Since the turn of the century there have been eight general managers who have kept their jobs after ending a season with the worst record in the league. Of those, San Diego’s A.J. Smith, Houston’s Rick Smith, Tampa Bay’s Jason Licht, Detroit’s Martin Mayhew and Jacksonville’s Trent Baalke have recovered to make the playoffs. In two of those cases — Licht and Baalke — the GM didn’t have final say on the roster, instead it was head coaches Lovie Smith and Urban Meyer calling the shots.
Another example could be Duke Tobin of the Bengals, though Cincinnati’s front office set up is unique and it’s unknown how much power he actually has.
More often than not, the decision maker who is responsible for constructing the worst team in the league is fired, either immediately or soon after.
The easiest way to climb out of the dumpster is by hitting on a quarterback. That, more than anything, is what has the Jaguars and Bengals in the playoffs. Hitting on Matthew Stafford kept Martin Mayhew employed for a few more years and AJ Smith was able to get creative, taking Eli Manning and swapping him for Philip Rivers. Time will tell if the Bears truly believe they have their quarterback, though they seem content – at the very least – with Justin Fields.
Rick Smith is the exception; he took defensive ends both times he had the first pick and neither worked out particularly well. He had a longer leash than most as the Texans didn’t make the playoffs until his sixth season in charge. You can bet Poles won’t get that much time.
Carolina’s Marty Hurney is also an exception, he hit on the quarterback but was still fired shortly after.
Poles is in a good spot to turn this roster around as long as he uses his resources wisely.