Who calls the shots? Draft’s decision-makers

If the Vikings follow their history and make more trades in the next three days, who will they be dealing with? We take a look at the draft’s decision-makers around the NFL.

The talk around the Vikings every draft is not if they make trades, but how many trades will they make. General Manager Rick Spielman has earned the nickname “Trader Rick” for a reason. He’s willing to move up in the draft. He’s willing to move back. He’s willing to listen to offers.

But, if and when the Vikings find trade partners, who will be on the other end of the phone?

As the final hours tick down until the draft, here is a breakdown of who calls the shots for the other 31 teams. In many cases, it’s a general manager. In some cases, it’s a vested head coach. In still others, it’s an owner who thinks he’s the smartest football man in the room.

More times than not, there is a blending of groups, which include coaches, scouting staffs and player personnel directors. But when it comes to who has the authority to rubber stamp a trade, there is usually just one or two voices in the war room that have that power. These are those power brokers.

Atlanta FalconsG.M. Thomas Dimitroff came from the Patriots with a lot of hype and, for a while, he was credited with turning the franchise around. But, the lack of success the last couple of years has put Dimitroff on notice that things had better turn around quickly. New head coach Dan Quinn is likely to get more say in reshaping the woeful Falcons defense, so his voice will have a lot more power than a lot of first-time head coaches get.

Baltimore RavensOzzie Newsome has been at the helm of the war room for 13 years and the track record of success has been nothing short of amazing. He has consistently led the Ravens to the playoffs and the team has won two Super Bowls on his watch. Few teams have developed themselves so consistently through the draft as Baltimore has and there is little reason to think that will change. The first and last voice in the Baltimore war room belongs to Newsome … and rightly so.

Buffalo BillsRex Ryan talks a tough game, but when it comes to the draft he has a voice but it isn’t full of the bluster that he makes at press conferences. When the Bills decided to clean house a couple years ago, they elevated Doug Whaley to the G.M. post. Whaley had spent a decade with the Steelers, one of the most consistently successful organizations in the league in building rosters through the draft. Ryan will have input, but Whaley will have the last word.

Carolina PanthersG.M. Dave Gettleman has nearly 30 years of experience in the front office with the Giants, Broncos and Bills and was brought into Carolina to clean up the salary cap mess. In two seasons in Carolina, he has brought the Panthers to the playoffs both years and has helped clean up the cap mess he inherited. The scouting staff has a big say in how the board is stacked, but Gettleman makes the final call on who gets picked and all trades.

Chicago BearsThe Bears hired Ryan Pace as their new general manager in January, replacing Phil Emery. Pace isn’t new to the party. He headed up the Saints personnel department and had been with New Orleans for 14 years. In his first year, he’s likely going to work very closely with new head coach John Fox and give Fox a lot of latitude on who gets selected.

Cincinnati BengalsThe Brown family is still firmly in charge of this often dysfunctional war room. Owner Mike Brown makes all the final decisions and his brother Pete is at his side as V.P. of player personnel. Marvin Lewis has earned a voice in the war room, but when all is said and done, it will be the Browns making the calls for the Bengals.

Cleveland BrownsG.M. Ray Farmer took over last year and his first draft is currently being viewed as a bust by passing on Teddy Bridgewater and taking Johnny Manziel. It may have sold jerseys last May, but time is ticking. Second-year coach Mike Pettine may see his role increasing, but Farmer needs to hit a home run after last year’s debacle.

Dallas CowboysAll Jerry all the time. Jerry Jones has been the owner, president and general manager of the Cowboys since he arrived in Dallas more than 25 years ago and nothing has changed. When it comes to draft picks, trades, whatever, nothing gets done without having Jones’ fingerprints all over it.

Denver BroncosJohn Elway is the face of the war room but is far from the only voice that is heard. Director of Pro Personnel Tom Heckert and Player Personnel Director Matt Russell both have a lot of input in the process, and new head coach Gary Kubiak, a former Denver assistant, will likely get a say as well. But when it comes to the big decisions, more times than not it’s Elway who makes the call.

