This story has popped up in different variations since former Team President Bruce Allen was fired and Head Coach Ron Rivera was hired at the end of last year. Who will be the General Manager of the Washington Football Team? The team had a jumbled mess of questionable executive responsibilities under Bruce Allen.
When Rivera was hired, owner Dan Snyder made it clear that Rivera would have a huge influence on every decision going forward, and they were moving to a coaching-centric style of team similar to the Patriots and Seahawks. No GM was hired, but Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith was promoted to Vice President of Player Personnel. Rivera also brought in Rob Rogers from the Carolina Panthers to be the Vice President of Football Administration, replacing Eric Schaffer. Both Schaffer and Smith reportedly had interest or were in consideration for the open GM position, but the team went forward without one for Rivera's first season in Washington.
The rumor mill has been churning up again, and a few reports came out today about Washington’s GM search. We'll start with Ian Rapoport's story from this morning. Ron Rivera said the team was focused on getting to the playoffs now, and any movement at the executive level would happen after the season.
Rapoport says that is indeed the case, but it will be an accelerated search. There will probably be at least 5 GM openings around the league, and some jobs are already open and interviewing candidates. If Washington is set on bringing in an outside candidate, they will have competition and will likely need to move fast to get their guy.
VP of player personnel Kyle Smith has worked alongside Rivera since he was hired, handling evaluations and moves while Rivera has final say. It appears Washington will look for a more experienced voice.
He also says it appears the team is looking for a more experienced executive. He threw out a few names that have been floating around(Rick Smith, Martin Mayhew, and Marty Hurney). All of them have connections to Washington. Rick Smith was even interviewed by Dan Snyder late last year before Rivera was hired.
Next up is Jason La Canfora, and he directly states that Kyle Smith is no longer in line for the GM position. He also says that Hurney and Mayhew are strong candidates to rejoin the organization. La Canfora talks about their connections to Washington(Hurney started his scouting career here, Mayhew won a Super Bowl here). Hurney reportedly has the support of Joe Gibbs who has influenced with Dan Snyder. Hurney also has a strong relationship with Ron Rivera from their time in Carolina.
More change coming to WFT front office in 2021 with some familiar faces quite possibly coming back https://t.co/4Sntc2T4PZ— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 27, 2020
Hurney began his scouting career with Washington in the heyday of the Joe Gibbs Super Bowl era, and he remains very well-liked and respected by many in that building. He also shared a very strong working relationship for years in Carolina with Rivera; Rivera was let go by the Panthers last year and Hurney was let go last week.
Hurney has strong support from Gibbs, who remains a key confidant for Snyder, and his reputation for maximizing first-round picks and building a roster is top notch. Hurney could very well be a candidate for other GM openings, as could Mayhew, who previously was a GM in Detroit, though several league sources said they could both end up back in Washington as well. Mayhew, currently a personnel exec with the 49ers, won a Super Bowl as a player in Washington under Gibbs, and is also well regarded by many of Washington’s decision makers. Mayhew has been preparing for potential GM interviews.
La Canfora also reported about Washington’s interest in Rick Smith a week ago.
The Washington Football Team is also looking to reshape its front office, and has interest in Smith to oversee football operations there, sources said.
Former Texans GM Rick Smith is coveted by several teams. Interviews with Detroit tomorrow. Washington is also a possibility as they continue to reshape organization https://t.co/j0y5jKUOg2— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 20, 2020
If you want a few more names to add to the list, Albert Breer throws out two more based on their connections to Ron Rivera and/or Carolina.
Ryan Cowden, Titans VP of player personnel: Cowden’s been GM Jon Robinson’s top lieutenant for five years—and Tennessee’s going to finish this year with its fourth winning season in that stretch, and is very much ascending. He’s now got those five years of in-the-office experience, and was a road scout in Carolina before then. The expectation is he’ll be a very real candidate for the Washington GM job, given his five years of experience having worked with Ron Rivera with the Panthers.
Joe Schoen, Bills assistant GM: You’ll be hearing more on Schoen. He and director of player personnel Dan Morgan have been integral to how GM Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott have built the Bills and, for his part, Schoen made his mark as a communicator and with his experience on the college side. Expect Washington to be in on Schoen. Beane and Rivera know each other well, and Schoen has a Carolina background having started with the Panthers before Rivera was there. Beane will give him a strong recommendation.
Where does this leave someone like Kyle Smith who has been highly regarded for his work running Washington's draft the last few years? That remains to be seen. John Keim mentioned in his latest podcast that it's possible he stays and works with whoever is brought in as GM. If he wants to leave he has to have a place to go.
When Eric Schaffer parted ways with the team, he didn't get another job in the NFL, he instead joined a sports agency as an executive. There is a clear difference between someone like Schaffer who was seen as the contracts guy, and Smith who has been running drafts and personnel at a high level. It's hard to imagine Smith being out of work for long if he wants out, or if the team parts ways with him. Washington already hired Smith's potential replacement over the summer in Eric Stokes.
Add this to the neverending story of change in Washington. Whoever takes the job will have a lot of things on the team to improve as they work with Ron Rivera on building a consistent playoff contender from a team that could stumble into a division title. One of the biggest questions will be at QB, but that's a story for another article.