John Heller - AP
We continue our look at potential General Manager candidates, this time breaking down some of the names that might not be as well-known. The gamble that comes along with many of these candidates is placing the fortunes of the franchise in the hands of individuals who, while deserving of consideration, have not previously held such a large amount of responsibility.
Kevin Colbert/Doug Whaley/Ron Hughes
Call them the "Pittsburgh Three." Colbert is the Steelers' Director of Football Operations, and he leads the personnel department featuring Whaley (Pro Personnel Coordinator) and Hughes (College Scouting Coordinator).
Colbert's name often comes up whenever speculation arises about the return of Bill Cowher. It has been speculated by many that wherever Cowher ends up working, he would be interested in bringing Colbert in to assist with personnel matters.
Colbert is a Pittsburgh native, growing up not far from where Heinz Field is today. Even if it were possible to pry Colbert away from a job with his hometown team, he may well be waiting for Cowher to return to the league, and therefore may be content to stay in Pittsburgh.
Doug Whaley handles the personnel on the professional side for the Steelers, and has been highly-regarded when organizations have considered candidates for general manager positions. Whaley may have already landed a GM job by now, had it not been for an embarrassing situation in 2007 in which he was responsible for an "inappropriate e-mail" being forwarded throughout the NFL, eventually reaching league commissioner Roger Goodell himself. The situation left the Steelers red-faced, and quite possibly have held Whaley back when it comes to career advancement.
Ron Hughes was a personnel man for the Detroit Lions for 18 years before being let go when the team hired Matt Millen to run the organization. Hughes was arguably the last man who oversaw successful personnel moves and draft choices in Detroit, acquiring productive players like Luther Ellis, Jason Hanson, Jeff Hartings, and Robert Porcher.
Some may ask why Hughes has been relegated to only overseeing college scouting for the Steelers since he joined the organization, and it would be a question to which Clark Hunt would have to find an answer. In any case, the notion that Hughes was fired by the inept Millen administration in Detroit may be an indication that he actually knows how to evaluate NFL talent.
Hiring any of the "Pittsburgh Three" would involve a promotion, rather than a lateral career move, so the Chiefs would have that in their favor. However, with the possibility of the Steelers making it far into the playoffs, can Clark Hunt and the Chiefs afford to wait to speak with them?
Heckert was promoted to General Manager for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2006, after working in the Eagles' personnel department in 2001. Heckert is GM in title only, as Andy Reid is the man in charge in Philadelphia. Heckert spent most of the 90's in the Miami Dolphins' personnel department, so he is a veteran when it comes to both scouting college talent as well as evaluating professional players. He is Andy Reid's right-hand man with the Eagles, but he defers to Reid's final decisions. Heckert has an impressive track record when it comes to personnel matters, in the draft and free agency.
Heckert is a rising star, and is often mentioned when GM jobs open up around the league. However, with his promotion to GM in Philadelphia, it means any team wanting to hire Heckert would be subject to paying compensation to the Eagles, as Heckert would be making a lateral move.
Eric DeCosta/George Kokinis
Both key members of the Baltimore Ravens' personnel team, DeCosta is Director of College Scouting and Kokinis is Director of Pro Personnel. DeCosta handles scouting and draft preparations for the Ravens, which should place him high on the lists of NFL organizations looking for front office talent.
The Ravens routinely draft well, continually hitting on both high picks (Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis) and lower-round picks and undrafted rookies (Ed Hartwell, Bart Scott, Chester Taylor, Priest Holmes). Kokinis makes pro player evaluations and assists Ravens' GM Ozzie Newsome in free agency decisions and also has experience in contract negotiations.
Either candidate comes with a solid resumé, drawing from the Ravens' history of talent evaluation and shrewd personnel moves. Kokinis has spent much of the last decade on the pro side of the organization, so he would likely need a strong team of scouts to work under him to have a well-rounded personnel department.
DeCosta is young for an NFL executive (37), and represents a stark difference from what Kansas City has had the last 20 years. Making DeCosta the man in charge of football operations for the Chiefs would be a big move, but also a big gamble.
It's not who you think. San Diego Chargers' Director of Player Personnel Jimmy Raye is the son of former Chiefs' offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. The younger Raye actually spent a season on the Chiefs' coaching staff in 1995 before joining the Chargers' organization the following year. Raye has been the man responsible for the Chargers' college scouting and draft evaluation, which means he has been involved in building the strong, talented San Diego teams of recent years.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Shawne Merriman, Philip Rivers, and Antonio Gates are all products of Jimmy Raye's scouting department. The fact that the Chargers are often named among the most talented teams in the NFL is a big feather Raye’s cap, and he has already been mentioned in the GM searches of other teams in the league.
Raye is definitely an up and coming name in the personnel ranks, but at such a pivotal time in the direction of the franchise, Clark Hunt and the Chiefs may not be inclined to hand the future of the team to a candidate who has not been the top decision-maker yet. Just how far out on a limb would Clark Hunt want to go when making his first huge move running the Chiefs?