The Saskatchewan Roughriders' decision Thursday to give general manager Brendan Taman a two-year contract extension reads as an attempt to ensure some continuity, and that makes sense from a number of perspectives. First, Taman's contract was expiring following 2013, so this extension (which goes through the 2015 season) gives him the security to think long-term when building the club rather than focusing solely on winning now. Perhaps even more importantly, though, long-term stability at GM has worked out well for many CFL franchises recently. Having the right man in place and keeping him there can be a key to CFL success. Taman's accomplishments with the Riders haven't yet reached the level of most of the league's long-term GMs, but the team's betting that he can get there.
How much does continuity at general manager matter? Well, three of the last five Grey Cups have been won by long-tenured GMs. That would be Montreal's Jim Popp (who's been with the franchise since it was in Baltimore in 1994) in 2009 and 2010 and B.C.'s Wally Buono (who's been there since 2003) in 2011. Those franchises have been continually strong for most of the last decade, and continuity at the top's a key reason why. One of the other GMs to win is Toronto's Jim Barker, who counts as at least moderately-tenured (he won this season in his third year with the franchise, his second as GM). The exception is Calgary's John Hufnagel, who won in his first year with the team (2008), but the Stampeders' sustained success under Hufnagel since and their run to the Grey Cup game this year shows they've reaped the benefits of keeping him around for the long term.
By and large, it seems to make sense to lock up general managers for the long term. It often takes quite a while to develop young CFL talent, so a long-tenured GM can plan for success down the road, while one who's under pressure to win now may be tempted to sacrifice the future in order to do so. Moreover, a good chunk of most players' value is tied up in how well they fit an organization's plans; whenever there's a regime change, talented players who don't fit that system often get discarded for far less than they're worth (see Brody McKnight, Rey Williams, et al), so keeping the same GM in place for several seasons ensures a continuous organizational vision and avoids that pitfall. However, you still have to get the right GM in place, and the question is if Taman is that guy in Saskatchewan.
So far, the answer to that question is "requires more data." As pointed out when Taman signed his previous extension through 2013 last summer, we really haven't seen too much of what's clearly his work in Saskatchewan yet. Taman has a long CFL past (including serving as Winnipeg's GM from 2004-2008) and has been with the Riders since 2009, but split roster-construction duties with everyone from Eric Tillman to Ken Miller to Joe Womack for a while, and even wound up in the unusual position of being a GM who didn't have full control over player acquisition in 2011. The 2012 campaign's the first one where Taman's own vision was clearly identifiable, and the results there (8-10, a playoff spot and a first-round loss) showed some potential, but certainly weren't overwhelming. Taman's made some promising off-season moves so far this year, though, including bringing in Geroy Simon, Dwight Anderson and Rey Williams, and it's going to be interesting to see how this campaign turns out for him. Continuity at the top makes sense if you have the right person in place; we'll see if Taman proves to be the right man for the Roughriders.