By Jeff Melinyshyn – GM of the London Knights
Welcome to Edition 2 of ‘Inside the Front Office‘. This week will be all about the General Manager position. I was shocked to find out that the General Manager position is still new to the SFL world. I have a sit down with Ryan Michaels who is the new Assistant Director of Player Personnel who was tagged as the first ever GM in the SFL for the Houston Hyenas, and I also sat down with the owner who made it happen Demond Simien. As always, I will touch on the signings that happened this week. Make sure to follow me on twitter @JMelinyshyn21 or discord for the latest on Inside the Front Office. For this feature, I would also like to give credit to Crash Combs, GM of the Dallas Lobos.
Part One of my General Manager featured article was a sit down with Houston Owner Demond Simien.
Jeff Melinyshyn (Jeff): “Thank you Demond for joining me for this article, so if you can walk me through how you decided that a General Manager would be a good thing for the league?”
Demond Simien (Demond): “During the start of Season 10, I was entering into my final year of college. I was taking a lot of the core courses for my degree plan. I was swamped & exhausted from so much work I had to do. I really didn’t have any intentions in signing or giving someone any type of manger role within the Houston Organization. I noticed that both Ryan Michaels & Badr Ajlouni stepped in to help me out with the team right away. I never told the guys to do anything. They just knew the importance of player progression & wanted to make sure that everyone else was on the same page as them. Both Ryan & Badr became captains of the team via a team vote we put together. We excluded D.R. Sim from the vote due to my position as team owner & other titles I have throughout the team. I noticed Ryan watching film & taking leadership of the locker room. Ryan would be either the first or the second person to submit his progression. After Week four of the season, I was thinking to myself, ‘how I can show Ryan how much I appreciate his hard work & service that he has given the team?’ That’s how I came up with the idea of promoting him to the GM spot. When I informed him that I wanted to present him with this position he was blown away. Ryan took the bull by the horns & ran the organization while I had to take step back and focus on school. I am very thankful for Ryan. I was the very first owner to contact him when he joined our discord. Right away he was committed to the Hyenas & will forever have a place in the Hyena nation. If I am correct, Houston was the first team to provide someone with the GM title & now just about every team has one. Ryan went on to win GM of the year after Season 10 was over.”
Jeff: “Wow that is incredible story Demond. Ryan seems like the best type of person to be the first GM in SFL history. Did you have any idea that the GM spot would morph into what it is right now?”
Demond: “I had no idea that the GM role would take the league by storm like it has. The GM spot gives every team a different voice. What I mean by this, is instead of the owner being the only vocal person in the team locker room the GM has the right & responsibility to voice his opinion as well. The GM is to keep the guys in the locker room in order. I don’t mean to micro manage the guys in the locker room, but to oversee the conversations that are being held. If it breaks the team & league rules it must go elsewhere. The key part to having a GM is that he or she is also part of the draft & signing process of Free Agents. It used to only be the owner who would reach out to FA’s. Now myself & the GM both have a voice in trying to recruit new talent. I love having a GM because he or she frees up a lot of time for me to focus on school as I am pursuing my master’s degree. I give all credit to Ryan for selecting B.J. Loveless to take over the GM spot when he took the offer to become the Assistant DPP. I was hurt when Ryan informed me that he would be leaving, but I totally understood his reasoning. I’m not in the SFL chat every day therefore I do not know every single person who’s part of the league. The GM helps me with this when it comes to signing a FA or a Draft pick. My GM’s have been able to inform me of who’s active & who’s not. In Houston we want active guys in the locker room & we have done a pretty good job so far.”
Jeff: “What would you say to the players out there that want to become a GM, do you have advice being an owner and being the first owner to make the GM role?”
