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The best GM in US sports

Have you ever wondered which teams are the best run organisations in US sport? settles the argument on the best GMs (and worst GMs) in US sport with hard data and expert analysis’s expert team of sports analysts have created a formula to enable effective comparison of sports executive’s performance across the four major sports in the US.  And we can confidently tell you who are the best and worst General Managers in all US Sports.

The Top 10 GMs in US Sports

General ManagerLeagueTeamWinning ImprovementCost per win IndexFinal Score
Les SneadNFLLos Angeles Rams293.382.1668.8
James JonesNBAPhoenix Suns211.185.5507.8
Elton BrandNBAPhiladelphia 76ers195.182.6472.8
Jon RobinsonNFLTennessee Titans176.682.5435.8
Rob PelinkaNBALos Angeles Lakers173.580.8427.7
Bob MyersNBAGolden State Warriors162.982.6408.4
Jon HorstNBAMilwaukee Bucks160.283.3403.8
Mickey LoomisNFLNew Orleans Saints144.182.8371.0
Don WaddellNHLCarolina Hurricanes139.783.1362.4
Doug ArmstrongNHLSt. Louis Blues136.981.7355.5

Widely regarded as one of the better GMs in the NFL for a long time, Les Snead is the best General Manager in US sports by our metrics. His part in the move from the Rams franchise being also-rans in St Louis to NFC West powerhouses and current Super Bowl champions cannot be underestimated. While his career as Rams GM started slowly with results being very mixed while collaborating with Jeff Fisher as Head Coach: his partnership with Sean McVay has proved incredibly fruitful with the team winning double-digit games in 5 of the 6 seasons they have worked together.

McVay is more involved in personnel matters than many NFL head coaches, however Snead takes ultimate responsibility for the Rams’ salary cap management and his above-average cost-per wins shows he’s a shrewd operator with a knack for moving salaries around to keep a roster of premium veterans in place and in a league where teams often have limited Super Bowl windows and periods of relevancy: Snead and the Rams have maintained a seemingly permanent win-now mentality since 2016.

NBA Elton Brand Philadelphia 76ers
Elton Brand has quietly been making a name for himself as a developing NBA executive © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One surprising entry in the top 10 GMs in US sports is Philadelphia 76ers exec, Elton Brand. While they have yet to see silverware land in south Philly: ‘The Process’ is working. Especially when you compare it to what came before: for the 5 seasons before Brand was promoted to GM: the 76ers averaged a lowly .266 win percentage, since he took over in 2018: they average .629 win percentage. With further developments over the past 12 months – the trade sending wantaway Ben Simmons to the New York Knicks and bringing future hall-of-famer James Harden to Philadelphia, Harden’s subsequent re-signing and adding extra squad depth could see the Sixers catapulted in to the NBA championship conversation.

Staying in Philadelphia: one name surprisingly omitted from the top 10 GMs in US sports list is Eagles GM, Howie Roseman. While the smart-moving exec is wildly recognised as a cunning operator with a keen eye for a trade: he inherited an Eagles team that was very successful in the early 2000s – giving him very little to offer in terms of improving the team’s on-field output. Roseman is a keen ‘capologist’ and his cost-per-win score is almost league-average, but his effectiveness as a GM can only be compared to what came before and he hasn’t had a Head Coach to partner with that compared to Andy Reid since Reid left Philadelphia and moved to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The 10 worst GMs in US Sports

General ManagerLeagueTeamWinning ImprovementCost per win IndexFinal Score
Dave GettlemanNFLNew York Giants71.768.1211.5
Brian WrightNBASan Antonio Spurs67.077.8211.8
Joe DouglasNFLNew York Jets75.864.8216.4
Steve YzermanNHLDetroit Red Wings75.076.4226.5
Travis SchlenkNBAAtlanta Hawks74.378.7227.4
Al AvilaMLBDetroit Tigers77.575.7230.6
Tommy SheppardNBAWashington Wizards79.976.0235.8
Ben CheringtonMLBPittsburgh Pirates75.785.5236.9
Ryan PaceNFLChicago Bears81.877.1240.7
Chris BallardNFLIndianapolis Colts82.779.5244.9

NFL Joe Douglas New York Jets
New York Jets GM, Joe Douglas holds the dubious honor of being one of the worst GMs in sports so far © Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

New York sports fans, beware: the news isn’t great in the empire state. The New York Giants and Jets see their respective GMs at the bottom of the table and as the worst GMs.

Joe Douglas of the Jets has been in post since 2019 and results have been below-average to bad, maxing out at seven wins in 2019 and falling to two wins in 2020. There has been some volatility at the Head Coach position in the green half of New York, but the appointment of Robert Saleh has yet to yield an upswing in their fortunes and the Jets remain one of the weakest rosters in the NFL with very little star power.

