Ran Carthon had been preparing to be an NFL general manager decades before he even got involved with an NFL team.
As a kid growing up, Carthon would talk with his NFL playing dad, Maurice, about the talent level of various players around the league, and took a big interest each year in the draft.
“I’ve always just been a fan of the draft, especially when I was younger,” Carthon said. “I used to record every draft and buy all the draft magazines and follow along. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time. I was just more so trying to predict which team was going to take which player.”
Carthon has come a long way from those days as a precocious draftnik, having a successful college career as a running back in Florida to a brief stint in the NFL as Peyton Manning’s teammate in Indianapolis to a post-playing career as a scout and personnel executive.
Carthon is in his fifth season as director of player personnel with the San Francisco 49ers after holding that same job for five years with the Rams, and hopes to be a candidate some day soon to run a team of his own.
There were five minority general managers this season among the 32 current teams, but Carthon is one of several minority executives in the pipeline hoping to get one of those coveted jobs some day soon.
He is expected to interview for the New York Giants’ opening this month.
“That’s the goal in the grand scheme of things to one day hold that position,” Carthon said in an interview earlier this season. “It’s kind of hard, because you got to keep the main thing the main thing, and just focus on doing what I can do to help make our club better and give us a chance to win each Sunday while maintaining the ultimate goal, which is to ultimately lead a team myself.”
When Carthon’s playing career was done following the 2006 season, he briefly took a shot at coaching high school in Miami on the advice of former Colts teammate Edgerrin James. Carthon quickly realized his interests were more on the personnel side and he didn’t have the patience to coach.
Carthon said his father had wanted to get involved in personnel after winning two Super Bowls with the Giants during an eight-year career as a bruising fullback in the NFL. But Bill Parcells talked Maurice Carthon into coaching, which he did for nearly two decades at various stops as a running backs coach, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
Maurice Carthon said he saw Ran going the personnel side and takes great pride in witnessing his success.
“I always felt like he was going to go that direction,” Maurice Carthon said. “I’ve enjoyed watching him do that. I thought it was something that he really wanted to do and he got after it. I didn’t have much to do with that. It’s him and his want to.”
Ran Carthon’s front-office journey began with a four-year stint as a scout with the Atlanta Falcons before he joined the Rams, where he spent five seasons as director of pro personnel. Niners general manager John Lynch then brought him to San Francisco as director of pro personnel when the new regime arrived in 2017. Carthon is in his first season as director of personnel. He manages the pro scouting department, does advance scouting and helps the team make acquisitions through trades, free agency and the waiver wire.
Carthon said he has learned different aspects of the job from all three organizations he has been a part of but says the No. 1 thing he has learned in San Francisco is the importance of the relationship between Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.
“John and Kyle are aligned and have a clear vision of what they want from players at every position,” Carthon said. “Then, now us as scouts, we can just go out and identify that. That’s the big thing that I’ve learned probably the most. That’s not to take away from any of the other organizations. Just having a clear line vision between the GM and his staff and the head coach and his staff. That allows us to have our marching orders and allows us to just go out and hunt for those players.”
Carthon hopes to be giving out those marching orders some day. He was selected twice to participate in the NFL Career Development Symposium at the Wharton School of Business.
Carthon said watching mentors like Lynch and Les Snead of the Rams up close makes him appreciate how much goes into the GM job. While he feels prepared to do it, he said the only way to prove that is to get the job.
The first step will be getting a chance to interview for an opening.
“When that opportunity comes, hopefully I’ll be fully prepared and I’ll be able to put my best foot forward and impress a decision maker to make a make decision to give me a chance,” he said. “If that’s not the case, I’ll learn and grow from it and make sure that I get that that needed help and go from there again.
“It’s almost like playing again. You get your opportunity to play at the start and you try to make the most of it, and if it doesn’t go the way you want to, you go back to the film, correct your mistakes and help you get another opportunity to prove yourself.”