Detroit LionsMartin Mayhew has done a solid job as G.M. since taking over the mess Matt Millen left behind. He is influenced by the opinions of head coach Jim Caldwell, who helped lead the Lions to a 11-5 record last year, but Mayhew is the architect in the war room.

Green Bay PackersTed Thompson is one of the most respected general managers in the game. As an organization, the Packers pick and choose what outside free agents they bring in and most the major decisions fall on Thompson’s shoulders. He has built the team through the draft and holds the only loud voice in the Green Bay war room.

Houston TexansGeneral Manager Rick Smith has been with Houston for nine years and has centralized a lot of power. He works closely with second-year head coach Bill O’Brien, but when all is said and done, Smith makes the key decisions on drafting, free agency and trades.

Indianapolis ColtsThe organization loves head coach Chuck Pagano and respects his talent evaluation. While he technically doesn’t have superiority in the war room over G.M. Ryan Grigson, Pagano wields a lot of power in the decision-making process in the Indy war room.

Jacksonville JaguarsGeneral Manager Dave Caldwell took over the Jags two seasons ago and his first move was to fire head coach Mike Mullarkey and replace him with Gus Bradley. The two of them work tightly together, but Caldwell has the final say in roster decisions as to who joins the team in the draft. Bradley’s power comes in shaping the final roster of the players he has.

Kansas City ChiefsOne of the selling points the Chiefs gave Andy Reid when he was hired was that he would have the authority to make the big moves in free agency and the draft. General Manager John Dorsey works in concert with Reid and they’re typically in lock step when they make decisions, but if there is one piece of pizza left in the box, you know who is going to get it.

Miami DolphinsThe organization hired Dennis Hickey away from Tampa Bay and owner Stephen Ross was clear and has reinforced that point often over the last year – Hickey has the autonomy to make the big decisions, including trading a disgruntled star like Mike Wallace. Head coach Joe Philbin has input, but Hickey is the king of South Beach.

New England PatriotsBill Belichick runs the show, make no mistake about that. Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio has a lot of input in stacking the board and doing the scouting work, but with no G.M. in New England, no head coach wields as much power in the war room as Belichick.

New Orleans SaintsGeneral Manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton have worked as a two-headed monster for the last eight years and nothing appears to change. Loomis technically has the final word, but it appears as though they are constantly of like mind on just about every decision that is made in the Big Easy.

New York GiantsGeneral Manager Jerry Reese has constructed two Super Bowl winners but has fallen on hard times the last couple years. While head coach Tom Coughlin is largely in charge of preparing the meal for how to assemble a roster, Reese is the one who shops for the ingredients.

New York JetsAt the end of last season, G.M. Mike Idzik and head coach Rex Ryans were shown the door and replaced them with new General Manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles. Seeing as both are new to their jobs – a first-time head coach and first-time G.M. – this one will bear monitoring, because neither has a track record of how their decisions are weighed. Stay tuned.

Oakland Raiders – The Raiders cleaned house after last season, but third-year G.M. Reggie McKenzie remained. While not as meddlesome as Al Davis, the Davis family still has a strong war-room voice and many remain convinced that the Davis family calls most of the important shots that get made on draft weekend.

Philadelphia EaglesG.M. Howie Roseman has been with the Eagles since 2010, but there’s no debating who calls the shots. That would be maniacal head coach Chip Kelly. He has staked his reputation on the fact his system can work in the NFL and has systematically gutted the offense of players like LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles. He’s calling the shots on who is and isn’t on his roster and he has gained control very quickly.

Pittsburgh SteelersOne of the best run organizations in the NFL, the song remains the same. Mike Tomlin is entering his ninth season as head coach – only the third coach there in the last 50 years – and G.M. Kevin Colbert is in his 15th year with the team and fourth as general manager. The scouting department carries a lot of war room weight because the Steelers rarely invest in outside free agents, but Colbert is the main man, followed a close second by Tomlin.

