clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rick Spielman had a big role in the Washington Commanders GM search

Earning his money

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Albert Breer has some details on how the Washington Commanders hired their new general manager Adam Peters in his latest edition of the MMQB. We knew that Josh Harris had hired former NBA executive Bob Meyers and former NFL executive Rick Spielman to lead the search for his new head of football operations and head coach. Breer provides some background on how those two were paired, and how long they’ve been working on a list of candidates to interview for the position. Spielman played a big role in scouting the candidates for general manager.

The Commanders’ process moved fast. And, really, the wheels started turning a little over three weeks ago—when former Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers, who’d gone to work for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, reached out to former Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman, and asked whether he’d come to Miami to meet with new Commanders owner Josh Harris. Spielman’s been living on Florida’s Gulf Coast and is in Fort Lauderdale every weekend for his work at CBS.

That made things easy on everyone. Spielman got there over the weekend of Week 16, and Harris told him that while no decision had been made on coach Ron Rivera or his front office, he wanted to be ready to roll if the Commanders did move on. He invited Spielman to join Myers on his search committee and, as soon as Spielman accepted, asked the old GM to start doing background work to find a head of football operations and head coach.

Two weeks later, the original list of 15 that Spielman worked off was whittled to five. Three days after that, 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters was aboard as new head of football ops.

Spielman sought advice from several former NFL executives to get his short list of candidates ready for Meyers and Harris.

Spielman’s work through the final two weeks of the season was done quietly. He made calls but didn’t tell folks who he was working for, gathering information discreetly. Then, the Monday after Week 18, once Harris let Rivera go, Spielman drove to Miami and got to work talking with folks such as former Arizona Cardinals GM and Fritz Pollard Alliance exec Rod Graves, former New York Giants GM Jerry Reese, former Jacksonville Jaguars exec Michael Huyghue and former Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, all of whom worked in the league for decades, and attended last month’s accelerator program.

He was on the phone from 7:30 a.m. to about 11 p.m., checking every box on the five guys he’d identified, all of whom carried assistant GM titles: Peters, as well as Kansas City’s Mike Borgonzi, Cleveland’s Glenn Cook, Chicago’s Ian Cunningham, Philadelphia’s Alec Halaby.

Those five assistant general managers were interviewed at Josh Harris’s Miami offices.

The first round of interviews happened at Harris’s offices in Miami. Each candidate spent two and a half hours with Spielman, then another two and a half hours with Harris and Myers. Borgonzi, Cook and Peters went Tuesday, in that order, then Cunningham and Halaby went Wednesday.

The group then reconvened to pick two finalists, Peters and Cunningham, then met with three of Harris’s co-owners—Mitchell Rales, David Blitzer and Magic Johnson—to get a consensus and finalize those two as the leaders who’d get 90-minute second interviews Thursday morning.

After that, the larger group met one last time to pick Peters. It was close between the final two, with Peters’s seven years of experience as a No. 2, and the success his 49ers have had serving as a tiebreaker. (Cunningham is in his second year as a top lieutenant, and while the Bears seem headed in the right direction, they’re not there yet.)

Adam Peters got the job over Ian Cunningham, but both candidates would have been great hires by Washington. Peters will now help to select the team’s next head coach. Virtual interviews can start again on Tuesday, and Washington still has at least five more coaches to interview. Breer said Washington has already had virtual interviews with Baltimore Ravens DC Mike McDonald and Associate HC/DL coach Anthony Weaver. They have also requested interviews with Lions OC Ben Johnson, Lions DC Aaron Glenn, Rams DC Raheem Morris, Texans OC Bobby Slowik, and Cowboys DC Dan Quinn.

And, again, there’s still plenty to figure out. But the framework now is in place. The club is set up like Harris’s other pro teams, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, with a head of business (president Jason Wright) and head of football (Peters) reporting directly to the owner. The plan is for the coach to report to Peters, and finding that coach is obviously the next big priority (they’ve already interviewed Baltimore Ravens coaches Mike Macdonald and Anthony Weaver), with elements such as analytics and sports science left to be built out.