|Pioli will struggle to hold onto his job if Kansas City doesn't improve.(US Presswire)|
With the surprising news earlier this week that the Panthers fired general manager Marty Hurney in the middle of the season, we take a look with this version of Top Ten with a Twist on those other GMs who should be on the hot seat.
We're not recommending any of these executives be fired in the middle of the season -- I'm still not sure what the point of firing Hurney after Week 7 is, and it's hard to imagine Carolina will feel any positive effects from the dismissal -- and naturally, there's still time for these teams to turn around their seasons (for the record, Hurney would be No. 4 or 5 on my list).
But with the renewed focus this week on how much GMs influence a team but are often spared from unemployment in favor of the coaches who have to deal with those GMs' roster moves and draft picks, it's time to take a look at those who really could (and, in some cases, should) be in trouble.
10. Mickey Loomis, Saints: I imagine Loomis has nothing to worry about, because if owner Tom Benson won't fire him after the never-ending bad publicity caused by the bounty program and by Roger Goodell suspending him for half the season, he's not going anywhere. But should he have been fired for Bountygate? Quite possibly, yes. Loomis has done well with this organization -- though the late signing of Drew Brees to a large contract negatively affected the Saints during their 0-4 start -- but the embarrassment this past offseason would have caused an owner with less loyalty than Benson to rid his team of Loomis. Regular-season record with Loomis in charge: 90-70.
9. Jerry Jones, Cowboys/Mike Brown, Bengals: Until Jones no longer owns the team, I imagine there won't be anybody else who will head up the team's personnel department. But considering the Cowboys have won just one playoff game since 1996 and with the inability of any coach Jones has hired since Barry Switzer to get to a conference title game, Jones should let somebody else start making some decisions. Which leads us right into Mike Brown, who can boast of three playoff appearances since he took over the team in 1991. Plus, throw in the fact Brown gives himself a yearly GM bonus, and it's a cruel joke that Brown continues on as head of the personnel. There's no doubt that Brown is one heck of a businessman, and I've enjoyed my personal dealings with him. But he shouldn't be the team's GM. Regular-season record with Jones in charge: 200-158; Regular-season record with Brown in charge: 127-215-1.
8. Martin Mayhew, Lions: Compared to the man he followed -- one Matt Millen -- Mayhew has helped turn around the franchise. Taking over the full-time gig at the end of the 2008 season, Detroit has stopped wasting first-round draft picks on combustible receivers who flame out early, and while the last four drafts have been up and down, Detroit made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1999. But you also have to look at the character of players the Lions have drafted, and with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Mikel Leshoure, Johnny Culbreath and Titus Young finding trouble either on the field or off, there's little question that disciplinary issues have run rampant through the club. Which could be one reason the Lions seem to be slipping back into irrelevancy. Regular-season record with Mayhew in charge: 20-34.
7. Buddy Nix, Bills: Including Nix, I don't expect 7-10 on this list to be in danger of getting fired. But Nix's record as GM since he took over before the 2010 season has been a mixed bag. He gets credit for signing Stevie Johnson to a long-term deal, but extending Ryan Fitzpatrick in the middle of last season is looking like a bad decision and giving Mario Williams $100 million this offseason hasn't worked out well (yet). I still think Nix and coach Chan Gailey need more time -- and I still think they'll get it -- but at some point, you have to start beating the Patriots and Jets with more regularity. Regular-season record with Nix in charge: 13-27.
6. A.J. Smith, Chargers: I'm not convinced San Diego's course for the rest of this season is set. And if the Chargers -- who, you'll recall, are tied for first in the AFC West with the Broncos -- make the playoffs, Smith and coach Norv Turner might very well keep their jobs. But if not, the duo is probably gone. Smith hasn't done himself many favors with his heavy-handed ways, but he's also made some very good decisions for the organization. They just haven't put the Chargers into that elite AFC level. Regular-season record with Smith in charge: 91-59.
5. Mike Tannenbaum, Jets: The final five of this list are those who almost certainly will be fired if their teams' fortunes don't change quickly. Even though they occurred during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, those back-to-back AFC title game appearances certainly seem far off, don't they? While Tannenbaum certainly has made some good moves since taking over in 2006 -- drafting Darrelle Revis and signing Antonio Cromartie while helping build one of the toughest defenses in the league are a few examples -- but acquiring names like Vernon Gholston, Vladimir Ducasse and (ahem) Tim Tebow leave you wondering. Regular-season record with Tannenbaum in charge: 54-49.
4. Tom Heckert, Browns: It seems clear that Heckert is as good as gone after this season. Though it's understandable that new owner Jimmy Haslam and team president/CEO Joe Banner will want to clean the slate and bring in their own people, Heckert is getting a raw deal. The problem in Cleveland since the franchise was re-established in 1999 is a lack of stability. Every couple of years, the coaching staff turns over and team executives have to come up with a new set of goals. Hopefully for Browns fans, after Heckert is released, the organization finally will set a plan and stick to it. Regular-season record with Heckert in charge: 10-29.
3. Jeff Ireland, Dolphins: Before the season began, Ireland would have been leading this list, but it seems as if Miami, under new coach Joe Philbin, is making real progress. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been solid, and though the offense and the defense aren't ranked in the NFL's top-20, Miami has put itself into a possible chase for the playoffs. Some of Ireland's drafting has been brutally bad -- some, though, has been pretty good, actually -- but he still has a chance to save himself, especially with a loyal owner like Stephen Ross. Regular-season record with Ireland in charge: 34-36.
2. Gene Smith, Jaguars: So much of Smith's ability to stay employed in Jacksonville depends upon how well quarterback Blaine Gabbert develops and if he can become that franchise quarterback. So far this season, Gabbert has been better than his disappointing rookie season, but the rest of the team is still pretty terrible. Aside from Maurice Jones-Drew, Smith hasn't put together the kind of offense that can compete in the league. With a new owner in Shad Khan still evaluating, you'd have to think Smith's time is running short. Regular-season record with Smith in charge: 21-33.
1. Scott Pioli, Chiefs: The expectations for Pioli when he first took the job in 2009, especially coming from all that success in New England, were high to turn around a struggling franchise, but one of Pioli's early mistakes was to pay quarterback Matt Cassel $63 million. Kansas City made the playoffs in 2010, but the Chiefs have struggled ever since and have been particularly terrible this season. Pioli's reputation as an arrogant, stubborn and paranoid GM doesn't help. It's hard to see him surviving this season. Regular-season record with Pioli in charge: 22-32.
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