Why are NFL GMs keeping jobs over head coaches

Photo courtesy of CJ Alexander, Flickr,

The NFL is an ever-changing organization that seems to find a host of different storylines over the course of a season. This includes how the Patriots dynasty is still going strong, where certain players will fall in the NFL Draft and how the new-look Cleveland Browns will fare out in the AFC North.

While there's a lot of excitement within the league, there is one theme that seems to be growing throughout the facilities of most of the 32 teams that occupy the league: impatience.

The most evident examples include a host of general managers making impulsive decisions due to their relationship and successes with their respective head coaches. While it's a very different approach compared to how the NFL was run a few decades ago, it's a reality that coaches, players and fans have begun to notice.

To put it simply: Why do general managers seem to have far more leverage compared to a head coach?

Let’s rewind back to what the New York Giants were doing in 2016. Coming off a consecutive 6-10 season in 2015, the organization came to a mutual agreement that head coach Tom Coughlin would not resume head coaching duties for the 2016 season. Even with the massive shift within the team, New York decided to stick with general manager Jerry Reese and hire a different head coach.

This plan backfired as Reese was eventually fired two seasons later along with the new head coach at the time, Ben McAdoo. In a situation where the team is still a collective mess, the only impact Reese had—in the two seasons they decided to keep him for—was helping assemble to disastrous rosters. It’s also worth noting that Coughlin quickly found a job as executive vice president of football operations with the Jacksonville Jaguars and helped lead them to the playoffs in 2017.

A similar case of a general manager keeping his job over a head coach is currently happening with the Arizona Cardinals. General manager Steve Keim has been calling the shots for Arizona since 2013 and helped the Cardinals earn two playoff berths in 2014 and 2015.

Unfortunately for Keim, the team has gone 18-29-1 since 2016 and had the worst record in football last season. Head coach Steve Wilks took over the reigns in 2018 and was left with a subpar roster, a rookie quarterback and various other holes across the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

The blinding realities were not enough to spare Wilks' job and he was fired after just one season, although Keim will keep his job moving forward. It's also important to note that Keim's job status was not affected even after he served a five-game suspension for a DUI that happened in July of 2018.

It’s obvious that the NFL is a league with high expectations and success is a priority that cannot be stressed enough. With that being said, this pattern of general managers undeservingly keeping their jobs over head coaches is a strange recurring theme among the Giants, Cardinals, Dolphins and Buccaneers. 

The impatience that owners have towards head coaches clearly do not translate the same way towards general managers. Every general manager is in charge of putting together a roster that is built to win, which in essence makes their impacts on the team’s success colossal.

While this pattern continues to creep up, we’ll see what happens to many head coaches and general managers who are on the hot seat over the course of the 2019 NFL season.