Organizational structure of NFL teams - Who do players report to?

With the NFL’s Black Monday recently passed, I had a thought about NFL teams and organizational dysfunction. I found the following link, which focuses mostly on the interaction between Owner, President, GM, and Head Coach. There are clearly differences between how teams choose to divvy up the power. If you’re a football fan, it’s pretty interesting.

But what about the players? When I try to characterize a typical corporate supervisor/manager & subordinate relationship, I think of things such as: performance management (setting goals, corrective feedback, etc.), coaching, motivation, conflict resolution, as well as day-to-day things like sick days, time sheets, and raises.

Who’s ultimately responsible for ensuring that the players are performing consistent with or above a certain standard? Who do the players call when they have a sick day? Is it their position coach, head coach, GM, or someone else?

They are independent contractors that can pretty much do anything they want as long as they fulfill the basic minimums of the contract. They are held in check by fines, benching, being cut and possible damage to their reputations inside the league. They have to be pretty self-motivated, and peer pressure and sense of team play a lot into it.

But they report to the head coach. Head coach has the authority on who plays and who doesn’t.

As a follow, how much do individual players report to the head coach?

My understanding is that there is a multitude of coaches - offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators, plus all the ‘under coaches’ like quarterback coach, linebacker coaches and the like. Do the players mostly interact with these ‘under coaches’?

Players primarily interact with the coach responsible for their position, who are guided by the head coach.

I’d like to see a cite on that. Preferably from the IRS. They are employees.

don’t think contractors can have a union .

NFL differs from other pro sports because many contracts are not guaranteed. Which means if you get cut , you don’t get paid. Big name players have guaranteed deals. NHL has to pay the contract no matter what happens - with 1 exception , they can buyout a contract which means they cut you and have to pay you 1/3 less than the value. And they pay you the 2/3 over a longer time period. I believe NBA and baseball contracts are guaranteed but I might be off on that.

You are correct. NBA and baseball contracts are fully guaranteed. NBA players have a buyout option as well but I think it’s more mutual than the NHL. For NFL contracts the first year is guaranteed. After that, if you are on the roster for Week One of the NFL season, the entire year becomes guaranteed. There is also usually a certain amount of money that is guaranteed. So you’ll read, for instance, that Player X signed a 6-year, $100-million contract, with $45 million in guaranteed money. The guaranteed money can be guaranteed for skill or for injury or for both.

It depends on the coach. Most coaches have one area of expertise that they are more involved in and they let their coordinators handle most of the other part. If the head coach is an offensive guy the quarterback is probably interacting with the head coach a great deal, if he is a defensive guy he is interacting with the middle linebacker more. Some coaches trust their subordinates to do more, others micromanage.

Let’s move this over to the Game Room.

General Questions Moderator

As someone who has seen NFL players’ tax returns, I can say that they are not independent contractors. They receive a W2.

Rank and file players report to their position coaches, who in turn report to the offensive/defensive coordinator as well as (and along with their coordinator) to the head coach.

Franchise players (quarterbacks, JJ Watt, etc…) probably interact with the head coach more than rank and file players, but I would imagine they still primarily work with and report to their position coaches.

The GM is essentially the HR department, and probably doesn’t interact directly with players all that much. Mainly with their agents, and mainly just for contract stuff.

My guess is that your average non-big name star typically has little interaction with the head coach. 90% of their interaction is with their position coach. Head coach though rules all though. If a WR coach feels a player needs to go it’s ultimately up to the HC. The bigger question is does the owner over rule the HC. I get the sense that Jerry Jones is the ultimate decision maker for the Cowboys. If he feels more screens should be run then more screens are going to be run.