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Roundtable: How to Build a Super Bowl Contender

Building a Super Bowl contender is one of the more difficult things to do in sports. It takes skill, hard work and some luck. The one thing our panel agreed upon is organizational alignment is the most necessary ingredient for success.

Our panel consisting of former NFL Executives including Joe Banner, Mike Tannenbaum, Tom Lewand and Bill Polian discussed how they entered the offseason to build the next Super Bowl winning roster.

Banner’s Philosophy

Banner’s, former NFL Executive with the Eagles and Founder of The 33rd Team, philosophy for building a Super Bowl centers around two important roster spots—the quarterback and trenches.

“It was either the quarterback, get pressure on the quarterback, or prevent pressure from getting on the quarterback. That was kind of our guiding principle.”

Tannenbaum’s Philosophy

Tannenbaum, former NFL Executive with the Dolphins and Jets and founder of The 33rd Team, focused his roster building around identifying what holes his current roster had.

“We were trying to anchor into things like musts and needs. A must is something that we could not lineup and play a game without filling that position. A need was we had to get better at really within the division for so many years that was us really competing with New England. And that was sort of the lens of how we looked at things generally speaking and to the extent that we could, we wanted to have a functional team going into the draft so when we got to the draft, we could make the best decisions possible.”

Lewand’s Philosophy

Lewand, a former NFL Executive with the Lions, made sure to mention that sticking to the plan is important. Once a team starts making exceptions to their plan, it becomes easier to have more exceptions on the roster.

“I think it comes down to having alignment around your plan. There’s things you have to have that you are going to put your resources in and there’s a plan from day one to go after them, probably even before the season ends if its a big need. And then there are those things that you wanna add, and then there are those things that, you know, those principles that you are aligned to.  Mike, I’m sure you’d say and I’m sure you heard coach Parcells say it. When Martin Mayhew and I were starting to take over, he said ‘make sure you have a plan and don’t make exceptions, because pretty soon you are going to have a team full of exceptions.”

Polian’s Philosophy

Polian, a former NFL Executive with the Bills, Panthers and Colts, emphasized the importance of communicating with salary cap experts. It’s difficult for a team to improve their roster if they don’t know what resources they have.

“On December 1st, the cap guy gave us his analysis of what it would cost in cap and cash. He also gave us an analysis on what the market would be on potential other free agents. He (also) gave us a complete analysis of keeping or cutting everyone on our squad. The money was all laid out, at least estimated by December 1st. The pro scouts came in with their grades on our squad, we established what we thought the needs would be, and moved forward from that point in terms of who we might let go, who we might restructure.”

“Now, our situation almost from the second year we were at Indianapolis was such that we didn’t have a lot of dollars to spend in free agency…I’ve spoken before, we were really big on financial chemistry. We didn’t care about who was out there in the marketplace. We weren’t paying anyone anymore than we were going to pay Reggie Wayne. Didn’t matter who he was. We weren’t big players in free agency and were widely criticized for it.”

Breakdowns

Meeting Room: How Coaches & Front Offices Work Together

The grind of the NFL season doesn’t end when teams walk off the field for the final time.

The Process

Coaches and front office members get straight back to work as soon as the final whistle blows, determining the future of the roster for the next season. Positional coaches get to work scouting out their respective positions, while front office personnel scout other teams and prospects in the upcoming draft.

Position coaches present players on the rise and players they feel are starting to lose a step. There is constant communication and planning between the coaching staff and members of the front office.

All the while, the General Manager, Head Coach and Owner begin working in tandem to shape the team and establish a clear direction on the team.

Repercussions

Those three discuss the details of decisions, planning on what happens and what they’ll do based on the repercussions of these decisions. Two recent examples of this were brought up by Mike Tannenbaum, former NFL executive and Founder of The 33rd Team.

“Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams left partially due to the money that went to Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Obviously, if you’re privileged enough to have these guys you have to pay them, but you have to plan out what happens after because some of these complementary pieces just won’t fit under the cap.”

This communication goes into scouting as well. The coach sets the guidelines for what he’s looking for to fulfill certain player types that fit his vision, while the General Manager orchestrates the members of the front office and scouts into finding those kinds of players. Tannenbaum brought this up discussing how Bill Parcells had certain player archetypes he liked, and how establishing these prototypes gave the scouting department a clear vision of the kinds of players to look for that fit the vision of the coaching staff.

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