Jimmy Johnson says NFL talent evaluation outranks coaching
Coaches can't do it all in the modern NFL, Jimmy Johnson says
Mike Berardino Sports Columnist, Sun-Sentinel
November 8, 2011

Jimmy Johnson   Jimmy Johnson knows what it takes to win Super Bowls, having done it twice in Dallas. He knows what it takes to rebuild an organization that has sunk into mediocrity or worse, having done it not just in Dallas but with the Miami Dolphins as well. So when the coaching legend turned FOX football analyst suggests the most important person the Dolphins install this offseason whether they retain General Manager Jeff Ireland or not probably won’t be their next head coach but their top talent evaluator, it should register. ”I think you want to have an owner that’s supportive that’s going to give you the tools that you need; the Dolphins have that in Steve Ross,” Johnson said Tuesday morning on The Joe Rose Show on WQAM (560-AM). “The Dolphins had that with Wayne Huizenga. The Cowboys obviously had it with Jerry Jones. He’s going to do whatever it takes to try to win games. But most all of the owners are that way.

“Now you don’t want an owner in there trying to make decisions when he doesn’t know anything about football. So you’ve got to avoid that. But ownership in my opinion is one of the least important things.” So, what’s the most important then? “I think the No. 1, most important person in your entire organization is your talent evaluator, whoever that guy is,” Johnson said. “And when I say talent, not necessarily just the players. Talent evaluator as far as your coaches, your assistant coaches, the people in your organization. “Your talent evaluator is the most important person there. Now it might be your general manager, it might be your director of player personnel, it might be your head coach. That was my responsibility when I was back in coaching. I think he is more important actually than your head coach.”

Johnson had total control over football personnel in both Dallas and Miami, but he suggested the modern NFL has become so complex, so all-consuming, that model no longer is feasible. And he’s not the first to come to that determination. “Some people have a dual role,” Johnson said. “More times than not it’s your general manager. In New England, right now it’s [Bill] Belichick. He does both. But there’s very few in the NFL right now that’s doing both. … Really it’s an overwhelming job with the salary cap and free agency. You really need to separate. “Bill does it now and he’s got some assistants with some people there in the front office, but I mean he’s got no life. That’s all he does. And it’s an overwhelming job. And I think because it is such an overwhelming job, he’s probably missed on some of them and he’s starting to miss more than what he did in previous years when he had Scott Pioli.”

To hear Johnson tell it, the Dolphins would be foolish to hand total control to one of those superstar head coaches like Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or Jeff Fisher. Better to find the person who can see through the muck and find the right people who should play, coach and scout for the franchise. “It’s really too much of a job,” Johnson said. “Even if you hire one of these guys that say, ‘Hey, I want control,’ they’re really not going to do it. They’re going to be the head coach and maybe they’re got the final say, but the nuts and bolts of it, 80 percent of the work will be done by somebody else. “So he’s going to have to have him somebody really good as a talent evaluator to do the job. Even if you give that guy the title, he better have somebody with him that’s doing it really good. Pete Carroll is trying to do some of this in Seattle. It’s swallowing him up. He can’t do it.”

I tend to agree with Jimmy here, although I can still see several scenarios in which Ireland would be retained to work with whomever Ross hires as the Dolphins’ next coach (assuming Tony Sparano goes as expected). Even if Ireland stays on board as GM, who would you like to see in the “football czar” role above him? What if Ireland goes? Who are some of the top gettable personnel people who should be on the Dolphins’ radar, especially in light of JJ’s comments? Go Dolphins...


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