San Diego ChargersIn two years since coming over from the Colts organization, General Manager Tom Telasco, the youngest G.M. in the NFL, has almost completely re-tooled the Chargers roster. He works with Mike McCoy and defensive coordinator John Pagano is likely to have his input highly regarded, but the buck stops with Telasco.

San Francisco 49ersGeneral Manager Trent Baalke had worked very closely with head coach Jim Harbaugh, but at the end of the season the Niners parted ways with Harbaugh and promoted Baalke. It will be interesting to see how he interacts with first-year head coach Jim Tomsula, because, from the outside looking in, it appears as though Baalke has more power now than he ever has.

Seattle SeahawksPete Carroll holds the title of head coach and vice president of the organization and his fingerprints are all over the draft and free agent moves that are made, but he works in concert with General Manager John Schneider on most key decisions in the draft and free agency. However, when push comes to shove, Carroll holds the cards.

St. Louis RamsG.M. Les Snead wields a lot of power in the Rams war room, but when it comes to player personnel decisions, he is a tandem with head coach Jeff Fisher. One of the promises made to Fisher when he was lured out of retirement is that he would have a significant say in personnel decisions and, while Snead holds the title, most in St. Louis believe Fisher pulls the strings when it comes to adding players.

Tampa Bay BuccaneersThere is a division of power in Tampa that was created when the organization cleaned house in 2014. G.M. Jason Licht has the responsibility of assembling the players that will go to training camp, but Lovie Smith is charged with picking the final 53 on the roster. On draft weekend, it’s Licht’s show, but, after that, Smith takes over.

Tennessee TitansThere is a lot of thin ice here. Ruston Webster has been the general manager for three years and the Titans sunk to a franchise-low 2-14 record last season. Both he and head coach Ken Whisenhunt are on the bubble as to whether they will remain with the organization now that Tommy Smith, the CEO following the death of his father-in-law Bud Adams, has taken over. Webster and Whisenhunt will be making the calls on draft weekend, but if there’s another awful season, both could be gone by season’s end.

Washington RedskinsBruce Allen took over as general manager five years ago and was taking somewhat of a backseat to veteran coach Mike Shanahan, who wielded a lot of power. After a 4-12 season, Allen retained the title of president, but was replaced as general manager by Scot McCloughan, who came from the Seattle and San Francisco organizations. While Allen still holds a lot of power and owner Daniel Snyder likes to stick his nose in the business, expect to see more from McCloughan and head coach Jay Gruden when it comes to make the draft weekend decisions.

  • One of the stranger rumors that has surfaced is that the Vikings will look to trade up today with the Chicago Bears, giving up Cordarrelle Patterson and flip-flopping the seventh and 11th picks to draft wide receiver Kevin White of West Virginia. Wouldn’t count on that.

  • Another interesting scenario has the Vikings trading back from No. 11 with the potential of still landing Michigan State CB Trae Waynes. Of the 10 teams drafting behind the Vikings, only one (Miami at No. 14) has cornerback as a front-burner pressing need. This one could hold some legs, at least the idea of trading back and gaining more picks.

  • The Vikings announced Wednesday that they have reached a five-year extension of the radio contract with iHeartMedia’s KFAN 100.3 FM and KTLK 1130 AM for radio broadcast rights to all Vikings games. This season with be the 15th year that KFAN has been carrying Vikings games.

  • From the 20/20 hindsight department comes this: It would have been interesting had Rick Spielman been in charge of the Vikings draft 10 years ago. In 2005, Aaron Rodgers took a much-publicized tumble down the draft charts. Projected by many to be the No. 2 overall pick in the draft behind career disappointment Alex Smith, Rodgers didn’t go until the 23rd pick. The Vikings had Daunte Culpepper as their QB and he was coming his career year, throwing for 4,717 yards with 39 touchdowns, just 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 110.9. While Brett Favre was far from finished in the NFL, the Packers felt the value to get Rodgers was just too high at No. 24. The Vikings didn’t agree. What made it worse was that the Vikings had two chances to draft Rodgers and passed. The end result? They got Superbust Troy Williamson at No. 7 and career disappointment Erasmus James at No. 18.


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