While everyone loves to debate which organizations are the best in football, it’s ultimately a (somewhat) subjective endeavor. Depending on the criteria used, knowledgeable people could easily come to different conclusions about the top NFL front offices. Putting that disclaimer aside, here are the criteria we used to determine the best front offices: sustained success, transactions (trades, free agents, etc.), drafting/scouting, team-building philosophy, hiring (coaches, front office).
Based on these criteria, here are the teams that I consider to have the best Front Offices in the NFL (note that at the risk of looking biased, I excluded the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns from this list).
I worked with Bills HC Sean McDermott for over a decade in Philadelphia, and I was extremely complimentary when Buffalo hired him in 2017. One of the strongest attributes of the Bills front office is that Sean and GM Brandon Beane are aligned philosophically. When this regime was initially hired, they took the right steps to regroup as an organization. Instead of being impatient and trying to win immediately, they took the long view. It reminds me of when we first hired Andy Reid with the Eagles; we went 5-11 in Andy’s first season. In Sean and Brandon’s first season, the Bills went 9-7 and then 6-10 in year two, but they have improved each season since.
In addition to building the team correctly from the outset, Buffalo has also done well building the roster and culture. They are strong in salary cap management; the Bills have been one of the most aggressive teams in using per-game roster bonuses, which are very team friendly. They are also not afraid to lose players and have been strategic to pay players when it’s deserved. Given their current roster and QB Josh Allen, the Bills look to be contenders for years to come.
Owner Steve Bisciotti has emphasized sustained success, and the Ravens have done as well as any team in achieving that, which is really difficult to do. They have been competitive for over a decade thanks to an exceptional Head Coach in John Harbaugh, smart strategic planning, and excellent scouting. While I don’t always agree with their conception of positional value, they have fundamentally prioritized players that make the most sense in their scheme. At the same time, they haven’t been afraid of losing players. They are probably the best team in the NFL with compensatory draft picks, giving them a solid advantage.
Kansas City Chiefs
In many ways, the Chiefs place on this list speaks for itself. Andy Reid is undoubtedly among the best Head Coaches in the league. Under his leadership and Brett Veach’s, they have been both aggressive and prudent. One of their most impressive accomplishments is fixing their offensive line after it fell apart in their Super Bowl LV loss to the Buccaneers.
Kansas City has prioritized smart and driven players, which has led to sustained success. I applaud them for building a high character team, as it allowed them to take a chance on Tyreek Hill, a difference making player who didn’t fit that mold. Once they had established a quality team with leaders, they were able to take a risk on a player like Hill.
Los Angeles Rams
I give the Rams credit for taking an approach that no one else has tried. Their strategy views football as superstar-driven like basketball; their roster construction is at odds with football being the ultimate team sport as most have traditionally thought. Among other things, two keys to the Rams’ success have been their cap management and sports science. In terms of the former, they were the first organization to realize that the cap rising made cap space and draft picks less valuable, which in turn made proven veterans more valuable. As for the latter, the Rams have consistently been among the league’s best teams in injury prevention since they moved to Los Angeles. Keeping their superstars healthy was crucial in their path to the Super Bowl.
I also admire organizations, like the Rams, that are willing to take significant risks. Unlike many teams, their Front Office does not prioritize self-preservation. Despite the potential for failure, the Rams’ bet their jobs on their personnel decisions and the potential upside. It worked.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have both evaluated well and managed the cap well. From a philosophical standpoint, they’ve been wise to place a huge emphasis on the defensive line. They have also emphasized the offensive line albeit to a lesser extent than the d-line. While some might be concerned about their QB moving forward, I have been as supportive as anyone about the Trey Lance pick. I have not wavered in thinking he will be a difference maker for them.
The lack of pre draft talk about Trey Lance compared to other QB’s is baffling. By the way, he is African American & in my opinion is the smartest of the top four. Need a few years but I think he is going to be a stud. If he is the pick at three, him and Kyle are a deadly combo
— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) April 16, 2021
My only trepidation with San Francisco is that teams need to know when to be aggressive versus when to be patient. The 49ers don’t agree with this sentiment—they are always aggressive. Even so, they deserve to be on this list. In years that they have not been decimated by injuries, they have been successful.