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The regular season still has four weeks to play, but already the search for new general managers has begun. 

Four teams have already begun at least the preliminary process of securing their next GM, with Atlanta, Houston, Detroit and Jacksonville already in contact with some candidates and finalizing interview lists. Some of those teams are already well into the process, with interviews planned and much of the initial vetting and background checks nearing completion. The competition will be more fierce than possibly ever before, with several more teams set to join the fray at the completion of their season and some owners considering a reshuffling to titles and structure in their front office that could lead to a GM change as well.

The question, as always, is where will the next group of GMs come from? The answer, in many cases, just might be from the past. There are a handful of former GMs who could very well get another shot, and those men who are currently out of the league are eligible to be interviewed during the season. They will be the first to make an impression on some of these owners, and I would not discount the notion that multiple former GMs land back in the NFL in 2021. The NFL office is also very hopeful that this process will be far more diverse and inclusive than what we have seen recently, with the numbers of African American GMs trending in the wrong direction. 

Here is a look at the men I am hearing the most chatter about as we get into the hiring process, broken down into three categories.

First Time Guys

  • Ed Dodds, VP of personnel, Colts
  • Morocco Brown, director of player personnel, Colts
  • Joe Schoen, assistant GM, Bills
  • Dan Morgan, director of player personnel, Bills
  • Nick Caserio, director of player personnel, Patriots
  • Terry Fontenot, director of pro scouting, Saints 
  • Mike Borgonzi, director of player personnel, Chiefs
  • Trent Kirchner, VP of player personnel, Seahawks
  • Alonzo Highsmith, personnel executive, Seahawks
  • Scott Fitterer, VP of football operations, Seahawks
  • George Paton, assistant GM, Vikings
  • John Spytek, director of player personnel, Bucs
  • Adam Peters, VP of player personnel, 49ers
  • Jimmy Raye, senior personnel executive, Lions
  • Will McClay, VP player personnel, Cowboys
  • Jeff Murrow, executive director of player personnel, Panthers

Some of these guys have made the rounds before and come very close to landing jobs. The trio of Seahawks executives have been in the mix to run their own teams on several occasions. As you would expect, you see many of the more successful organizations in the NFL represented here.

Paton has been a finalist for several jobs, has been coveted in the past, and has withdrawn from consideration of jobs that did not make sense for him on multiple occasions. Some close to him think it would take the perfect opportunity on the West Coast for him to leave Minnesota and a job he loves, but I can't help wonder if the Bears might have an eye on him. Similarly, there is a strong sense around the NFL that McClay is set on staying in Dallas, though he will be in demand again, I imagine.

Caserio has had chances to leave New England on multiple occasions as well, but he has refrained. The Patriots scuttled a chance to run the Texans with the threat of a tampering change, and the Texans remain high on him. If the Giants job opened up that would probably be tough for him not to explore. 

Dodds will have multiple interviews, I suspect, while Brown has strong ties to the Washington Football Team, where he spent many years. Fontenot is someone else I expect to be on multiple interview lists. Chiefs coaches and personnel men have been in demand in recent years for obvious reasons and the dramatic turnaround in Buffalo has drawn attention around the league and owners will want to talk to those execs about how they could help rebuild their rosters.

Previous GMs Now Out Of The NFL

  • Rick Smith (Texans) 
  • John Dorsey (Chiefs, Browns)
  • Jerry Reese (Giants)
  • Scott Pioli (Chiefs)
  • Jeff Ireland, assistant GM, Saints
  • Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons)
  • Ray Farmer (Browns)
  • Doug Whaley (Bills)
  • Martin Mayhew, senior personnel exec, 49ers
  • Scot McCloughan (WFT)
  • Reggie McKenzie (Raiders)

A few guys from this list could very well find themselves back in the league. Smith will have the chance to interview for at least two of the jobs currently open from what I gather. Dorsey is held in very high regard by some involved in the Texans search and teams he helped build in Kansas City and Cleveland are thriving. Ireland has previous GM experience (although the tenure in Miami was rough) as does Mayhew (Lions)Reese has two Super Bowl rings and strong backing from the NFL office and should have multiple opportunities to meet with owners.

Dimitroff was just let go by Atlanta a few weeks back, but had a high profile as Falcons general manager, and of the men already let go in-season has the best odds of being able to get right back into the mix this offseason. Many NFL teams use McCloughan's scouting service and his reputation as a talent evaluator runs deep.

Non Traditional GMs

  • Omar Khan, VP of football and business administration, Steelers 
  • Pat Moriority, senior VP of football operations, Ravens
  • Kevin Abrams, assistant GM, Giants
  • Samir Suleiman, director of player negotiations and salary cap manager, Panthers
  • Jim Nagy, executive director, Senior Bowl
  • Louis Riddick, broadcaster

Of the execs listed who currently work for NFL teams, all have backgrounds that are more focused on the cap/negotiations/analytics at their core, but it is not uncommon for those with similar resumes to end up running organizations. All have acquired more traditional scouting experience along the way. It can be difficult for them to get the exposure of others, and their roles can be more nebulous and they contribute in ways beyond scouting reports and recommendations.

The idea of a former player coming out of broadcasting and into the top of an NFL organization is not without history, either, Matt Millen did it with the Lions and the 49ers more recently went a similar route with John Lynch (with far greater success) and the Raiders did as well, hiring Mike Mayock from NFL Network. Riddick has raised his profile calling Monday Night Football games as worked in personnel for WFT and Philadelphia most recently, while Nagy's scouting and organizational skills with the Senior Bowl have him on some radars and he does analyst work with ESPN as well.