MICHAEL C. HEBERT PHOTOGRAPHS
For many men (and women), Mickey Loomis has a dream job as the Executive Vice President/General Manager of a National Football League team, the New Orleans Saints. Even if the team had not won the Super Bowl, armchair quarterbacks would no doubt put down their beers for a chance to run the team their way.
Not like Loomis isn’t used to armchair quarterbacks at this point in his 27-year career in pro football. It is just that while the job seems glamorous, it encompasses a lot more than the glory of wearing a Super Bowl ring – and having a bird’s-eye view of the Saints’ training facility’s practice field and an all-access pass to the players, coaches and the game-day field. The departments under his direction are: coaching, player personnel and scouting, salary cap management, contract negotiations, athletic training, equipment, video and communications. Salary cap management? Doesn’t sound too exciting – but it is just one piece of a complicated puzzle of being the person responsible for running football operations for a top NFL team.
Loomis started his career in the National Football League in 1983 when he joined the Seattle Seahawks. Much like the Saints, the Seahawks were a team that would have seasons that would get them to the playoffs, or tantalizingly close, or seasons that were best forgotten. By the time he left in 2000, Loomis had worked his way up to executive vice president.
He joined the Saints as director of football administration, brought on by a former co-worker at the Seattle Seahawks, former Saints General Manger Randy Mueller, who also hired former coach Jim Haslett that year.
Loomis was promoted to his current position in 2002, when Mueller was let go.
As part of the Saints organization, Loomis was instrumental in 2006 for the hiring of coach Sean Payton and other key players – Drew Brees, to name one – as well as positioning the team after Hurricane Katrina to win a NFC Championship, thereby earning him a coveted NFL Executive of the Year award by Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America. Sporting News also honored him as the George Young Executive of the Year, an award given annually by the NFL front-office executives and owners.
Yet, even with a very high-profile job and the accolades, he admits he’d rather stay in the background. Somehow, with this upcoming season, when the Saints are defending their Super Bowl title – and hoping to join the ranks of repeat Super Bowl winners such as the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys – I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Loomis, front and center.
You have a job that many consider a dream job. What is your favorite part? It’s really hard to decide. Every day is different, ultimately, when you are General Manager, you are responsible for putting the right people in the right position and making sure they have the best opportunity to do their job. At the end of the day you are solving problems for the people working for you, and those problems may be different one week to next.
Job/title: Executive Vice President/General Manager, New Orleans Saints Born/Raised: Bangor, Maine; Raised in Eugene, Ore. Family: Melanie, wife; Alex, age 25; Katherine, age 21; and Sam and Lucy, age seven weeks (as of early August) Education: Willamette High School (Eugene, Ore.); a degree in accounting, University of Oregon; master’s in sports administration, Wichita State University Resides: Metairie Favorite book: Sport in America by James Michenor Favorite movie: The Ref Favorite TV show: “Seinfeld,” “Evening News” Favorite food: Ground beef taco Favorite restaurant: Emeril’s, Impastato’s and Brigtsen’s Favorite musician: Jimmy Buffett, Better Than Ezra, Marc Broussard, Kenny Chesney and Robert Cray Favorite vacation spot: Any place with a beach and no cell service. Hobby: Golf (“I don’t get to play as much as I like,” Loomis says. He adds that he would like to go to Scotland and Ireland to play courses.)
And what about the glamour of the job? When you get down to it, it’s hard work, long hours and a lot of stress. Every fan thinks they can do a better job. Someone once described it like this, and I think it’s a really good analogy: You can look at your house. And you can tell someone every single thing that is right about that house and every single thing that is wrong about it. But you couldn’t build it.
The fun part is that you’re in the NFL. [However,] people think getting your name in the paper every day is fun; well, it’s not that cool. That is not what I enjoy. I enjoy working with the people we have in the building, I enjoy helping to set a great environment for success. I enjoy competition, which drives almost everyone in this sport and any sport.
Enjoy the competition and recognize that sometimes you are going to lose. When you do, how do you react and bounce back from it?
You’ve been through it all – teams with losing records, and now a team that’s won the Super Bowl. Everyone who has been in this business for a long period of time has had losing teams, disappointing seasons. The Super Bowl more than makes up for the disappointing seasons.
I was looking on an old message board and read this comment that intrigued me, “… a GM should be judged by how he corrects his mistakes, not by rolling the dice in the first place.” Your thoughts? I say this a lot: There are a lot of similarities between managing a football team and managing a company. You have to be able to look at your own self and the people who work for or with you with a critical eye. And when you’re successful, you need to do that. So when you need to make adjustments, you make adjustments, require people to make adjustments. It’s no different than any other business. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake – and you need to go back and admit to it, and eliminate it and move on from it. There’s nothing magic about that.
How has football changed since you started? The game is more sophisticated, more specialized. More technology is used. But it still remains a game about blocking and tackling.
What advice would you give someone who wants to do what you do? (Loomis recounts his career to show his path.) Be persistent and ready to seize an opportunity. I finished my undergraduate degree in accounting, and went to work for a CPA firm for two years. My plan was always to go back to graduate school for business administration, which turned into sports administration. I had decided the path I wanted to take was to be an athletic director and coach, with the thinking I would end up at a small college somewhere and do both. So I finished my master’s degree, did an internship in the University of Oregon athletic department. I also went to work teaching junior high math and coaching high school basketball. That was what I was doing when I heard about a position with the Seattle Seahawks. I was one of 200 candidates, and I was selected and joined in 1983. The position was for business manager.
So you worked your way up the ranks. I was there with Mike McCormack as General Manager, Chuck Knox as the head coach, and the Nordstrom family owned the team at the time. I eventually worked my way up – and I’ve never left pro football.
What is your favorite moment as a member of the Saints organization? The reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. It was an electric night, with the emotion we all felt, particularly those who went through Katrina together – our staff, friends and fans. I do have two favorite moments of the Super Bowl: First, I was able to share it with my children and wife on the field after the game. Both my children have been through this business their entire life, and it meant as much as to them as it did to me. The other was a moment when Sean [Payton] and I shared the trophy on the field, because when he was hired, we talked about what it would take to win a Super Bowl.
To accomplish that in a short period of time is pretty remarkable.
True Confession: I have lots of these, but I want them to remain unknown!