NEW YORK -- Not much is made of brain drain in the NFL, though the phenomenon is very real. Every winter motivated, qualified and bright minds leave one organization for another, with their former employers left to fill the void, and, hopefully, have qualified replacements ready to replenish from within.
It's a concept Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider ponders from time to time, and one he knows could be becoming acute for his organization as they continue to become a model for others. Fortifying his franchise for the future, beyond normal roster juggling, will be a challenge for him as well as Denver's chief executive, John Elway. The Broncos, Seattle's opposition in this Super Bowl, know plenty about the churn of coaching and front office talent, too, and changes could be in store at the highest reaches of their organization as well. In fact, the exodus actually began for both franchises following their rise in 2012. Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy became the Chargers' head coach and Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley became Jacksonville's head coach, while executive John Idzik departed to take the general manager job with the Jets.
"That's part of the process, and something that's going to happen as you try to build a winning team," said Schneider, who just completed a fourth masterful season at the helm. "It's about letting people do what they do and helping them be as good as they possibly can be, and it's only natural that at some point people want to move on, whether it be John Idzik or Gus, and you feel good knowing those guys have enough of a foundation and are ready to do their own thing, and, hey, that's good for everybody.
"Great people will want to move on and be successful and you have to always be trying to develop those kinds of guys. It starts with the internship programs on the coaching side and the personnel side, and those are important opportunities and you want to be able to help and promote those guys."
Of course, by reaching the Super Bowl, it makes it a little more difficult for teams to raid your talent, as the NFL rules limit outside contact for coaches and execs under contract still in the playoffs, and when they can be hired elsewhere. The reality of the NFL is, return trips to this game are few and far between, however, and both of these franchises will have individuals who enter 2014 atop many wish lists other franchises will be compiling.
In Seattle, Senior Personnel Executive Scot McCloughan keeps a remarkably low profile and avoids attention, but it is widely knows just how trusted a sounding board he is for Schneider. They form an extraordinary tandem in talent evaluating, and McCloughan, the former general manager in San Francisco whose fingerprints remain all over that talented roster, is coveted by other teams. League sources said he was the first person the Dolphins called after firing GM Jeff Ireland -- McCloughan quickly and politely declined -- and opportunities will continue to come his way. Those who know him well believe it would take a truly perfect opportunity to lure him back into the spotlight as a GM, and that job might not even exist, but that won't prevent other teams from trying.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn capped his first year on the job by getting head coaching interviews, and many believed the Browns would have hired him had Seattle's season not extended so far. The Seahawks' top-ranked defense is only getting better -- young and hungry and with most top players still not even in their prime -- and Quinn will be a very hot name when coaching searches begin 11 months from now. It seems somewhat inevitable he will be gone (highly-regarded linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. might be the perfect in-house replacement, another luxury that comes from identifying rising coaching talent and building a deep staff).
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has interviewed for several head coaching jobs the past two seasons, too, and with young quarterback Russell Wilson improving rapidly and key cogs like Percy Harvin barely even factoring into Seattle's offense in 2013, it stands to reason the Seahawks will draw even more attention on this side of the ball as time goes on. Bevell likely will have several opportunities available next winter, but the Seahawks again are protected with offensive line coach Tom Cable waiting in the wings. Cable, a former head coach in Oakland, is very well-regarded by Seahawks players, coaches and management. He already orchestrates their imposing run game and Seattle is well-served by the fact he did not land an offensive coordinator job elsewhere this offseason.
The Broncos, a year after teams were lining up to try to secure interviews with McCoy, ended up having an "it" guy again on their staff. Adam Gase, who replaced McCoy as offensive coordinator at 34, could have had the Browns job had he agreed to interview with them (the Vikings also were very interested, and the Redskins likely would have been, too). But Gase is in no hurry, he and his representatives figured another season in 2014 with Peyton Manning and this offense could not hurt, and 2015 is more of a target date for him to seriously consider head coaching jobs.
So Gase put off even entertaining an interview request until after Denver's season ended, and at this point is positioned to be the hottest coordinator out there when the hiring starts again next year. He's seen as something of a can't-miss prospect. Plus, the possibility exists the Broncos could be without Gase and Manning after the 2014 season -- Gase, almost certainly. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, a former head coach in Jacksonville, could get some consideration as well, particularly for college head coaching jobs next year.
The Broncos' first order of business after their season ends, however, in victory or defeat, is to strike an extension with head coach John Fox, multiple sources said, who has had three tremendous seasons there and is line to rejoin the ranks of the highest paid coaches in the NFL. That will be imperative, while many believe Elway could begin transitioning into more of an ownership role with the team, with longtime owner Pat Bowlen not able to own it forever, and Elway perhaps doing less of the day-to-day managing of the club in the years to come, with perhaps some of the other execs taking on more responsibility.
There probably is no one better qualified, or would be more heartily endorsed, for eventually owning the team than Elway -- given his unique bond with that city and with the Bowlen family, should that opportunity arise. What is known, is that change, at the highest levels of the NFL, is unavoidable, so it's best to be prepared. Both of these clubs, with an exception or two, seem well-positioned to withstand the inevitable poaching that is to come.