NFL front offices get their due praise (or scorn), but running a quality NFL franchise is about more than the big signings and head-coach hirings. Seasons can hinge on the 44th man on the roster or the quality-control assistant who might save a season by pulling the right piece of tape during prep. FOX Sports ranks all 32 NFL front offices, from bottom to top, focusing on how well each team has positioned itself for both short- and long-term success.
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers
Do you know how hard it is to be considered a worse organization the Cleveland Browns, especially when you've played in a Super Bowl in the last five years and came within a tipped pass of another? But with Jim Harbaugh getting run out of town and the team becoming just the second franchise in modern NFL history to fire back-to-back coaches after a single season, you earn that distinction. Now the Niners are starting all over from a completely new slate too after dumping GM Trent Baalke. Is there another Harbaugh brother we don't know about?
Los Angeles Rams
I'm not saying Jared Goff is going to be a bust. I'm writing it.
USA TODAY SportsRobert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
It's hard to blame them for the Robert Griffin signing. I can't blame them for drafting Johnny Manziel, either. But that doesn't mean I won't.
Ken BlazeKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
After Rex Ryan was fired, GM Doug Whaley was asked about how the decision was made: "I wasn’t privy to any part of Rex Ryan being fired until I was told by [owner] Terry Pegula,” he said. Then when asked what exactly he does for a living if he's not evaluating coaches or even being in the loop in the evaluation of coaches, Whaley laughed. And still the Bills are only No. 29.
Mark KoneznyMark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Prior to Sept. 3, the Vikings probably would have been a top-10 team on this list. Then came this: First-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 (though maybe a second or third) for Sam Bradford. "The one thing that I will not do, and I promise you this, is put our organization in a situation where it's going to inhibit us or hurt us going into the future," GM Rick Spielman said after the trade. I'd be skeptical but he promised. Minnesota finished the year 3-8 after a 5-0 start, but, hey, at least Sam Bradford set the hallowed NFL record for highest completion percentage.
Brian SpurlockBrian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
One of the easier jobs in sports: Go 8-8 and you're a massive success to the fans who fill your stadium.
Reinhold MatayReinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
How many bonus points do the Bears get for drafting the NFL's second-leading rusher in the sixth round? Not too many, it seems.
Dennis WierzbickiUSA TODAY Sports
Colts owner Jim Irsay seems to be the biggest (only?) fan of coach Chuck Pagano and general manger Ryan Grigson, who are coming back for another season despite a nearly unanimous sentiment that they, uh, shouldn't. On one hand, three 11-5 seasons followed by two 8-8 seasons isn't necessarily a knee-jerk case for termination. Too many teams are too quick to fire. On the other hand, the Colts have Andrew Luck and just lost the division to a team that was quarterbacked by Brock Osweiler for 14 games.
Thomas J. RussoThomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
J.J. Watt? Sublime. Jadeveon Clowney? There wasn't any other choice, and he may be coming into his own if he can stay healthy. DeAndre Hopkins? Improving, though hardly the future Hall of Famer (right now) that Bill Belichick has pegged him to be this week. So why so low? Four years, $72 million. That's why.
Christopher HanewinckelUSA TODAY Sports
In 2015, the Dolphins signed Ndamukong Suh to the most expensive defensive contract in NFL history. In his first year, the team had its worst defensive showing since 1997. This year, the team had its lowest finish in franchise history. Sounds like the team needs to stomp out this mediocrity.
Steve MitchellSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets
The team overpaid Darrelle Revis and set up a showdown this offseason about whether it will pay him to play (poorly), pay him to leave, ask him to take a pay cut or move him to safety. On the bright side, refusing to budge on a one-year deal for Ryan Fitzpatrick and keeping around Todd Bowles are overall plusses. (Until they're not.)
Ed MulhollandEd Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
"With the 59th pick of the NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Roberto Aguayo, kicker, Florida State."
Reinhold MatayReinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
They get a pass on hiring Chip Kelly. If it weren't them, it would have been any of a half-dozen other teams. The Eagles traded away far too much for Carson Wentz, signed Sam Bradford for a laughable amount and then got lucky when Teddy Bridgewater get hurt and the Vikings were so desperate for a QB they basically compensated Philly for all they'd given up for Wentz. Oh, and a tip: When looking for receivers, try for the ones with hands.
Bill StreicherBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
When you have Mike Mularkey as your head coach, what are your goals, really? Tampa gave Tennessee the (right) choice when they took Jameis Winston over Marcus Mariota, but without much help on either side of the ball the Titans will be left fighting it out for the right to host an AFC wild-card game where they lose to the Steelers every year.
Dennis WierzbickiDennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
How'd that Josh Norman release work out, Dave?
Jeremy BrevardJeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego Chargers
This might be high. This is probably high. But Joey Bosa was the best pick of the 2016 draft, and it's not Tom Telesco's fault Keenan Allen went down in Week 1, killing not only the Chargers' season but that of my fantasy team -- J.B. Fletcher -- too.
Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper are all recent draft coups for a team that had more misfires in the aughts than Derek's brother. And while GM Reggie McKenzie, who was third in command in Green Bay for over a decade, appears to be very much the real deal, let's see back-to-back playoff seasons before we start moving Oakland too high up the list.
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints
Don't look now, but the twilight of Drew Brees' career is taking a Jeff Fisherian turn: three-straight 7-9 records and some amazing garbage-time stats.
Mark J. RebilasUSA TODAY Sports
In 2010 and 2011, Cincy selected A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Andy Dalton and Carlos Dunlap. Since then, the draft has brought players with one Pro Bowl appearance. Free-agent signings have been middling, at best. Signing Vontaze Burfict as an undrafted free agent was a solid for both the defense and whichever charitable foundation to which the NFL donates player fines.
Aaron DosterAaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
I know; I'm as surprised as you. After years and years of having this or that guy be the one who was finally going to stabilize the Redskins under Dan Snyder's reign of terror, Washington seems like it found someone in former San Francisco and Seattle exec Scot McCloughan. His upcoming defensive coordinator decision will be huge (it's his first big coaching hire as GM) -- as will the dealings with Kirk Cousins, who could seriously hinder the team's necessary effort to improve its -- well, everything.
Eight fourth-quarter comebacks and an impending contract showdown with Matthew Stafford make not for stability.
Tim FullerTim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
You have to give credit for the Zack Martin and Dak Prescott picks, but you'd be remiss if you didn't mention that Jerry Jones had to be talked out of Johnny Manziel in order to take the former and would have selected Connor Cook over the latter had the Raiders rookie had still been on the board.
Kevin JairajKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
A hard-luck team from 2016, the Cardinals are set defensively for years and got a surprise steal in David Johnson in the 2015 draft. Now: How do you replace Carson Palmer?
Gary A. VasquezGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Dimitroff bought the ingredients to one of the most dominant offenses in NFL history, and Matt Ryan and Kyle Shanahan cooked them up, Top Chef style. But even with that prolific offense, it'll be the defense that'll be the team's biggest story this January.
Jason GetzJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants
With the most explosive wide receiver in the league and a flawed but more-than-competent, quarterback, not to mention a defense that was stifling for the last part of the season, you can't have too many criticisms about the moves of Jerry Reese. Oh yeah, except for the fact that the team hasn't had a run game since Brandon Jacobs.
Vincent CarchiettaVincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid did just fine while serving as his own de facto general manger in Philadelphia, but the separation of church and mustache in Kansas City is serving him and the Chiefs quite well.
Remember how Ozzie Newsome was infallible in the draft? Well, he's still pretty good (C.J. Mosley, Kelechi Osemele, Torrey Smith), but there have been far more misses than hits recently. Consider, from 2009-15, players drafted by Baltimore made six Pro Bowls. In the seven-year stretch before that, players made 36. There's still time for the newer ones, of course -- Mosley may have six or seven by himself by the time he's done. But that and the unavoidable Joe Flacco contract are enough to knock the reliable Ozzie down a few notches.
Evan HabeebUSA TODAY Sports
A note for these rankings: We're not going to overreact to one good or bad season or else you're basically just doing a power ranking of teams. Denver might've missed the playoff this season (it happens a lot to reigning Super Bowl champions -- six times in the past 15 years) but its core is strong, the Bowlen family and Joe Ellis are the perfect bosses, and John Elway has set up a defense that should be able to keep afloat even an average offense. Of course, much of Denver's recent success was predicated on the fact that Peyton Manning chose them. Now that he's gone, how will things play out?
Chuck CookChuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
When you draft Antonio Brown in the sixth round and Le'Veon Bell in the second, you earn your props, even if Bell is the last Pro Bowler taken by Pittsburgh. After a nine-year stretch in the top 10 for total defense, Pittsburgh has finished 12, 21, 18 and 13 the last four years, respectively. Eleven playoff trips in 16 years makes up for that, though, as does the always-unbelievable stat of having three coaches since 1969.
Charles LeClaireCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers
Can you imagine if Ted Thompson were able to give Aaron Rodgers some weapons? But the Packers roll with a specific player-personnel strategy, and it's worked to the tune of eight straight playoff appearances.
USA TODAY NETWORKThe Post-Crescent-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Allen writing checks, John Schneider evaluating talent and Pete Carroll loudly giving opinions through chews of gum - it's as effective a trio as in any NFL front office. Keeping together the nucleus of the team for so long has been an achievement, and though Russell Wilson's offense hasn't been replenished as well as he'd like, one gets the feeling it's only a matter of time.
Joe NicholsonJoe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots
Maybe it doesn't matter who Bill Belichick brings in. Maybe it does. And it does. Name a player let go by the Patriots (either through free agency, trade or release) who went on to prove Belichick wrong. When he gets rid of you, you're done. When he brings you in, your career is about to hits its peak. Sure, it's all so unnecessarily tarnished by the various, Nixonian shenanigans, but, hey, Nixon won the biggest blowout in presidential election history and that was after Watergate started.