Demond: “I would inform the new guys that being a GM comes with great responsibility. If you’re going to accept the role you must have the love of guiding & leading others. If you do not have a single bone of leadership in your body, you might have a hard time performing the job. You must have an open mind set to speaking with other people. I have nothing against introverts, but this role is for someone who has no issues with communicating with others. I’m from the old school where you had to speak with people to hold a conversation. Today it’s a lot easier do to that with the technology we have. Just as I stated above, the key part to being a great GM or Owner is have a vocal conversation with the Free Agent or Draft pick. I’ve had a phone conversation with everyone on my team except 2 people. I normally speak with the player before he is signed. It opens the door of understanding the tone of one’s voice, instead of reading a bunch of words someone has texted. I’m not sure If Houston is the first team to have a GM, there could have been others behind closed doors. I do know that we were the first to take it public. To be an owner, I would inform the new guys to become more than just a player. become the Offensive or Defensive Coordinator of a team. Take Aaron Arrington for example. He was drafted by Houston during the expansion draft in the second round. The league decided to add two more teams for Season 7. Aaron applied for a team & was denied. None of the owners knew of him or who he was besides that he played CB for the Houston Hyenas. Aaron went on to join the Mexico Aztecs as one of their offensive coordinators, then back to Houston as OC & went on to St Louis as their DC if I am correct. He applied for a team again before the start of Season 10 & was denied for the second time. Aaron wanted to give up on his dream of coming an owner, but he stayed vigilant. What helped Aaron to become known around the league was by him venturing off to other teams & making a name for himself. Season 11 Aaron Arrington was awarded his franchise: The New Orleans Pharaohs.”
Jeff: “Thank you Demond for taking time and answering my questions.”
Demond: “No problem, you’re more than welcome.”
Part Two of my feature article was a sit down with the first General Manager, Ryan Michaels.
Jeff: “Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet and talk about this topic Ryan.”
Ryan Michaels (Ryan): “Of course! I love what you’ve done with these so far and I was excited when you asked me to help out!”
Jeff: “So if you can, give my readers an inside into how you became the first GM in the SFL?”
Ryan: “Yeah! I was originally named GM for Houston towards the end of Season 10, but all the work started for the position from day one as a Hyena. I joined the league and one of the first thing I saw was that they were implementing a new system called Player Progression. I made it my personal job to learn the ins and outs of the system to give my team an edge and a plan heading into the start of Season 10. The first few weeks I offered help to my fellow teammates, giving them suggestions on what they could progress each week after I consulted with my owner Demond Simien. At about the halfway point of the season, Demond came to me and showed a great appreciation for all the help I have been giving him with the team and asked about the possibility of me becoming part of the front office for Houston as the General Manager. It was a lot of work going thru each players rating and trying to figure out what progression would work best against the teams we were going to be playing against. It’s just part of who I am. When I find something that gets my interest I just really want to be the best I can. It’s that competitiveness that drives me.”
Jeff: “So, what were the daily things you oversaw or roles? Because at the time you were the first, so there wasn’t like a list of duties at the time.”
Ryan: “Haha, yeah, being the first of something you just kind of trailblaze and see what happens. Specifically, I was in charge of team progression and making sure everyone had their Twitch bits cheered in preparation for their future weeks of progression. When the off-season started I was actually in charge of taking care of the salary cap for the team, working out what attributes and animations we could save and what we would need cut in order to keep the team competitive and under cap for the beginning of Season 11. I personally had also added helping scout the opposing teams each week for our Offensive and Defensive game plans.”
Jeff: “Wow! That is very impressive Ryan. I’m sure during the off-season you were contacting rookies and free agents as well?”
Ryan: “Yes, those were also duties I had added personally. Demond was going thru a tough time in the off-season between Season 10 and Season 11 and he didn’t have as much time to dedicate to the SFL as he did in seasons past. So, I made my own personal thing to help him as much as I could and that meant talking to rookies and free agents and persuade them to join our team for the upcoming season. We were able to keep the majority of team between the two seasons, needing to replace 4 of our players. Utilizing the draft, we replaced our quarterback and thru talking with different rookies and free agents we were able to fill the final 3 spots we needed. I’d like to think that my work during the latter half of Season 10 was what helped some of the people decide to come to Houston.”
Jeff: “Could you elaborate on the work you did in latter half of Season 10 that helped some of players decisions to come to Houston?”
Ryan: “Sure! Well we had a bit of a rough start to the season in Season 10 and when progression kicked in was when you started seeing the team start winning more and more and we were able to make it to the playoffs. The latter half of the season was a high point for sure, we had to beat some of the stronger teams in order to the make the playoffs and I feel progression was a big part of that.”
Jeff: “I give all credit to Ryan for Selecting B.J. Loveless to take over the GM spot when he took the offer to become the Asst DPP.” That quote is from Demond, I just finished up an interview with him, what stood out to you about BJ?”