Dave Gettleman retired at the end of the 2021-22 season, but his time with the New York Giant will be remembered mostly for questionable drafting choices (the jury is still out on Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley was drafted over Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and pro-bowlers like Quenton Nelson), a lack of progression and 14 wins over three seasons. Gettleman took an ageing roster in the twilight of Giants all-time passing leader and two-time Super Bowl champion, Eli Manning’s career and took a backstep. Giants new GM, Joe Schoen started his reign well with two top-ten NFL draft picks, bagging top-tier offensive and defensive line talents that will sure up problem areas for the G-Men. Only will time will tell if Schoen can recapture the magic of Eli’s Giants of the early 2010s.

Cost-per-win - a universal measure of executive success

The top 5 GMs in US Sports by cost-per-win

General ManagerLeagueTeamWinning ImprovementCost per win IndexFinal Score
Kim NgMLBMiami Marlins103.789.4296.9
David ForstMLBOakland Athletics98.688.8286.0
Mike EliasMLBBaltimore Orioles78.388.6245.3
Mike ChernoffMLBCleveland Guardians111.487.1309.9
Bill BelichickNFLNew England Patriots131.686.4349.5

The home of Moneyball maintains a position in the best spending teams in US sports. David Forst and the Oakland Athletics have the second best cost-per-win score in major US sports and it wouldn’t right to discuss the A’s without touching on their place in sports analysis history. Former A’s GM and current Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Billy Beane was at the forefront of the analytics revolution in professional sports and led a change in how all major sports team evaluate player performance, budget allocation and on-field strategy. His successor, David Forst is a Beane disciple and has continued to run the Athletics in a cost effective manner that hasn’t produced pennant wins but has maintained the standards set by team ownership without breaking the bank.

The sole entry from the world of football on the best GMs by cost-per-win list is future hall-of-famer and most successful coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick. In a career that includes six Super Bowl wins, 11 back-to-back division wins from 2009 to 2019 and a lifetime win percentage of .729, all while maintaining a team within the same salary cap as other NFL teams is beyond extraordinary. While his on-field input as a defensive genius and leader is what he will mostly be remembered for, it may be Belichick’s efforts as a salary cap manager and team builder that are his most incredible achievement.

The worst GMs in US sport by cost-per-win

General ManagerLeagueTeamWinning ImprovementCost per win IndexFinal Score
Joe DouglasNFLNew York Jets75.864.8216.4
Brian CashmanMLBNew York Yankees102.867.7273.2
Dave GettlemanNFLNew York Giants71.768.1211.5
John HammondNBAOrlando Magic112.373.7298.4
Brian O'HalloranMLBBoston Red Sox91.675.1258.4

The bad news continues for New York area sports fans as the Jets, Yankees and Giants are the three worst teams in sports when it comes to cost-per-win . Now… the Yankees remain perennial playoff contenders and average 91.2 wins a season over the last decade (discounting the shortened 2020 season). However, that success is coming at a considerable cost, with the pinstripers annually among the highest spending teams in all of sports. Compare their success to, say, the Cleveland Guardians who have a much smaller budget but averaged 87.3 wins over the last decade – it is fair to say that Brian Cashman and the Yankees organisation aren’t spending their budget as wisely and that drives down their cost-per-win score.

Methodology’s experts compared the win/loss percentage of the team’s current GM with the previous five years before his tenure.

Calculating the financial performance of GMs across different sports is far more complicated. The finances of NFL, NHL and NBA are largely controlled by a salary cap in each sport, with some flexibility in the NBA. In the MLB there is a salary figure over which teams must pay a luxury tax on top of any money they spend on paying players. This diversity means it’s hard to evaluate teams from different sports, particularly where some sports teams are encouraged and in fact required to pay a minimum amount to players (in the NFL teams must spend at least 95% of the salary cap), and in others they are incredibly frugal and try to spend as little as possible (take for example the Baltimore Orioles who will spend less than $50mil for their total payroll in 2022, less than 20% of the top spending MLB team, the Los Angeles Dodgers).

With this in mind: teams were measured by how much they spent as a percentage of their league’s average spend, divided by their win/loss percentage. This gives us a reliable and versatile metric which can be used to evaluate the effective spending of a GM in any major sport.

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The Best GM in US Sports: the data

