The Indianapolis Colts were a middling franchise in need of a reset coming off a 3-13 season in 1997.
Owner Jim Irsay got aggressive to bring in a proven winner to turn things around. He traded a third-round pick to the Carolina Panthers to hire their general manager, Bill Polian, as the Colts’ new president and general manager.
Irsay was lifting the Lombardi Trophy by 2006.
Some folks around the NFL believe the Raiders should make a similar play to find their next football leader. As one NFL source put it: “Go get the guy who’s actually done it. Not the guy underneath the guy.”
It would be a departure from what the Raiders have done the past 12 years by hiring first-time general managers in Reggie McKenzie, Mike Mayock and Dave Ziegler. But it sure worked for the Colts.
Polian, who led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls in the 1990s and got the Panthers to the 1997 NFC title game in their second season of existence, helped Indianapolis produce eight straight winning seasons, seven division crowns, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship in 12 years running the organization.
Was giving up a third-round pick to pry Polian out of Carolina worth it? You bet.
Could the Raiders be perched to make a similarly bold move this offseason?
If so, here are three names they should consider no matter what it takes:
Les Snead (Rams general manager, 2012-present)
Snead is known for his penchant for trading away first-round picks — the Rams have not had one since 2016 — but in reality, he drafted the fifth-most players in the NFL from 2017 to 2022. The on-field results also speak for themselves.
The Rams have won three division titles, two conference championships and a Super Bowl the last six seasons. They’re a surprising 6-6 this year thanks to another influx of good, young talent.
Few general managers do a better job with mid-round draft picks than Snead. He’s used them to select wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua, linebacker Ernest Jones, safety John Johnson, running back Kyren Williams and many others over the years.
And don’t forget this: Snead was the one who drafted an undersized defensive tackle named Aaron Donald with the 13th overall pick in 2014.
Snead is uncanny in understanding when to move on from veterans during free agency to accumulate compensatory draft picks that can restock the roster.
He also knows when to be aggressive. He moved up to select quarterback Jared Goff with the first overall pick in 2016, and later swung huge trades for cornerback Jalen Ramsey and quarterback Matthew Stafford.
It’s his eye for talent, however, that has been missing from the Raiders for far too long.
Howie Roseman (Eagles executive vice president/general manager, 2010-present)
It’s fair to wonder why Roseman would want to leave the empire he’s built in Philadelphia. But the allure of being the person who turned the Raiders around is compelling stuff.
The 48-year-old Roseman is still young enough to take on another challenge. And the Raiders are set up to supply him with the necessary resources to be successful.
Like Snead, Roseman is a deft drafter and roster builder who can be both patient and aggressive when need be. The job he’s done transforming the Eagles from 2017 Super Bowl champions to NFC bullies again the past two years is as impressive as it gets.
Roseman’s shrewdness is reflected in how he traded down six spots in the 2021 draft to 12th overall. He still walked away from the first round with wide receiver DeVonta Smith. He also grabbed a 2022 first-round pick from Miami he used to take defensive tackle Jordan Davis.
Roseman has made smooth moves at quarterback as well. He reeled in first-round picks for Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz when both were no longer in the Eagles’ plans. He replaced Wentz with quarterback Jalen Hurts, who he found in the second round.
John Schneider (Seahawks general manager/executive vice president, 2010-present)
Schneider was hired from Green Bay right after the Seahawks named Pete Carroll their coach in 2010.
Seattle has been on a roll ever since. The Seahawks have made the playoffs 10 times in 13 seasons and are on target to make the postseason again this year.
Schneider and Carroll have worked together to build and rebuild their roster. They drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round and constructed the fearsome “Legion of Boom” defense that led them to a Super Bowl championship in 2014.
Schneider has consistently churned out talented draft classes that have kept Seattle competitive. His latest trick involved moving on from Wilson while retooling his team with young talent.
Quarterback Geno Smith has been an effective short-term replacement, while the Seahawks have developed a solid supporting cast for whoever they decide their long-term answer is under center.