A handful of names are starting to surface in connection with the St. Louis Rams GM vacancy. Some of the names are recognizable, others a more obscure. Only a few of the candidates being talked about have actually been confirmed. The others have the dubious distinction of being "expected" candidates for the position.
Before looking at the names being talked about, it's worth understanding what exactly it is the Rams are looking for in the personalities that will make up their new leadership structure and how that impacts their hires and the direction of the franchise.
The most visible role for the new GM will be on the personnel side. Drafting, scouting, free agents, the new hire will work closely with the head coach and the COO to start rebuilding the Rams roster for the 2012 season and beyond. That much is fairly obvious. Over the last 24 hours both Stan Kroenke and Kevin Demoff have suggested a need for improvement in that area, not just improvement in the personnel acquired, but in the process of making those decisions.
Steve Spagnuolo had tremendous say in the Rams personnel decisions over the last three years. He made the final decisions about the 53-man roster, and had a big say in draft picks and free agent moves. The problem that's been alluded to with the old system was that the ultimate authority in personnel decisions and the accountability for those decisions was never very clearly defined.
"We will have someone who is in charge of personnel, and they will be clearly in charge of personnel and they will be responsible," Kroenke told the Post-Dispatch. "And hopefully they will be very bright. And they may be young or they may be seasoned, and we already have several people in mind."
Demoff echoed those sentiments in his Monday press conference.
"I think one of the things we're looking at is we want someone who is in charge of the personnel process from start to finish," Demoff said. "I think that's something that is important to us. It's important as an organization to know that the people, as you look at it, who select the players, are also involved at the end."
"I think we're looking for a strong leader in personnel who's got a diverse background who can bring together diverse opinions and give us the best players," Demoff said. "Obviously, we sit here with the second pick in the NFL Draft coming up. We have a lot of salary cap flexibility moving forward and someone's going to have a great opportunity to make good choices for the St. Louis Rams."
The Rams' next GM must know personnel, scouting and how to put together a roster long on talent. Both Kroenke and Demoff make it pretty clear that the next GM is where the buck stops when it comes to personnel decisions.
Now, consider all of this in the context of the Rams' pursuit of Jeff Fisher, one of just two head coaching candidates they're known to be chasing and the only one they've actually interviewed. That, in and of itself, is fairly telling.
ESPN's AFC South writer Paul Kuharsky shared some thoughts on Fisher this week. One thing he mentioned that jive s perfectly with what the Rams' brass is talking about in their vision for new leadership.
"Fisher will want control of his 53-man roster. And he won't want a situation where a GM is forcing free agents or draft picks on him that he and his staff don't want," Kuharsky said. "But wanting a voice is a lot different from wanting to be a de facto GM. He believes in the value of a traditional coach-GM split and has no desire to work the scouting end of things as a fulltime GM."
Note that last sentence from Kuharsky, that's strikingly different from the previous arrangement at Rams Park, where the coaches had tremendous say in the scouting, the draft board and even the more ancillary parts of the organization.
With the Rams pushing hard for Fisher now, they're setting up a situation in which they could land him before the team hires a new GM. Whether the Rams hire Fisher before they hire a GM or not doesn't necessarily matter.
"If Fisher lands in a situation where he comes in hand in hand with a GM or in advance of a GM, he'll have a guy or two to put forward and be open to forming a new relationship if he hits it off with an existing GM or an owner's candidate," Kuharsky said in that same article.
Fisher has not worked with any of the candidates the Rams are known to be interested in, currently known to be three people. Fisher has worked with Lake Dawson, but Dawson is not currently a known candidate for the job. Of course, a guy that's been in the NFL for as long as Fisher has, he's bound to know plenty of people, whether he's worked with them or not.
Regardless of the relationship between Fisher, or another head coach, and the next Rams' GM, it sounds as if the team has a very clear vision for the structure and flow of things, along with the accountability of all operations. That's their best hope of changing the culture here and getting dialed in on building a winner; it might even matter more than at least some of the actual individuals themselves. That's a very positive sign.