2. Trent Baalke, Jacksonville Jaguars
Trent Baalke arrived in Jacksonville with a less-than-stellar reputation. Having become persona non-grata with the San Francisco 49ers, Baalke earned a reputation for being difficult to work with. Nevertheless, owner Shad Khan felt he was the right man to lead the Jaguars' front office.
Fans weren't pleased with Baalke's performance and made their displeasure known by showing up to the Jaguars' 2021 season finale in full clown makeup. But Khan didn't cave into the pressure and later tripled down on the decision to appoint Baalke as the general manager when Byron Leftwich, then a candidate for the team's head coaching opening, reportedly said that he wouldn't take the job if Baalke was around.
Khan stuck by Baalke, and it's paid off. His 2022 free-agent class is one of the big reasons for the Jaguars' recent success. His draft class the year before also proved to be a remarkable one. Even when you leave Trevor Lawrence aside, the Jacksonville Jaguars came out of the player selection meeting with lots of talent. Besides Travis Etienne, cornerback Tyson Campbell, left tackle Walker Little, and safety Andre Cisco, the team's brass also got a great role player in tight end Luke Farell,
That's five building blocks (including Lawrence) and one role player. The Jags' 2022 class has also bear fruit. Travon Walker, the first overall pick, is making strides. Fellow first-round pick Devin Lloyd is playing at a high level. Luke Fortner is the starting center and Montaric Brown is a good reserve cornerback.
The jury is still out on Baalke's 2023 draft class, Anton Harrison notwithstanding, but he's earned enough goodwill to get the benefit of the doubt. Also, he got a couple of good free-agency pickups in kicker Brandon McManus and running back D'Ernest Johnson, so you can't say that he didn't make upgrades to the roster in 2023.