By all accounts, Monti Ossenfort has built up a solid resume’ during his 22 years climbing the personnel ladder in the NFL.
One New England source told me Ossenfort is “just a great all-around guy. Highest character. Not a self-promoter. You like to see good things happen for people like him.”
One long-time NFL scout said, “A nice guy and pretty sharp.”
A Hall of Fame general manager added, “Good guy. Well prepared. Solid.”
Now, it will be up to him to build a personnel staff, just like every aspiring general manager has to do.
Ossenfort and owner/president Michael Bidwill said everything you’d expect them to say during Tuesday’s press conference.
Yet, judging by the reaction of many, you’d think they had discovered the holy grail along with a magic wand that will make all the issues that affected the team this past year disappear and that everything will fall just right without any stumbles along the way.
But that isn’t the real world. It’s hard to win in the National Football League and Ossenfort noted that Tuesday.
After all, the Patriots, where Ossenfort spent 15 years, are 25-25 in the last three seasons after quarterback Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay.
The Titans, where Ossenfort worked the last three years as player personnel director, were as injury-riddled as the Cardinals in 2022 and also lost the last seven games of the season. That came after being the No. 1 seed in the AFC in 2021. The Cardinals won seven fewer games than they did in 2021 and Tennessee lost five fewer.
Titans ownership fired Ossenfort’s boss, general manager Jon Robinson (who also has a Patriots pedigree) during the 2022 season, while offensive coordinator Todd Downing was arrested for a DUI shortly after the team arrived home in November from a road game at Green Bay. He kept his job, but weas fired after the season ended by coach Mike Vrabel.
It’s interesting that Bidwill went to the Tennessee well for Steve Keim’s replacement.
When asked if he’s ready for this challenge, Ossenfort acknowledged, “It’s a tough industry. It’s highly competitive and it’s hard to win a game on Sundays. That’s why this is the toughest league in the entire world. That’s why it’s challenging, it’s addictive, and that’s why people keep coming back. To say are you ready? I’ve never been a general manager. I’m excited for the opportunity.”
When Bidwill introduced Ossenfort to the media he said what anyone would expect, noting that during the interview process for a general manager, “it became clear that Monti Ossenfort had the combination of a well-defined vision, work ethic, character, the background and experience.
“I was struck (by lightning?) during his interview. (He) said everything in the football operation is going to be geared toward and aimed at winning football games, and that’s speaking my language and that’s speaking the language of our fans.”
Whew. That’s a lot to unpack. A general manager candidate shocking the owner by saying his goal is winning. What else would anyone say?
Just like Ossenfort told the media what anyone would say, “We’re going to institute a thorough and exhaustive scouting process. We’re going to turn over every stone to find the right players for this team. We’re not just collecting talent, we’re going to build a team. We’re going to look for the right type of players. Ego will not be tolerated in this organization. We are going to look for focused, driven people that are willing to put the team first at every step of the way.”
I presume he means people like Budda Baker, J.J. Watt, Zach Ertz, James Conner, Kelvin Beachum and others who are exactly those type of players and preached it to everyone around them on a consistent basis.
Ossenfort told a quick story about Baker, who he saw and said hello to on his way to the press conference.
He said, “When I came for my interview in the conference room where we sat down and spoke, there was a picture of Budda on the wall. I was the only one in the room and the interview had not got started yet. I distinctly remembered I was with the Patriots at the time and Budda came in. We interviewed Budda at the Combine for our 20-minute interview.
“After the end of that 20-minute interview, I think I was ready to run through a brick wall for Budda Baker and I just relayed that story to him. Budda Baker, and there’s other leaders on this team as well, but Budda Baker represents everything that we want this organization to be and I am excited to be on a team with him.”
It also illustrates that, while there is a lot of work to be done, the Cardinals roster isn’t as horrific as some make it out to be.
And so, yes, while it was an important message he delivered, it’s also one that is shared by everyone in the league that grinds the way they know they have to, starting out sometimes as an intern or scout, hoping to work their way up to larger responsibility.
Ossenfort was a personnel assistant with the Patriots in 2003, went to the Texans for two seasons, then became a scout for New England in 2006. He scouted for five seasons before being named assistant director of college scouting and then the director.
He has paid his dues, but, again, that’s no different than anyone else.
Believe me, I’m not trying to rain on Ossenfort’s parade because it appears he’s earned this opportunity and will work like hell to build a winner.
But I also won’t drink the Kool-Aid and blindly assume that everything is now right in the Cardinals world.
The proof will be what happens on the field and what the reaction will be when there is the inevitable adversity.
I have the sense Ossenfort will be able to navigate it. The question is how it will be handled by the man signing the checks.
Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: email@example.com