Training camps open in July, preseason games in August and the 2017 National Football League regular season on September 7. While the fruits of off-season labor will be on display with increasing consequences in those months and dates we have clear perspective now on why some teams rise to the top and others remain cellar dwellers no matter how many high draft choices they gain by poor regular season records.
The Cleveland Browns have made trades to stockpile draft picks, no doubt coming to the realization that the great teams in the NFL build through the draft. Problem is, arming the Browns organization with extra draft picks is akin to handing over the keys of the family van to a five-year-old with expectations he can pick you up after work.
The San Francisco 49ers were once atop the NFL in both organization and results, which, by the way, are not independent. Success begins with the organization and the play on the field is simply a reflection of that strength.
When the DeBartolo family bought the 49ers in 1977, they were put in the hands of an inexperienced owner who was the son of a highly successful businessman. One of Eddie Debartolo’s first moves when he was put in charge of the team was to seek the counsel of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. The Raiders owner was a maverick in his own league but a master at building a strong organization. DeBartolo was smart enough to know reaching out to men who had succeeded where he was beginning in a new endeavour was wise, and Davis recommended that DeBartolo surround himself with experienced NFL management veterans.
Davis suggested Joe Thomas be his choice for general manager, and DeBartolo took the advice and hired Thomas who had front office experience with the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Colts before joining San Francisco. His tenure with Debartolo’s new organization in San Francisco was an abysmal failure.
Thomas when through head coaches like a person with a head cold goes through kleenex. In his two seasons with the 49ers he had fired and hired four head coaches, beginning with his first move as general manager being the releasing of head coach Monte Clark and followed by the hiring and firing of Ken Meyer, Pete McCulley and Fred O’Connor.