Chris Grier

MIA

Yes

Brandon Beane

BUF

No

Bob Quinn

DET

No

Howie Roseman

PHI

No

Mickey Loomis

NO

No

Kevin Colbert

PIT

No

Marty Hurney

CAR

No

 

Education

All NFL General Managers graduated from college, but to my surprise, most GMs graduated from non-Power 5 football schools. In fact, the average American would have never heard of some of the universities on the list below. The Power 5 schools with a current NFL GM alum are Arkansas, Auburn, Boston College, Colorado, Florida, NC State, Oregon, Stanford (x2), and Wisconsin.

Nine of the current NFL GMs have at least a master’s degree, with sports management being the most common choice. There is only one GM, the Eagles’ Howie Roseman, with a professional degree (Fordham University School of Law). Roseman has previously stated that he primarily went to law school to get into an NFL front office. I guess that worked out. Please note that where they got an advanced degree may be different than the listed college. 

GM

Team

College

Advanced Degree?

Andrew Berry

CLE

Harvard

Yes

Brett Veach

KC

Delaware

Yes

Les Snead

LAR

Auburn

Yes

Rick Spielman

MIN

Southern Illinois

Yes

Dave Gettleman

NYG

Springfield

Yes

Jerry Jones

DAL

Arkansas

Yes

Bob Quinn

DET

Uconn

Yes

Howie Roseman

PHI

Florida

Yes

Mickey Loomis

NO

Oregon

Yes

Ryan Pace

CHI

Eastern Illinois

No

Joe Douglas

NYJ

Richmond

No

Jon Robinson

TEN

Southeast Missouri State

No

Brian Gutekunst

GB

Wisconsin-La Crosse

No

David Caldwell

JAX

John Carroll

No

Steve Keim

ARI

NC State

No

Tom Telesco

LAC

John Carroll

No

Eric DeCosta

BAL

Colby

No

John Schneider

SEA

St. Thomas

No

John Lynch

SF

Stanford

No

Jason Licht

TB

Nebraska-Wesleyan

No

Duke Tobin

CIN

Colorado

No

Bill O'Brien

HOU

Brown

No

Chris Ballard

IND

Wisconsin

No

Thomas Dimitroff

ATL

Guelph

No

John Elway

DEN

Stanford

No

Mike Mayock

LVR

Boston College

No

Bill Belichick

NE

Wesleyan

No

Chris Grier

MIA

Massachusetts-Amherst

No

Brandon Beane

BUF

UNC Willmington

No

Kevin Colbert

PIT

Robert Morris

No

Marty Hurney

CAR

Catholic University

No

 

College Major

Few current NFL GMs graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in a STEM-related field. The only GMs with a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics degree are Saints’ Mickey Loomis (accounting), Bucs’ Jason Licht (biology), Browns’ Andrew Berry (economics), Broncos’ John Elway (economics), Patriots’ Bill Belichick (economics), and Rams’ Les Snead (psychology). That means it is fair to assume most current NFL GMs did not have a college background that included the study of data and analytics. I’m betting on that changing over the next two decades. The Browns hiring a 32-year-old from Harvard with a Master’s in Computer Science to become their next GM may be the major domino to fall in what could be an all-out analytics race.

GM

Team

College Major

Brian Gutekunst

GB

Sports Management

Les Snead

LAR

Psychology

Bob Quinn

DET

Political Science

Bill O'Brien

HOU

Political Science

Brett Veach

KC

Physical Education

Ryan Pace

CHI

Marketing

Howie Roseman

PHI

Law

Chris Grier

MIA

Journalism

Marty Hurney

CAR

Journalism

John Schneider

SEA

History

Eric DeCosta

BAL

English

Dave Gettleman

NYG

Education

Andrew Berry

CLE

Economics

John Elway

DEN

Economics

Bill Belichick

NE

Economics

Joe Douglas

NYJ

Communications

Steve Keim

ARI

Communications

Brandon Beane

BUF

Communications

Jerry Jones

DAL

Business

David Caldwell

JAX

Business

Tom Telesco

LAC

Business

Jason Licht

TB

Biology

Mickey Loomis

NO

Accounting

Rick Spielman

MIN

?

Jon Robinson

TEN

?

John Lynch

SF

?

Duke Tobin

CIN

?

Chris Ballard

IND

?

Thomas Dimitroff

ATL

?

Mike Mayock

LVR

?

Kevin Colbert

PIT

?

 

Age

About 80% of the current NFL GMs are in their 40s or 50s, with the Browns’ Andrew Berry (32) being the youngest and Cowboys’ Jerry Jones (77) being the oldest. The full list of ages are below:

GM

Team

Age

Andrew Berry

CLE

32

Brandon Beane

BUF

41

Brett Veach

KC

42

Ryan Pace

CHI

42

Bob Quinn

DET

44

Howie Roseman

PHI

44

Joe Douglas

NYJ

44

Jon Robinson

TEN

44

Brian Gutekunst

GB

46

David Caldwell

JAX

46

Steve Keim

ARI

47

Tom Telesco

LAC

47

John Schneider

SEA

48

Eric DeCosta

BAL

48

Jason Licht

TB

48

John Lynch

SF

48

Les Snead

LAR

49

Duke Tobin

CIN

49

Bill O'Brien

HOU

50

Chris Ballard

IND

50

Thomas Dimitroff

ATL

53

Mickey Loomis

NO

56

Rick Spielman

MIN

57

John Elway

DEN

59

Mike Mayock

LVR

61

Kevin Colbert

PIT

63

Bill Belichick

NE

67

Dave Gettleman

NYG

68

Jerry Jones

DAL

77

Chris Grier

MIA

?

Marty Hurney

CAR

?

 

Race

This is, unfortunately, the least diverse grouping of the column. There are two black GMs in the NFL. Just two. Andrew Berry and Chris Grier. Everyone else is white. Not a surprise but still damning 100 seasons after the league was created. This discussion between ESPN’s Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre on race and front offices addresses the major reasons why this is the case and offers some perspective on how we can make some change on the ground level. I highly, highly recommend watching.

 

You can find all of this information in spreadsheet form here.

 

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