THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – For two members of the Rams coach and personnel staff, Monday and Tuesday represented an investment in their futures.
Assistant head coach/tight ends coach Thomas Brown and senior personnel executive Ray Farmer were the Rams' nominees and participants for the newly-launched NFL Coach and Front Office Accelerator Program, which took place Monday and Tuesday in Atlanta during the league's spring meeting.
"It's obviously a huge honor," Brown told theRams.com after Thursday's organized team activity session. "That's something that I don't take for granted. I appreciate the Rams and the NFL for giving me an opportunity to be a part of it."
Each team nominated one rising senior woman or minority staff member to participate in the program, which included networking opportunities directly with club owners for the more than 60 diverse head coach and general manager candidates from all clubs and the league. It also included leadership development and sessions on the business side of football, plus candid conversations on how to take the next step in becoming a head coach or front office executive.
Brown said he and most of the participants he spoke with prior to the start of the event didn't know what to expect, and also had low expectations "based on how certain things had gone in the past." While not all of the programming was "100 percent impactful," Brown said, "the thought process behind it was," which he appreciated.
"It was definitely beneficial to have an opportunity to connect with some elite coaches from around this league, some future GMs, some guys that probably should already be GMs, and pick their brains about the process, how to prepare myself as much as possible," Brown said. "Understanding, like I already knew, we all knew, the importance of networking, but having the opportunity to actually network with the right people that make decisions was a big part of it."
Accessibility was a key piece to that. Getting to do lunches and social gatherings with owners and vice presidents of teams – the "true decision-makers," Brown said, that one doesn't always have the ability to meet in that capacity anywhere else, such as the NFL Scouting Combine – allowed them to see the human side of prospective head coaches and general managers.
Likewise for Farmer, having that access to owners especially represented the biggest difference compared to similar events he attended in the past, allowing him to authentically build relationships with people and show participants to show those decision-makers who they are.
"How do you get to know someone in a 2- or 3-hour interview? You really don't, right?" Farmer told theRams.com in a phone interview Thursday. "So you may like my plan, or what I say, or how I say it, but you really don't know me. But this event in particular, different than other events I have been to, you actually had a chance to connect with ownership in a unique way. So there were some different advantages to sitting and having a conversation with an ownership group, and it wasn't football – it was life, it was generalizations, it was just getting to know people."
Ultimately, Farmer said "time will tell" if that program and similar programs are effective. That time with owners is valuable, he said, but it means nothing if it doesn't translate to opportunities.
Both Farmer and Brown were grateful for the opportunity, but for now, it's back to the current grind – and following what comes out of the event.
"Have an opportunity to grow and continue learning, and now it's back to work, because nothing matters like the present," Brown said. "I think we all plan for the future, make goals, and goals are awesome, but it's about the process of being to be committed to it and see what happens."