Ryan: “Quite a few things actually. BJ and Eddie Gauge, our defensive coordinator in Houston, would have a lot of conversations about defensive formations and different game plans. He was a very active presence in the Discord and the rest of the Locker Room in Houston really seemed to like him. He also was very eager to learn the different aspects of becoming a GM. I could see him going very far in this league. It was a very easy choice for me honestly.”
Jeff: “What advice would you give players who decide, “you know what I want to be a GM one day.”
Ryan: “Not to toot my own horn but do what I did. Get in touch with your owner or the owner of a prospective team and see what you can do to help. No matter how small a task it may seem you show the grit and determination on any task you’re given, and it will be remembered when a team is looking for their next front office personnel. Another way to show you have the drive is to join one of the staffs for the league, like the beat writers, the stats team or as a broadcaster for our games. Everything helps and will be remembered when the time comes. When I was picked up by a team back in Season 10 I told Demond that my intention was to play my whole career with one team…. I guess I did accomplish that before becoming Assistant Director of Player Personnel!”
Jeff: “Last question – where do you see the GM role going in 5-10 years?”
Ryan: “The GM role is still in its infancy in my opinion. Teams are still trying to figure out what duties they want to give their GMs. In 5-10 years? I think this will be a very important role for teams. They have their coordinators that handle the game plans and the GM could be an extension of the owner, being the first point of contact for the players on their team, and rookies and free agents. They can be used to keep their team in check on their progressions and having their bits in for each week. Also, not all owners have all the time in the day to work on their team and answer all the questions for their team, a GM is perfect for that.”
Jeff: “Well thank you for taking time to sit down and letting me pick your brain on the General Manager position. Good luck in your new position.”
Ryan: “No problem! Any chance I get to help with anything in the league, I’m in! Thank you, good luck the rest of the season and beyond.”
Indianapolis Spitfire release cornerback Tanner Hendrix and sign cornerback Johnny Bravo. I was able to get a statement from owner James Richards who told Inside the Front Office “In the off season we had the daunting task of replacing Tom Pepper at GM. After contacting several established GMs, we decided to take a shot on Tanner Hendrix. The last time I had spoken to Tanner, despite several attempts, he had mentioned school had become a lot to handle. After that he just left the league without letting anyone know. That kind of put us in a rough spot progression wise considering we were rebuilding everyone defense. After talking with several rookies, we were able to make contact with Johnny Bravo. Bravo has been very active in the community since day one and is already volunteering for a larger role. I’m excited for Johnny as he begins his career in Indy, and I think he’ll do well!”
Executive take- “It’s always difficult to lose front office personnel in any situation, but mid-season has its own difficulties. Johnny Bravo had 1 PD and an assist in his debut in a big win over London. He has some big shoes to fill with the loss of Hendrix.”
San Francisco Sharks release quarterback Dylan Aciel and sign quarterback Juan Thomas III. I was able to a quote from GM Gabriel Manning, “I can tell you this. After my unfortunate debacle on the releasing of Information on our quarterback, we were initially going after hurt. But we were still able to find a gem like Juan Thomas III who is a special young QB with a very strong arm and who fit into our offensive scheme very nicely. He also understands what we are trying to accomplish here in San Francisco. We here in the Sharks Organization see the potential through progression of Thomas in a very close game where we had to keep rallying the Rookie showed his value time and time again vs good OKC team.”
Executive take- “Another Front Office person lost mid-season and a QB no less. Dylan had a particular playing style with more movement in the pocket. Thomas came right in and lit up the score board with 459 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. Really seems the Sharks made an addition by subtraction.”
