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A side by side comparison of Adam Peters and Ian Cunningham

Measuring up two heavyweights

Earlier today it was announced that the two finalists for Washington’s top front office position are the San Francisco 49ers’ Adam Peters and Chicago Bears’ Ian Cunningham. Each candidate comes to the role with considerable experience, and an impressive pedigree, and - frankly - either would be a great addition to Washington’s football organization. That said, at the end of this process, there can only be one.

This piece will examine the track records of each of these future front office leaders, and leave it to you to decide who the team should settle on.

NFL Experience:

Ian Cunningham

Cunningham has been the Bears’ Assistant General Manager for the past two years. From 2017 to 2021, he was with the Philadelphia Eagles, starting as the director of college scouting and eventually being promoted to director of player personnel in 2021. Prior to his time in Philadelphia, he was with the Baltimore Ravens from 2008 to 2016, first as an assistant, and then in an area scouting role. In total, he has 16 years of NFL front office experience

“I’d go into the office of Ozzie Newsome every single night and pick his brain as I’m putting magnets up,” Cunningham said. “[I’d ask], ‘Who’d you watch today?’ Or just having conversations and learning: ‘How do you evaluate talent? What do you see in this player?’ Just learning as much as you could and soaking it in.”

Cunningham was a part of Super Bowl winning teams in Baltimore in 2013, and in Philadelphia, in 2018.

At the end of last season, Cunningham turned down the Arizona Cardinals GM job, and lost out on the Tennessee Titans job to Ran Carthon.

Adam Peters

Peters entered the NFL as a scout, beginning his career with the New England Patriots and serving there from 2003 to 2008. Peters went with Josh McDaniels to the Denver Broncos in 2009 where he started as a scout and was eventually promoted to director of college scouting in 2016. In 2017, he was hired by San Francisco - apparently John Lynch’s first hire as GM - as vice president of player personnel. In 2021, he was promoted to assistant general manager. At this point, Peters has 21 years of NFL front office experience.

“Good, bad or ugly, Adam (Peters) does it the right way. He treats people with compassion, even when it’s a bad situation. He’s always honest. You know where you stand. I’m surprised he has not gotten a general manager job to this point. I think that if you’re a team looking this year, to put it bluntly, you would be dumb to look anywhere else. I think he is the best in the business.” (from The Athletic annual agent survey)

Peters was a part of Super Bowl winning teams in New England in 2004 and 2005, and in Denver, in 2016. He was part of Super Bowl losing teams in New England in 2008, in Denver in 2014, and San Francisco in 2020.

Last season, Peters turned down interviews for the Cardinals’ and Titans’ positions.

Draft Results:

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to look at the 2021 and 2022 draft for each of the candidates, as that’s when each of them were promoted to Assistant GM, and when they could have been likely to have had a meaningful impact on the full draft. For each of these drafts, I will calculate an average wAV, or “weighted average career value” for the draft, and highlight particular hits or misses.

I will include the 2023 draft, but assign it less weight given the short timeframe for evaluation.

Adam Peters

2021 Draft (49ers) (avg wAV = 6.25)

San Francisco’s first pick of this draft was a notable bomb, QB Trey Lance. Was Peters responsible for that pick? Doubtful, but it’s still the sort of thing that stains one’s reputation by association. [Having done some additional digging, it appears Peters can be absolved of association with this move. According to contemporary accounts, he wasn’t even aware of who was being selected].

Second rounder, Aaron Banks, has been a steady contributor on the OL, and Decommodore Lenoir (5th), Talanoa Hufanga (5th), and Elijah Mitchell (6th) have all been key components of the 49ers for the past several years.

2022 Draft (49ers) (avg wAV = 2)

Left without a first round pick as a result of the Lance trade, this draft was salvaged by the selection of QB Brock Purdy in the 7th round of the draft. At this point, offensive lineman Spencer Burford (4th round), is the only other particularly notable contributor from the draft.

2023 Draft (49ers)

Even without first or second round picks in the 2023, San Fran managed to find four players who played in at least 15 games for them this season. Those include safety Ji’Ayir Brown (3rd), kicker Jake Moody (3rd), linebacker Dee Winters (6th), and wide receiver Ronnie Bell (7th).

If any trends can be discerned from Peters’ three drafts above, it might be that his teams have had pretty good success hitting on secondary players during his time in his current role.

Ian Cunningham

2021 Draft (Eagles) (avg wAV = 6.44)

The Eagles crushed their first (Devonta Smith) and second (Landon Dickerson) round picks in this draft. Running back Kenneth Gainwell (5th) has also been a consistent contributor for Philadelphia over the past several years. For the most part, others have been bit players.

2022 Draft (Bears) (avg wAV = 2.18)

Like the 49ers, the Bears did not have a first round pick in 2022. They did however, have 11 picks overall. Their top performing pick was OL Braxton Jones (5th) followed by second rounders Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker.

2023 Draft (Bears)

The 2023 Bears draft class got a lot of playing time this year. Their first six drafted players (rounds 1 through 4) all played in at least 15 games this year. Notable selections include tackle Darnell Wright, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (4 ints), and running back Roschon Johnson.

One thing that I’ll note is that, whether it’s coincidence or not, Cunningham’s teams have hit well on offensive linemen in these three drafts. That may not be a surprise given his time as an offensive lineman at UVA. This may be a particular talent of his.

Free Agents (and other notable transactions):

This exercise will be a bit more nebulous, but will focus on key free agent acquisitions or other transactions during each candidate’s time with their respective organization.

Ian Cunningham

2021 Eagles

  • Philadelphia trades back from 6 to 12 with the Dolphins.
  • Philadelphia trades up from 12 to 10 with the Cowboys.

2022 Bears

  • Chicago trades away Roquan Smith for AJ Klein (later waived) and draft capital.
  • Chicago trades for Chase Claypool for a second round pick.

2023 Bears

  • Chicago trades back from 9 to 10 with the Eagles.
  • Chicago trades up in the second round with Jaguars.
  • Chase Claypool traded to Miami for two, future late round picks.
  • Trades for Montez Sweat for a second round pick from Washington.

Adam Peters

2021 49ers

  • San Francisco trades up with Miami to select Trey Lance (first swap, second, and two more firsts).

2022 49ers

  • 49ers sign CB Charvarius Ward.
  • Sign safety George Odum.
  • Sign WR Ray Ray McCloud.
  • Trade for Christian McCaffrey from Panthers.
  • Trade RB Jeff Wilson to Miami.

2023 49ers

  • 49ers trade up from 102 to 87 with the Vikings.
  • Randy Gregory traded to Denver for late round picks.
  • Trade for Chase Young from Washington for a third round pick.

Conclusion

There’s a fair amount of information there to digest on Washington’s top two candidates. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Poll

Who would you prefer to head Washington’s front office?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Ian Cunningham
    (641 votes)
  • 76%
    Adam Peters
    (2071 votes)
2712 votes total Vote Now