Saturday, January 3, 2009

Why is it so hard to fire GMs? (sport)

My guess is that GMs are the closest thing to being an extension of the owner and that's why. They're often just executing the owner's wishes rather than coming up with actual signings and trades. This may be why ESPN's Bill Simmons (the sports guy) sits at home playing with the ESPN NBA trade machine for one night and comes up with 15 trades that all sound good but will never actually happen. In fact, most personnel decisions in the NBA and NFL come from a position called team president or vice president of operations instead of GM.

But when I look at the slew of head coach firings so far in the NBA and the NFL I don't understand why GMs get so much benefit of the doubt while coaches just get tossed and replaced so easily. First let's look at the NFL. How many 1st round wide receiver picks and fire Millen t-shirts did it take before Matt Millen finally got the ax? And yet, Marinelli, who from most reports was still respected by his players, is let go when he had to deal with making Daunte Culpepper his starting quarterback and losing Roy Williams (who had 17 receptions for Detroit in 5 games and 19 receptions for Dallas in 10 games) in the middle of the season. How about Romeo Crennel being let go while Cleveland decided to keep Derek Anderson (rumor was they could have gotten a 2nd and a 3rd round pick if they had traded him in the offseason), Braylon Ewards suffered from the dropsies, and they ended up starting Brady Quinn anyway.

Even worse I think is the situation in the NBA. Of the record 6 coaches that were fired before Christmas, I think the GM was just as much at fault for at least 4 of them. Eddie Jordan in Washington was mostly hurt by the injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood, but he wasn't the one that signed Arenas to a ridiculous $113 million contract with knowledge of his knee problems. Then there was Maurice Cheeks, a popular former 76er who got fired when the whole Elton Brand thing didn't work out. Another big contract where the GM basically told the coach, "here's a big name, you better find a way to make it all work." The best coaches in the NBA all have their own systems and a recognition of which players fit or don't. Guys like Poppovich and Sloan have power on personnel decisions while D'Antoni just straight up told a guy earning $21 million that he wasn't going to have minutes for him. So it's sad when some coaches have to change how they work their systems on the whim of a GM.

Sometimes I feel the coach just can't be at fault because the team is just built so badly. Kevin McHale will finally get a taste of his own medicine in Minnesota when he has to coach a team that was basically put together to help Boston win a championship. They took a specific deal which allowed Boston not only to get Garnett but to get Ray Allen as well (by allowing Boston to keep their first round pick to get Allen). Let's not forget he also traded away the best scorer so far from this year's draft. Then there's Reggie Theus, who it seems really didn't see it coming. The Kevin Martin injury certainly hurt, but when the other starters are Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Mikki Moore, and Brad Miller, the question that comes to my mind is how did this team get built in the first place? I remember reading that Theus didn't fear for his job because he said the blowouts were happening because he was told to play an uptempo pace. This makes sense because if you're the worse team, you're more likely to get blown out in a game of 200 possessions than in a game of 160 possessions.

Then there's the guy who will probably still be untouchable for quite a while, Bryan Colangelo. That first big number 1 pick for Toronto, Bargnani, has been a bust as a number 1 overall pick. T J Ford didn't work out , and then this season he rolled the dice with Jermaine O'Neal and that hasn't worked out either. There were fans calling out for Sam Mitchell to be fired as early as last season, but he waited. He waited until the Jermaine O'Neal gamble didn't pan out and Bargnani's regression and Mitchell became the scapegoat.

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