The life of an NFL general manager is an exhaustive one. The NFL has the most players and coaches of any professional sports league in America, making it a complicated system to handle. From dealing with trades to recruiting new talent, an NFL general manager has many responsibilities.
It is the duty of any general manager in professional sports to manage the staff, and this includes negotiating contracts. This task is of particular importance in the NFL because the league has a salary cap for its teams. This means that regardless of a player's value to the organization, the general manager has a limited amount of money to pay him. Determining how much of the salary cap to spend on each player is a near-constant concern for an NFL general manager.
Recruiting new talent is one of the most difficult tasks an NFL general manager faces, simply because the process is unpredictable and can take years to come to fruition. Every year thousands of college athletes attract the attention of NFL scouts. This is different from, say, the NBA, in which no more than a few hundred players are scouted. The NFL general manager, along with his staff, must decide which prospects the team should select in the annual April draft. It can be a crapshoot: Many top-10 draft picks go nowhere, while others become stars. Selecting the right players is critical to building a franchise.
Trades and Free Agency
NFL general mangers also collect talent by making trades and signing free agents–players whose contracts with their previous teams have expired. Because of the intensity of play in the NFL, the average shelf life of a player is considerably shorter than those in less physical sports such as baseball and basketball. Many players are traded away before they reach their prime, while others prove injury-prone and wind up being near useless to their new team. Signing free agents can be risky for similar reasons. The unknown of how a player will perform with a new team, along with the issue of salary-cap space, amplify the importance of the personnel decisions made by an NFL general manager.
Working With the Head Coach
The general manager in any pro sport must deal with the team's coaching staff, although things can get more complicated in the NFL because of the number of coaches per team. There is the head coach, of course, but beneath him are dozens of assistants. It is not feasible for the general manager to maintain close relationships with all of the assistant coaches, making it essential he work amiably and intimately with the head coach. Although the general manager has more authority, it is the head coach whom players generally look up to and who is most often in the public spotlight. This can create tension between a coach and general manager and has caused instability for some franchises.