Mayhew, a vice president of player personnel for the San Francisco 49ers, was one of six candidates, along with Hurney, to interview with Washington over the past week. If a deal comes to fruition, he would return to a franchise he helped lead to a victory in Super Bowl XXVI as a player and to a region where his career in an NFL front office began.
NFL Network first reported the possibility of Mayhew’s hiring.
It’s unclear what exactly Mayhew’s role would be alongside Hurney and Coach Ron Rivera, who is still the top football decision-maker for Washington.
When Rivera was hired last year, the team shifted to a coach-centric front-office structure that gave him final say over personnel decisions. His vision, he said at the time, was to create a collaborative front office, where he works closely with the head of personnel and other executives on major decisions.
Washington’s senior vice president of football administration, Rob Rogers, will continue to manage the team’s salary cap and lead contract negotiations, so how the responsibilities will be divvied among Rivera, Hurney and Mayhew — and the ripple effect of their impending hires — remains to be seen.
Mayhew, a former cornerback whose play defied his 5-foot-8 frame, spent nine years in the NFL after the Buffalo Bills drafted him in the 10th round in 1988. After injury derailed his rookie season, he played four seasons in Washington (1989-92), starting alongside Pro Football Hall of Famer Darrell Green, before moving on to Tampa Bay for another four seasons (1993-96).
While in D.C., Mayhew began taking night courses at Georgetown University Law Center to prep for a second career in an NFL front office. He retired in 1997 and, following his stint in Tampa, returned to Georgetown to complete his law degree. Mayhew, who interned in Washington’s pro personnel department for nine months, was hired as the original XFL’s director of football administration, and when the league folded, he headed to Detroit, spending 15 seasons, including the last eight as GM, with the Lions.
Mayhew took over the GM role three games into the Lions’ 2008 season during which they finished 0-16, and turned Detroit into a playoff team three years later. Along the way, he oversaw the draft selections of quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Ezekiel Ansah, orchestrated a trade of wide receiver Roy Williams that netted three picks, and helped lead the Lions to two postseason appearances. But he was fired midway through the 2015 season after the Lions went 41-63 under his watch.
After a year as the New York Giants’ director of football operations, Mayhew moved on to San Francisco, where he worked for two years as the team’s senior personnel executive and another two as a VP of player personnel.
Although he doesn’t have a history of working alongside Rivera, Mayhew interviewed for the Carolina Panthers’ GM opening in 2018, when Rivera was their head coach. The team instead named Hurney its full-time GM for a second stint.
Mayhew’s potential arrival could cloud the future of others in Washington’s front office.
Kyle Smith, the team’s 36-year-old VP of player personnel who was promoted last year to the team’s top personnel position, did not interview for the GM role. Smith started with Washington as an intern in 2010 and quickly worked his way up, becoming an area scout, then its director of college scouting and then, as of last year, the head of both college and pro efforts.
Washington’s 2020 offseason was widely regarded as a success. Smith worked alongside Rivera to help land key pieces in the draft, veteran free agency and the trade market. Smith is still under contract, but it remains to be seen how, if at all, the hires of Hurney and Mayhew would affect his standing in Washington.