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April 07, 2016

Hinkie, Amaro Jr. or Kelly: Who was the worst GM in recent years?

Sixers Front Office
050215ChipKelly Michael Perez/AP

The Eagles are down a second round pick in 2016, but they'll have an extra third round pick.

The state of Philly sports in recent years has been so bad – like an even more unwatchable version of "Flip This House" – that not a single one of the four major pro teams in this town has had its general manager in place for more than two years.

The longest-tenured GM is Flyers boss Ron Hextall, who has been running the team for 23 months -- and by all accounts is doing a hell of a job. The other three teams, however, have each undergone major front office overhauls in the last six months, culminating in the stunning resignation Wednesday of Sam Hinkie, who had been the longest-tenured GM after joining the Sixers back in 2013.

Sure, Howie Roseman's tenure with the Eagles precedes them all, but a year ago he was usurped as GM -- in power, if not title -- by Chip Kelly, so his current reign only dates back a few short months. And as for the Phillies' Matt Klentak, he's been in charge for about six months and is already the second longest-tenured GM in the city.

A model for stability and patience, this city is not.

But what about the three GM's who have resigned, been fired or, in the case of Kelly, "released" by the organization they were tasked with running? Which of those three -- Kelly, Hinkie or Ruben Amaro -- did the most damage to his respective franchise?

Chip Kelly (2013-2015*)

*Technically 2015 was his only season with full personnel control.

RECORD: 26-21 (0-1 postseason)

WHAT HE INHERITED: A team that finished 4-12 the season prior, but had the No. 4 pick in the ensuing draft, a franchise running back, two Pro Bowl wide receivers, and a solid offensive line. The defense was a mess, but he certainly had plenty to work with on the offensive side – his side – of the ball. You can say that full GM power wasn't given to Chip until prior to the 2015 season, but I don't think it was Roseman's decision to release DeSean Jackson, for example. His fingerprints were all over the personnel the day he was hired as head coach. 

WHAT HE DID: That being said, the bulk of his missteps came in the last year-plus. The jury is still out on the Nick Foles-Sam Bradford deal – mainly because of that damned second-round pick – but the fact that Foles lost his job in St. Louis to Case Keenum is a pretty good sign that Kelly actually won this deal. But there's not much beyond that. 

LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso? Overpaying for DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell? All three of those players are gone, so you can't argue that they all panned out. And the offensive line? Well, let's just suffice it to say that Kelly wasn't all that worried about winning in the trenches. After making the playoffs with a team he inherited, Kelly again won 10 games in his second season, but failed to make the playoffs. And in his third season, with a roster that was "his," Kelly went just 6-9 before being unceremoniously released prior to the regular season finale.

BEST MOVE(S): 
Maybe signing Ryan Mathews?

WORST MOVE(S): Signing Murray. [You could also argue trading McCoy for Alonso, which facilitated the need to acquire another starting RB. However, that move did free up about $10 million in cap space, which would have been great if he didn't then waste most of it on Murray.]

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND: Some terrible contracts. A less-than-ideal salary cap situation. No second-round draft pick. Question marks all over the depth chart. A pile of burning wreckage. And although it appears Roseman is doing his best to extinguish the fire, it will likely continue to smolder for a few more years. It's one thing to tank a team – more on that later – but it's something entirely different to burn a team to the ground and leave them in a worse position than when you arrived. 

Sam Hinkie (2013-2016)

RECORD: 47-195

WHAT HE INHERITED: A team mired in NBA mediocrity -- good enough to make the playoffs but not quite bad enough to get a lottery pick -- with a rough salary cap situation and a dearth of draft picks.

WHAT HE DID: He blew it up. From top to bottom, Hinkie wanted to completely overhaul the Sixers, and not just their roster. He wanted to change the entire way the organization operated. More analytics, focus on acquiring talent through the draft instead of via trades and free agency. In his 13-page resignation manifesto, Hinkie said many times, and in many different ways, that in order to become a contender, the Sixers were going to have to do something different from what the other 29 teams were doing. Based on that letter, Hinkie is clearly a man who thinks things through before implementing an idea or philosophy. Unfortunately for him, he never got to see the implementation of his plan all the way through.

BEST MOVE(S): MCW trade? Acquiring Nerlens Noel on draft night? Collecting -- and hoarding -- "assets" for the future? At least there are a few to choose from.

WORST MOVE(S): Many will probably go right to the decision to draft Joel Embiid, who has missed each of his first two seasons and has yet to play an NBA game. But I asked our resident Sixers expert Rich Hofmann, and thinks it's drafting Jahlil Okafor, whom he says "is a tricky fit in the modern NBA." I also think there's an argument to be made here that if Hinkie truly believed Embiid would be back next season at full health, the decision to draft another big man -- Noel was already on the roster -- seems like an odd one, especially as the league trends towards smaller, more guard-oriented play.

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND: A young team with plenty of money to spend and endless draft picks. The record might not be where it was when he took this team over, but they're certainly not in a worse place now than they were three years ago when he was hired. If nothing else, Hinkie was able to lay the groundwork for the next GM to build this franchise back up. 

Whether or not Jerry Colangelo and Son will take advantage of that remains to be seen.

Ruben Amaro Jr. (2009-2015)

RECORD: 582-552

WHAT HE INHERITED: The reigning World Series champion.

WHAT HE DID: It wasn't all bad for Amaro, who oversaw one of the best eras of Phillies baseball. Unfortunately, that was quickly followed by one of the worst in franchise history -- and that's saying something. 

Year W L W-L% Playoffs
2015 63 99 .389
2014 73 89 .451
2013 73 89 .451
2012 81 81 .500
2011 102 60 .630 Lost LDS (3-2)
2010 97 65 .599 Lost NLCS (4-2)
2009 93 69 .574 Lost WS (4-2)
---AMAROTAKESOVERAS GM
2008 92 70 .568 Won WS (4-1)
2007 89 73 .549 Lost LDS (3-0)

Still, he'll be more remembered for the second half of his reign than the first. Once praised as the man who was able to lure Cliff Lee away from the Yankees and put together a staff of four aces -- Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt -- that went on to win 102 regular season games in 2011, more than any team in the organization's 130-year existence.

The problem was he sold the farm in order to do so, and proved much less capable of building a winner at that level. And as the core that brought the city its first tile in 25 years continued to age, Amaro kept going to a cupboard that was bare with the exception of a stale Phillippe Aumont. He was the anti-Hinkie, sacrificing the future for the now. It was great while the Phillies were winning, but as soon they hit a few bumps in the road, Amaro was left without any real way to improve the team without digging himself further into a hole that was of his own making.

NoneMatt Mullin/PhillyVoice

A chart from last summer looking back at Amaro's tenure.


On a related note, there was something he didn't do that also hurt his ability as a GM: analytics. At least read Moneyball, Rube.

BEST MOVE(S): Acquiring Cliff Lee (and Ben Francisco) from the Indians for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson prior to the 2009 deadline. He signed an aging and injured Pedro Martinez that summer who, along with Lee, helped the Phillies win a second straight pennant.

WORST MOVE(S): Trading Cliff Lee to Seattle for Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez.

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND: Amaro made a few deals last summer before his ouster that helped rebuild a farm system be had previously decimated. That helped, but the team is still a few years away from competing, and that's largely due to the many missteps of the former GM.

HAVE YOUR SAY...


Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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