Personnel hire could be just as important as coach

The issue has likely already been discussed between Steve Mariucci and Matt Millen; what to do about that vice-president of player personnel job that remains vacant after the firing of Bill Tobin? Lions' insider Mike Fowler looks at several possible candidates for the open position with some cunning insight!

(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- The issue has likely already been discussed between Steve Mariucci and Matt Millen; what to do about that vice-president of player personnel job that remains vacant after the firing of Bill Tobin? Mariucci probably won't have that title, but will have plenty of input into the acquisition of talent for his roster.

With former personnel director Bill Tobin now in Cincinnati as a scouting consultant, Detroit needs to find someone who can work with Millen and Mariucci without causing undue conflict. The new personnel director needs to be someone with a keen eye for talent and not just at the top of the heap. The tough decisions are what to do when a guard goes down and you need a competent guy to hold down the fort for four to five games. Or who to take with the second pick in the 5th round of the draft.

Also, that person needs to be someone who is a good communicator with his superiors and his underlings. Someone who isn't too insecure that he can't be challenged but also isn't too overconfident so that he can't take input.

While there is a chance that Millen and Mariucci will just split the job, if they decide to go out of the organization for a true personnel guy, here's a list of top personnel men who ought to occupy their short list:

Tim Ruskell, director of player personnel, Tampa Bay. Many credit Ruskell for tweaking the Bucs roster to Super Bowl caliber without busting the cap. Ruskell is so highly thought of that he was rumored for two vice-president positions (Atlanta and Jacksonville) in the league this season alone. Ruskell worked his way up from being a ballboy with Tampa to his current position after scouting the CFL and USFL.

Ruskell deflects credit to those who employed him along the way. "Any attention I get is a product of the success we've had as a team and the people I've been able to work with and for," Ruskell told the Sporting News. "Rich McKay (Tampa Bay's General Manager) kept us together when he was hired and deserves credit for all he's done. Jerry Angelo (Chicago Bears' GM) was a great teacher who allowed me to make mistakes and grow. The training I've had has opened some doors."

SKINNY: Unless Detroit elevated Ruskell to vice-president or GM status, this would be deemed a lateral move and not a likely hire.

Randy Mueller, former GM, New Orleans Saints. Mueller has been unemployed for an entire season, a bad sign for a GM candidate. Sources say Mueller can be difficult to work for, but there's no denying his talent for evaluating personnel. He is reportedly the front runner for the Seattle Seahawks GM job. Would Mueller settle for a player personnel director's job or does he want to run the entire show?

SKINNY: Detroit would only be interested in him as a personnel guy.

Vinny Cerrato, director of player personnel, Washington Redskins. Sources tell that Matt Millen has already spoken, through his network of contacts, to Cerrato's people to gauge his interest. He's been fired by Daniel Snyder once, so security is likely high on his list of priorities.

SKINNY: If this is going to happen, Detroit would need permission from Washington and that might not happen until after the draft.

Phil Savage, director of college scouting, Baltimore Ravens. This guy is the hottest name in the market after engineering winning draft after winning draft for the Baltimore Ravens. Working in partnership with Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, Savage has been credited for drafting All-Pros like middle linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, as well as outside linebacker Peter Boulware, running back Jamal Lewis, tight end Todd Heap and strong safety Ed Reed.

SKINNY: Detroit will likely take a long, hard look at Savage.

Sheldon White, director of pro personnel, Detroit Lions. The obvious and perhaps the best choice. White has shown he can work with almost anyone from Ron Hughes to Bill Tobin and not get caught up in the politics of the position. White has a keen eye for talent and if Millen would get out of his way, it would pay even more dividends. If he's passed over again, it wouldn't be long before teams would come calling for permission to speak with him.

The position is a key one, because Detroit needs some off-season wins in both free agency and the draft.

SKINNY: As Tobin showed in his two seasons in Detroit, a good personnel man can make a huge difference in the War room on draft day.

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