When Ron Rivera was hired as the Washington Football Team’s head coach, he vowed to build a collaborative brain trust that would make the franchise’s football decisions together.
Mayhew and Hurney will report directly to Rivera, who has final say over the team’s personnel and football department, but all three are expected to work in unison as Washington reaches a critical juncture in its roster rebuild.
“I look forward to collaborating with both Marty and Martin in the years to come,” Rivera said in a statement released by the team.
The first phase of the franchise’s overhaul began last year, when it hired Rivera and remade the executive staff on the business side. At season’s end, Rivera quickly shifted focus to the front office, leading the search for the general manager and executive vice president while keeping owner Daniel Snyder involved.
Among the six known candidates who interviewed over the past week, Mayhew and Hurney stood out for their executive experience and close ties to the organization and/or Rivera: Mayhew, a former Washington cornerback with eight years of GM experience, and Hurney, a 28-year NFL executive who worked with Rivera in separate stints in Carolina.
Their exact responsibilities in Washington remain unclear — Rivera has been coy about the titles and even his intent to hire anyone to the front office — but overlap in responsibility is expected. Although other teams have similar models in which the head coach and top personnel executive (typically a GM) collaborate in handling football operations, they usually report individually to the team owner or, in Seattle’s case, the team chair.
In Washington, everything runs through Rivera.
“Every structure that I’ve seen, regardless of whether it’s the head coach or general manager having ‘final say,’ there’s always a lot of discussion,” said Scott Pioli, the former Kansas City Chiefs GM who worked in a model similar to Washington’s when he was vice president of player personnel for the New England Patriots.
Mayhew, 55, who most recently was a vice president of player personnel for the San Francisco 49ers, returns to a franchise he helped lead to a Super Bowl XXVI victory as a player. In his new role, he will be tasked with helping build the roster.
“Martin is a proven general manager who will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the organization,” Rivera said in a statement. “He will be an integral part of running the daily football operations and will allow me the opportunity to focus more on coaching. He impressed both myself and Mr. Snyder during the interview process and we both believe he will be a tremendous fit here. He is a man of high character and integrity and was part of the rich history and tradition of this great franchise as a member of the Super Bowl championship team in 1991.”
Drafted in the 10th round by the Buffalo Bills in 1988, Mayhew spent nine years in the NFL, including four with Washington (1989-92) and another four with Tampa Bay (1993-96). While in Washington, he took night courses at Georgetown to work toward a law degree, which he finished after he retired from the NFL.
After a brief internship in Washington’s pro personnel department in 1999 and another with the NFL in 2000, Mayhew headed to Detroit, where he spent 15 seasons in the Lions’ front office, including eight as the team’s GM. After a season as the New York Giants’ director of football operations (2016), Mayhew was hired to the 49ers’ personnel department.
“Martin has played an integral role in helping to establish a sustainable, championship culture over the last four years,” 49ers GM John Lynch said in a statement. “His skills as a talent evaluator and his counsel as a trusted advisor have positively impacted me and the 49ers organization.”
Mayhew is the third Black GM hired in the NFL this year and arrives only five months after the team made Jason Wright the NFL’s first Black team president. Washington is now the first team in league history to have minorities as its president, GM and head coach.
Hurney, 65, worked alongside Rivera twice with Carolina, both times serving as the Panthers’ GM (2002-12 and 2017-20). A former sportswriter, Hurney worked at the Washington Star and covered Washington’s NFL team for the Washington Times before joining Washington’s public relations department in 1988.
When Washington GM Bobby Beathard left for the same job in San Diego, Hurney followed to lead the Chargers’ football operations from 1990 to 1997, working primarily on the administrative side in handling the team’s salary cap and contracts. But he soon developed into a reputable talent evaluator under Beathard, and when he arrived with Carolina in 1998, he was elevated to GM after only three years of serving as the team’s director of football administration.
“Marty Hurney is an excellent evaluator of talent and someone whom I trust and have worked with in the past,” Rivera said. “He knows the amount of hard work it takes to operate a successful personnel department. Marty has a proven track record as a successful scout and general manager and will be a vital part of shaping our roster. Both myself and Mr. Snyder agreed that he would bring an enormous amount of experience to our operation.”
Hurney’s first stint as Carolina’s GM ended in 2012, only six games into Rivera’s second season as head coach. Though their time together was limited, Hurney and Rivera worked closely in evaluating quarterback Cam Newton before selecting him at No. 1 overall in the 2011 draft.
Hurney returned to Carolina as interim GM in 2017 and reclaimed the job full time the following season, lasting until December of last year. In his 15 seasons as GM, the Panthers went 107-121 (including 16-30 in his final three seasons) and finished above .500 four times.
It was not immediately clear what the arrivals of Mayhew and Hurney would mean for some existing leaders in Washington’s front office. Rivera said in a recent radio interview that Rob Rogers, the team’s senior vice president of football administration and one of nearly two dozen people to follow Rivera from Carolina, would continue in his current role of managing Washington’s salary cap and leading contract negotiations. But both Hurney and Mayhew have cap and contract experience, in addition to experience in personnel evaluation.
More pressing is the future of Kyle Smith, Washington’s vice president of player personnel who oversaw the team’s college and pro scouting efforts this past season. Smith, 36, started as an intern in 2010 and worked his way up to the top of Washington’s personnel department. He and Rivera worked together last year on a draft class that featured No. 2 overall pick Chase Young and late-round steals in Kamren Curl and Khaleke Hudson. They also found productive and inexpensive free agent acquisitions such as Logan Thomas and J.D. McKissic.
The offseason was widely regarded as a success, but that collaboration could be short-lived. Smith remains under contract with Washington, but he recently hired an agent, and his future in Washington appears uncertain.
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