General ManagerLeagueTeamWinning ImprovementCost per win IndexFinal Score
1Les SneadNFLLos Angeles Rams293.382.1668.8
2James JonesNBAPhoenix Suns211.185.5507.8
3Elton BrandNBAPhiladelphia 76ers195.182.6472.8
4Jon RobinsonNFLTennessee Titans176.682.5435.8
5Rob PelinkaNBALos Angeles Lakers173.580.8427.7
6Bob MyersNBAGolden State Warriors162.982.6408.4
7Jon HorstNBAMilwaukee Bucks160.283.3403.8
8Mickey LoomisNFLNew Orleans Saints144.182.8371.0
9Don WaddellNHLCarolina Hurricanes139.783.1362.4
10Doug ArmstrongNHLSt. Louis Blues136.981.7355.5
11Bill BelichickNFLNew England Patriots131.686.4349.5
12Brandon BeaneNFLBuffalo Bills131.383.5346.1
13Brett VeachNFLKansas City Chiefs130.285.7346.0
14Jason LichtNFLTampa Bay Buccaneers133.377.3344.0
15Ken HollandNHLEdmonton Oilers131.180.9343.2
16David PoileNHLNashville Predators128.581.9338.8
17Eric DeCostaNFLBaltimore Ravens126.285.1337.5
18Kyle DubasNHLToronto Maple Leafs127.679.5334.6
19Mike MayockNFLLas Vegas Raiders126.679.7332.8
20Thad LevineMLBMinnesota Twins123.582.3329.4
21Jerry JonesNFLDallas Cowboys121.781.7325.1
22Scott HarrisMLBSan Francisco Giants121.480.6323.5
23Alex AnthopoulosMLBAtlanta Braves120.781.7323.0
24John SchneiderNFLSeattle Seahawks119.283.9322.3
25Zachary KleimanNBAMemphis Grizzlies117.583.7318.7
26Brian GutekunstNFLGreen Bay Packers116.384.6317.2
27Jarmo KekäläinenNHLColumbus Blue Jackets117.380.5315.1
28Justin ZanikNBAUtah Jazz115.183.2313.3
29Kevin ColbertNFLPittsburgh Steelers114.284.0312.4
30Kevin CheveldayoffNHLWinnipeg Jets114.981.3311.1
31Mike RizzoMLBWashington Nationals116.278.3310.6
32Mike ChernoffMLBCleveland Guardians111.487.1309.9
33Sam PrestiNBAOklahoma City Thunder112.982.1307.9
34Bill GuerinNHLMinnesota Wild112.681.9307.1
35Brad TrelivingNHLCalgary Flames112.680.1305.3
36Steve KeimNFLArizona Cardinals111.381.0303.6
37Bobby WebsterNBAToronto Raptors109.983.3303.1
38Rick SpielmanNFLMinnesota Vikings111.279.3301.6
39Nick KrallMLBCincinnati Reds111.079.5301.4
40Joe SakicNHLColorado Avalanche109.481.8300.5
41Jerry DipotoMLBSeattle Mariners109.281.5299.9
42Chris GrierNFLMiami Dolphins109.680.4299.6
43Doug WilsonNHLSan Jose Sharks109.180.6298.8
44John HammondNBAOrlando Magic112.373.7298.4
45Brian MacLellanNHLWashington Capitals108.281.1297.4
46Lou LamorielloNHLNew York Islanders108.979.7297.4
47Kim NgMLBMiami Marlins103.789.4296.9
48Jim NillNHLDallas Stars107.179.9294.1
49Julien BriseBoisNHLTampa Bay Lightning104.380.9289.4
50Mike HazenMLBArizona Diamondbacks102.083.8287.8
51Ross AtkinsMLBToronto Blue Jays103.479.4286.3
52David ForstMLBOakland Athletics98.688.8286.0
53Sean MarksNBABrooklyn Nets103.176.7282.9
54Don SweeneyNHLBoston Bruins98.282.4278.8
55John LynchNFLSan Francisco 49ers98.979.2276.9
56Brian CashmanMLBNew York Yankees102.867.7273.2
57Mitch KupchakNBACharlotte Hornets96.180.7272.8
58James ClickMLBHouston Astros98.675.3272.6
59Mike GirschMLBSt. Louis Cardinals97.077.7271.7
60A.J. PrellerMLBSan Diego Padres95.179.6269.9
61Chuck FletcherNHLPhiladelphia Flyers95.178.2268.5
62Howie RosemanNFLPhiladelphia Eagles93.081.0267.0
63Trajan LangdonNBANew Orleans Pelicans92.676.5261.6
64Michael WingerNBALos Angeles Clippers89.881.1260.7
65Brian O'HalloranMLBBoston Red Sox91.675.1258.4
66Rick HahnMLBChicago White Sox88.880.2257.8
67Mike BrownNFLCincinnati Bengals90.075.8255.9
68Chad BuchananNBAIndiana Pacers87.579.8254.7
69Tom TelescoNFLLos Angeles Chargers86.078.3250.3
70Andy ElisburgNBAMiami Heat85.080.1250.0
71Rob BlakeNHLLos Angeles Kings84.979.5249.4
72Pierre DorionNHLOttawa Senators83.780.6248.1
73Mike EliasMLBBaltimore Orioles78.388.6245.3
74Chris BallardNFLIndianapolis Colts82.779.5244.9
75Ryan PaceNFLChicago Bears81.877.1240.7
76Ben CheringtonMLBPittsburgh Pirates75.785.5236.9
77Tommy SheppardNBAWashington Wizards79.976.0235.8
78Al AvilaMLBDetroit Tigers77.575.7230.6
79Travis SchlenkNBAAtlanta Hawks74.378.7227.4
80Steve YzermanNHLDetroit Red Wings75.076.4226.5
81Joe DouglasNFLNew York Jets75.864.8216.4
82Brian WrightNBASan Antonio Spurs67.077.8211.8
83Dave GettlemanNFLNew York Giants71.768.1211.5 Logo staff

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