Indianapolis Spitfire have signed Noah Gebert to the General Manager position. I was able to get a quote from Spitfire owner James Richards “Noah joined the league last week and explained to me that he was an Indiana guy and that he wanted to play for Indianapolis, as we are his home town team. At the time he contacted us we did not have a spot open for him. I told him we’d be looking for him if he did not get picked up by another team. There were several impressive parts about Noah, but Noah really impressed us when he turned down several offers to just remain an option for us. That’s when I knew he was the real deal. We had a long productive chat today. My HC and I decided it was best to pull the trigger. He’ll be replacing my owner player AFTER Week 5 when my player reaches gold. This is a crucial part to the process as Noah quickly realized that him signing today would negate 5 weeks’ worth of progression and drop the position several points. Some of which will go to bolster our WR Core. To me this cemented him as a worthy fit for the GM role.” I was able to get a comment from Noah himself after doing some interviews local media of course. Here is the quote from Noah, “It all came together very quickly. When I found the league, I immediately looked to see if there was an Indianapolis team. That’s my hometown and I have a lot of pride in that. So, I reached out to James in the chat to express interest in being a part of the organization. A few days later, James hopped into the chat and mentioned something about needing some front office help. So, I took my shot. We DMed for a while so he could get to know me. The next day, we were on a voice call for quite a long time going over his philosophies on building the team and how I would fit in that pursuit. It just seemed like a perfect fit and I’m lucky that James was sold as well. I really chalk it up to planting that seed early, and most of all, very fortunate timing that helped things fall into place. Obviously, we got off to a rough start at 0-3, but the Week 4 game against London really showed the damage the team has the potential to do. Both sides of the ball playing complementary to each other. This team has the guys that are willing to put their heads down and stay the course. We’ll take it one week at a time from here on out and try to keep proving that this team is for real. I’ve fully bought in to the vision James laid out for me and excited to watch it play out. Very fortunate landing spot for me as a newbie to learn from guys who are heavily invested and willing to teach.” We shall see what the future holds for the new Indianapolis GM. I wish him the best of luck.
Executive take- “Noah Gebert has been hired joining the GM ranks after a short but obviously impactful arrival onto the scene. There is a lot to learn as GM in this league depending on the control the owners of Indy give Noah. Luckily he has James Richards who is a long stalwart of the league to show him the ropes and smooth the transition.”
Baltimore Vultures released tight end Lee Weber and signed tight end Lloyd Graham Jr. I was able to get a quote from Tim Johnston, one of the co-owners of the Vultures “It was over another crab cake dinner that Tom Paterniti and I were discussing the team and potential improvements when the TE position came up. Lee Weber was having a productive year, but coach Paterniti mentioned he just didn’t have the ‘it’ factor and thought the team could do better. The Baltimore front office got on the phone to the #1 free agent rookie available. Mr. Lloyd Graham, Jr. (L.G.J.) was at the gym in the middle of another bench press when his cell phone rang. It was a call he knew was coming – a call from the SFL he had been waiting for – he just didn’t know which team was going to call him first. The conversation was short and to the point. Baltimore was upgrading the TE position, Graham Jr. was the best TE available and the top rookie. A few faxes and a few signatures later, Graham was on a five-hour flight from California to Baltimore to prepare for Saturday night’s game against the Pride. The team, the coach and Graham are all very excited. Coach has big plans for L.G.J. He is big, he is fast, and he definitely has that ‘it’ factor we were looking for. Baltimore is a team of superstars with LB Aman Takess, CB Kaz McFly and HB T-ROY Gaines just to name a few. We believe we have added another one in L.G.J.” Here is a comment I was able to get from other Vulture co-owner Thomas Paterniti “We are very excited to add Lloyd Graham to our team and to our locker room. On the field, we are confident he will make an impact right away both blocking and catching. Off the field he is a great guy who is active in the community and loves the SFL. We know he will fit in with the other leaders we have on our roster and we could not be more excited to make him the next Vulture!”
Executive take- “Lee Weber at no point had more than 26 yards receiving in a game so far for Baltimore, so I believe the addition of a very active and positive Lloyd Graham was a great move by Baltimore.”
Oklahoma City Renegades released cornerback Nello Barber and signed cornerback Greg Gaines. Here is a comment from Michael Irvine on the signing that he provided to ITFO “We scouted many new CB’s, but Greg Gaines’s size (6’4″) and raw talent made all the difference. He is a true rookie, but the coaches and veteran players started working with him day 1. He will be ready to go Monday night.”
Executive take- “OKC! OKC! OKC! made a move here to try and shore up a leaky defense by letting the oft streaky, in games and in chat, Nello Barber go. It will be interesting to see how new arriver Greg Gaines can help OKC! OKC! OKC! start to turn this defense around.”
Oklahoma City is currently in the market for a General Manager. I was able to get a quote from Oklahoma City owner Michael Irvine about what he is looking for in his next GM, “Someone who knows how to manage a team. Experience in the league, ability to sign, manage and update contracts with regards to cap space to execute the owners vision.” If you are interested DM Michael Irvine @renegade9 on discord.
Tune in to the next ‘Inside the Front Office’ article for more interviews and info aboit dealings around the SFL.