The NFL-wide surprise over the Chiefs’ firing of general manager John Dorsey was not only because of the concept — he helped build a team with a 43-21 record the last four seasons — but because of the timing.
Of the last 21 NFL general managers to be fired, Dorsey’s dismissal is the latest to take place in the offseason. Not only that, but the entire league essentially shuts down to go on vacation at this point of the calendar year.
“It’s unprecedented,” one NFL front-office member told The Star on Friday.
NFL teams overwhelmingly fire player evaluators after the draft, so former front-office members can’t take proprietary information and strategy for the current draft to another team.
“The standard we see for separations is in late May, so the timing is peculiar,” said Andrew Brandt, who spent 10 years as a Green Bay Packers vice president and writes for TheMMQB.com.
Because Dorsey’s firing occurred during the time of year when Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said he hoped to hammer out contract extensions for Dorsey and coach Andy Reid, people inside the organization and out have speculated that negotiations broke down.
But in a letter to season-ticket holders sent Thursday, Hunt said the decision to release Dorsey came after thorough examination of the entire football operation, and made no mention of contract negotiations.
Regardless, if the Chiefs choose to bring in someone from another organization to replace Dorsey, they will need to ask that team for permission before its training camp starts, per NFL rules. And that’s where Senior Bowl director Phil Savage, a former general manager for the Cleveland Browns, could see the Chiefs having problems.
With teams a month away from training camp and all the decision-makers away on vacation, Savage could see teams turning down permission for interview requests when they otherwise would not.
“Teams don’t want to lose a guy at this time of year because they’d be so hard to replace,” Savage said. “Most of these moves are made right after the season or after the draft, so you have all of May to get organized.
“I bet half of the teams are in NFL are out of country this week. To get a phone call saying ‘Hey, we want to interview your right-hand man,’ some teams would be reluctant.”
That training camp deadline, however, does not apply to in-house hires. The Chiefs could promote someone — like the next men on the organization flow chart, co-directors of player personnel, Brett Veach or Mike Borgonzi — to general manager whenever they choose.
But if the Chiefs do request permission to interview candidates from other teams — something Hunt indicated he wanted to do — they will also have to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which stipulates teams must interview minority candidates for coaching and general manager positions, or pay fines or lose draft choices as a penalty.
Regardless, the Chiefs’ search for their next general manager is expected to stretch for a while. Hunt will interview internal and external candidates over the next month, but the club isn’t expected to announce a hire until training camp begins in late July.