My guest is Les Snead is the General Manager of the Super Bowl champion St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams.
We discuss assessing character, uncovering hidden production and visible over-production, the nuances of trading players, the differences between building a team and collecting talent, fighting complacency, hiring the right coach, and why it’s so important to be relentlessly curious.
A native of football-crazed Eufaula, Alabama, Snead served as a graduate assistant at Auburn University before he spent 14 years as an NFL scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons. He became the Rams’ GM in 2012 and over time built a reputation as an executive willing to make insightful draft picks as well as blockbuster trades, including his move to draft future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald in 2014 and the. trade for superstars Von Miller and Matthew Stafford on the way to winning the Super Bowl in February.
Some highlights from our conversation:
You’re building a team and not collecting talent. So we have to know within the locker room, because the players are the most important people in our ecosystem in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish on Sunday afternoons, do we have the right leadership?
We break it down into what we call football character, personal character and then there’s this element of, we call it football acumen. In this equation, the players that probably become hall of famers are the ones that are gifted genetically with that physical talent. But they also are gifted, or have been socialized or mentored the conscientiousness to prioritize their life’s work and dive into it and get better.
There’s that metative where, okay, this is a big planet. Tomorrow’s probably going to be here and whatever happened today, there’s a chance it gets better tomorrow. And what I do know is once the emotions of whatever happened, dissipates, there’s actually a learning, there’s an adventure to be had. There’s a chance to grow forward.
Success now is can I do my part as a leader so we have a chance to experience that fulfilling moment. That’s special, yes. But also we actually have a chance to have a meaningful, impactful experience along the journey that we’re going to have together in professional sports, because that’s very fortunate.
00:00 – Intro
02:07 – Lessons from being raised by a single mother
02:54 – Being fathered by football
06:49 – Insights from Snead’s previous coaches
12:20 – What it means to “Win a battle”
15:17 – How to beat complacency after a Super Bowl win
19:11 – Snead’s flywheel of a team
23:45 – How Snead approached the trade with Stafford
29:31 – How Snead recruits
33:00 – When it’s time to move on from players
38:45 – On counting invisible stats
46:36 – On Michael Jordan’s attitude
45:54 – How to build a team of talent
58:24 – Positional value vs. salary
01:02:54 – Why (and how) did Snead hire McVay?
01:15:00 – How to assess a player’s character
01:24:00 – How Snead deals with player’s past
01:28:15 – On mock drafts
01:38:58 – How Snead gets better at the draft
01:42:41 – How Snead is an “author stalker”
01:45:20 – Snead and Jim Collins
01:59:40 – The flywheel of football
01:53:50 – The misconceptions of Snead
02:00:00 – How Snead deals with stress
02:03:18 – What success means to Snead