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Notes on GM Candidates: Chris Ballard, Lake Dawson & Brian Gaine

| January 6th, 2015

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers

CHRIS BALLARD, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Sometimes other writers do your work for you. I was readying an email to former Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel to arrange a podcast re: Ballard when I came across a piece by Bucs blogger Sander Philipse. (To read the entire piece, and you should, CLICK HERE.) Here are some thoughts from Gabriel:

“Chris was a very strong defensive evaluator and he was excellent with defensive backs. And the whole time I was there, Chris cross-checked defensive backs. So he knew number one what we were looking for, number two he knew the personality of the coach, and knew if the coach could work with the kid and knew if the kid could prosper under the coach. There’s not a lot of scouts, who can do that who have that skill. That’s where he was very very strong.”

“[Charles] Tillman, that was Chris’ guy. [Cornerback] Nate Vasher we took in the fourth round from Texas. Now that’s a great example, because Chris had a very strong conviction on Nate Vasher. Nate at his pro day didn’t run very good. Now his agility drills and stuff were outstanding.”

Ballard wanted to really sell Vasher, though. He was convinced Vasher was going to be good. So he went back to Texas to time him again, and gets a tenth of a second off his time. Gabriel said “What did you do, strap jet engines to his ankles?” But Ballard really believed in Vasher, and just told Gabriel “Oh no man, he can do it. He can run real good!”

“But fact of the matter is Nate Vasher, he couldn’t run fast!” Gabriel says. “And I always harassed Ballard about that after, but he was so quick and so instinctive he became an All-Pro. Fourth-round pick and he went to the Pro Bowl!”

It wasn’t just defense, though that certainly is Ballard’s specialty. “[Running back] Matt Forte was another guy. Chris and I both had a strong conviction. Jerry (Angelo) wasn’t as sold on Forte as Chris and I were.” Forte has since made it to two Pro Bowls and has been a very large part of the Bears’ offense since being drafted.

Ballard is a former defensive coach and defensive back specialist interviewing for a job desperate for that expertise. It is one of many reasons I believe he will be the next GM of the Chicago Bears.

LAKE DAWSON, TENNESSEE TITANS

dawson_lake_ci

The top criticism of Dawson’s candidacy in Chicago has been his residing within the confines of the Tennessee Titans – a losing organization. But it has been, over the last few years, a home of his own choosing. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean wrote about Dawson’s rejection of the Dolphins offer:

“Stephen (Ross) is a great owner, he’s passionate and he wants to win,’’ Dawson said. “But the details of the offer didn’t align with my vision. I turned it down because it wasn’t an ideal fit for my family and me.”

Dawson interviewed twice for the GM job before getting the offer. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio also reportedly declined an offer to become the Dolphins G.M.

In addition to interviewing with the Dolphins, Dawson also interviewed for the same position with the Buccaneers earlier this month. Last offseason, he interviewed with the Rams.

Dawson is in his seventh season with the Titans, and his second as VP of player personnel. He has 19 years of NFL experience as a player and executive. With the Titans, he works with General Manager Ruston Webster on day-to-day football operations while focusing on pro and college players. He joined the Titans in 2007 as director of pro personnel and was promoted in 2011 to VP of football operations. He previously worked with the Seahawks.

Dawson went through two interviews in Miami. Two. And after putting himself through the rigors of what must be torture in front of Stephen Ross he said, “No thank you. This is not what I want.” There are two types of personnel men who impress the hell out of me in the league. Those who see a job they want and pursue it with vigor and those who reject one of the league’s thirty-two gigs because they know it’s the wrong situation. Both take balls because both involve putting oneself way out there.

Brian Gaine, Houston Texans

When Jeff Ireland was canned as GM of the Miami Dolphins, Gaine thought he had a legitimate chance to win the job.

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He did not. From a Miami Herald piece:

Gaine shouldn’t be out of work long, however. One league source said that if he wanted, he could “have a job in two days max.” He might, however, wait until after the draft before signing on with another team.

Though Gaine has not spoken publicly throughout the team’s tumultuous search process, a source close to the situation said he would have stayed with the team in his current role, if asked, based on the respect and standing he had built up in the organization.

Hickey apparently didn’t see the benefit in keeping him. One theory is that Gaine had built up loyalties within the personnel department, and was seen as a leader in the organization, who was respected throughout the Davie facility. Hickey may have seen that as a negative.

Gaine is one of those interviews teams hold to pick the man’s brain, to learn his view of the organization and, yes, to steal as much information as possible.  He is a smart personnel man and a great administrator. He’ll be a GM soon enough.

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