January 24, 2018 – With the NFL season all but over and the Super Bowl approaching, a flurry of coaching and general manager activity has been underway.
Korn Ferry recently assisted in placing Brian Gaine as the new general manager of the Houston Texans. His predecessor, Rick Smith, took an extended leave of absence to help care for his wife, who was recently was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Jed Hughes, a Korn Ferry vice chairman and global sports sector leader, headed the search. Korn Ferry is no stranger to the Texans. In 2013, the search firm assisted the team in hiring coach Bill O’Brien.
For the last year, Mr. Gaine has been vice president of player personnel for the Buffalo Bills. He was previously with the Texans as director of player personnel. In this role, he provided support and guidance to both the pro and college scouting departments while directing the team’s player evaluation process and pro personnel operation. Before that, he served as the team’s director of pro personnel, in which he supervised all pro player evaluation, the advance scouting process, free agency and monitoring of player transactional movement in all professional leagues.
“Our committee was unanimous in praise for Brian Gaine and we are all aligned in our philosophy on how to continue to build our roster and win a championship,“ said Texans founder, chairman and CEO Robert C. McNair. “Brian is an incredibly smart, hardworking individual that understands the importance of good communication. We couldn’t be more excited about naming him our new general manager.”
Korn Ferry’s sports practice is led by Mr. Hughes, who 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.
NFL Retains Korn Kerry to Find New Communications Leader
Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, is stepping down after two years and the league has hired Korn Ferry to conduct a search for his replacement. Mr. Lockhart’s resignation follows tough times for the league’s image, in part, due to players kneeling during the national anthem.
Korn Ferry’s other work in 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.
The firm recently recruited John Dorsey as the new general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Mr. Hughes also led that assignment.
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.
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.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media