Korn Ferry Assists Houston Texans in Head Coach and General Manager Search

October 13, 2020 – The Houston Texan have brought in Jed Hughes of Korn Ferry to help the franchise hire its next general manager and head coach, according to NFL sources. Mr. Hughes helped the Texans’ 2014 search to identify and bring in Penn State’s Bill O’Brien as their coach and GM. The Texans fired Mr. O’Brien last week following an 0-4 start.

The team said it will wait until after the search to appoint a coach and GM. Romeo Crennel is serving as Houston’s interim head coach, while executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby is GM for the rest of the season.

Sources around the league believe the Texans want to be comfortable with who their GM will be before hiring a head coach, according to ESPN. Sources said Mr. Hughes already has been doing his due diligence in trying to identify candidates for the Texans to pursue.

“We will go forward in that way and we turn in our list of contacts to the league and so people will know who to call,” said Cal McNair, chairman and CEO of the Texans. “They already know who to call because it’s fairly a close-knit bunch and people know who to call to do certain things. But we do turn in our list to the league and we will start a search for the head coach and the general manager on a permanent basis.”

Mr. Hughes, vice chairman, global sector leader, sports at Korn Ferry, is well known for identifying, assessing and developing leaders for sports organizations. His relationships in sports and intercollegiate athletics are extensive, having spent 20 years coaching in professional and intercollegiate football and working for five hall of fame coaches. He also led the development of psychological testing, competency development and structural behavioral interviewing for the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers. Jason Belzer of Forbes has called Mr. Hughes the most valuable connector of the sports industry.

Korn Ferry’s other work for the NFL includes placing Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, former New York Jets general manager John Idzik, Green Bay Packers team president Mark Murphy, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

General Managers

The general manager role may be the toughest job in professional sports to fill. In the last decade, as the four major North American professional leagues – Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League – have seen revenues and profits soar, the role has become more complex, more challenging and exponentially more stressful, according to a report issued by the Korn Ferry Institute. Increased media attention, fueled by the 24-hour news cycle of cable television, the internet and social media, has put general managers under intense, and unprecedented, scrutiny.

Related: Recruiters Offer Sports Clients an Expanding Talent Platform

The GM post, once an unheralded backroom post handled in relative obscurity by former players, is now tracked and analyzed with such precision by fans and the sports media that job security has dropped precipitously. High turnover has heightened the work of recruiters.

“The general manager has to be smart, self-confident, both publicly and privately with owners, have an academic orientation, but also be telegenic,” said Billy Beane, the longtime general manager of the Oakland Athletics. “The individual has to be able to build an all-encompassing vision.”

But the general manager position is also evolving, and that’s adding complexity to the role. The influx into some sports of highly educated, versatile, data-driven young executives is reshaping the job in dramatic fashion, according to the Korn Ferry report. New general managers who emerge as winners, it said, will be those who are self-motivated, intellectually curious, have a non-stop work ethic, the ability to evaluate talent and a leadership style that can inspire individuals both inside and outside of their organization.

“In the past, the GM needed to have played the games, bloodied their knuckles and bloodied their nose,” said John Schuerholz, president and former general manager of the Atlanta Braves. “The GM job today is much more sophisticated. It involves player analysis, a statistical component and softer skills such as getting a feel for the players. It’s also essential that GMs have a lively intellect.”

Related: Executive Recruiters Continue Their Expansion into the Sports Industry

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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