It’s been a whirlwind for Monti Ossenfort in the three months since he was hired as the Cardinals general manager.
Of course, that’s the way it usually is when a new hire arrives, has to help in the hiring of a new head coach and then prepare for free agency and the draft, essentially with the holdovers from the previous personnel staff.
Changes are difficult, if not impossible to make, considering that most contracts don’t expire until after the draft.
To that end, when Ossenfort spoke to reporters last week, he made sure to thank a myriad of people, with a special shout-out to the personnel department, many of whom might be wondering if they will have a job after the draft. He needed a cheat sheet, but named everyone, including the scouts.
He said the personnel people are “a special group that is near and dear to my heart. It’s how I was raised. There’s a lot of nights on the road at a Fairfield Inn in Stillwater (Okla.), Ames (Iowa) or God knows where, but these guys spend a lot of time away from home and away from their families. They sacrificed for the betterment of our organization.”
He noted that Dave Sears, who was previously the Lions’ director of college scouting and was hired as his assistant general manager “came in here and has been a great help to me with his thoroughness and attention to detail.”
He added, “Those guys; I’ve changed a lot of our processes, asked them to do different things, and I can’t thank those guys enough. They’ve been vital to the last few months here of our preparation.”
Ossenfort also made sure to talk about the input from coach Jonathan Gannon and his staff.
“I’ve asked them to do a lot in terms of evaluations, zoom calls and 30 visits,” he said. “Meanwhile, they’re trying to install a new scheme and then meet with our players as of a couple of weeks ago so the offseason program is rolling. It’s brought a lot of excitement to the building and it’s great to see our players around. It’s been an exciting time and those guys have played a vital part in our draft prep, and I really appreciate the work that they’ve put in.”
Asked about those adjustments by the staff, Ossenfort said, “I think it’s a process. I think it’s a process of them getting to know me and me getting to know them. There are things that they did here in the past that I’ve adjusted and I’ve thrown things at them on the fly and they’ve been tremendous. There are different thoughts on why I do certain things and quite honestly, there’s things that they did here that I looked at and said, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ It’s really a getting-to-know process for all of us and really adjusting on the fly.”
Asked how that was implemented, he said, “I think that’s piecemeal. I think there’s certain things that we threw right at our guys, and we adjusted right away and then I think there’s things that are still to come. We’re trying to do this on the run and there’s only so many things that you can do. There’s a lot of things that I adjusted to them rather than completely having them take on my philosophies and my processes.
“Those processes are going to continue to get changed, but the adaptability, JG’s talked about adaptability a lot. It’s the same for our staff, same for the scouting staff, same for everybody in football ops and they’ve done a tremendous job of adjusting.”
Of course, as he said, the reality is there will be change coming. Ossenfort said his processes and philosophy of scouting will be “ongoing.”
“I think there are certain things that I’ve been able to get in that we could do on the fly and I think there are things that we’ve still got to put some more time in, which is fine. There are certain processes that we can talk through and yep, OK, we’ll adjust, we’ll do this.
“Then there’s certain processes that pertain to different times of the year that will be more applicable when our scouts go out to training camp and then in the fall. I think it was just being intentional with what exactly we could change.”
When the Cardinals announced their new uniforms the night before Ossenfort and Gannon met with the media, Gannon said in a pre-unveiling interview that he and Ossenfort each put together a list of 10 players in the draft they “love,” and that they each had eight of the same guys.
When asked the next day about their apparently similar thought process, Ossenfort said, “I’m not surprised at all actually. I think in working with JG in these last couple of months, we see things similarly from a football standpoint and really more importantly from a person standpoint. Those are the two big things that we’re trying to evaluate. I think through the processes that we’ve been through, whether it’s talking to guys at the Combine or talking to guys on our 30 visits or the Zoom calls that we’ve been on, we really get a feel.
“There are different personalities. Just like in this room there’s 30 or 40 different personalities, that’s the way it is with players too. We just have to get a feel and ultimately we want to get a baseline for what we’re dealing with in terms of a player’s makeup and personality just so we know what it’s going to be like if we’re coming to work with them every day.”
Ossenfort believes Gannon’s experience as a college and pro scout for the Rams for three years (2009-2011) has been a factor in his approach to roster building.
“It’s helped a lot,” Ossenfort said. “He understands a way of looking at players and it’s something that he’s continued to develop throughout his coaching career, but it’s a unique perspective. Jonathan knows what we ask our scouts to do and what their job is, so I think that brings a really unique perspective and an appreciation for what the guys on our side of the office do.”
Gannon emphasized what’s important for coaches and the personnel staff in evaluating players for the draft.
He said, “I always say there’s a canvas out there and we can have different colors and different brushes, but you’ve got to stay inside the canvas. There’s a lot of different players that bring things to the table that can help us win games, so we’re pretty convicted on how we want to do that and how we want to add people. A huge point that Monti talked about that we’re in 100-percent agreement on is the makeup and the character of the player. That’s what we want: Really good people walking in this building.”
With the draft now three days away, Ossenfort concluded, “This is something that I’ve waited a long time for. I’ve been in a few different buildings and I pick and choose from some things I like and some things I didn’t like. It’s been fun to implement them. I’m excited for Thursday night to put them into practice.”
Minicamp this week
NFL teams with new head coaches are permitted to have an extra three-day minicamp prior to the draft. It is voluntary and the Cardinals will have it beginning Tuesday through Thursday.
Asked last Thursday what can be accomplished, coach Jonathan Gannon said, “We can get a lot done. We’re going to get a lot done. The coaching process starts for our guys from a standpoint of technique and schematics, how we do things on a daily basis on the grass and how we practice versus each other. That’s a huge piece to be a good team is knowing how to practice versus each other in a safe and effective way for our team to improve, but also stay healthy.
“I know our coaches, they’ve got the weekend off, but they are ready to go on Tuesday. We’ve got physicals on Monday and then Tuesday we start. We’re going to use the allotted time and we’re going to get a lot done. We had a staff meeting this morning. We’re going to have to adjust on the fly a little bit because everybody comes from different places and different teams. We’ve got a lot of new players now and players that have been here. I think that the main thing is being clear with what we expect to get out of being on the grass, showing them good and bad examples of that and work to keep having some good examples of it. Our players are excited. I know the coaches are excited.”
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