Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -


One of the first decisions John Lynch made when he was named the San Francisco 49ers general manager was to reach out to then-Denver Broncos GM/executive vice president of football operations John Elway. He had an interview request, and he knew it was a big one.

He needed Adam Peters.

Lynch wasn't exactly what one would call a "traditional" front office hire. He certainly had the football knowledge to warrant the interest. It's hard to come across a Hall of Fame player, let alone one with nine Pro Bowl appearances, two First Team All-Pro selections, a Super Bowl victory and a spot in not one but two Rings of Fame with the Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So, yeah, why not let the guy who's forgotten more about football than most people will ever learn lead the organization? Seems like the smart move.

The only thing Lynch didn't have much experience with was working in a front office. After his retirement in 2008, Lynch went into broadcasting and did it well for nearly a decade. He had never put together a plan for going after free agents in the offseason. He had never been in a draft room to help choose players from a pool of hundreds to shape a franchise's future...well, except that one time.

Lynch described his emergence into the front office as a phased approach. Over the course of three years, Elway asked Lynch to focus on helping the Broncos evaluate safeties. The second year, it was all the defensive backs, and in Year 3, he was in the room to witness the draft process himself. The person he happened to sit next to: Peters, who was the Broncos' director of college scouting at the time.

Almost immediately, the two hit it off. They realized rather quickly that they had a lot of similarities in the way they viewed the game. Obviously, Lynch was impressed with that, but there was a certain gumption about Peters that stuck out to him. It was built off years of being around some of the best coaches and executives in the league. There was a dedication to the shared goal of improving the roster and winning, but he stood up for what he believed in and the players he thought matched that vision. And he had knowledge -- plenty of it -- to back up his claims.

"His core principles are extremely solid," Lynch said. "His process is extremely thorough. He's a very bright guy. He really is. And he's a tireless worker."

So, when Lynch got his opportunity with the 49ers, he knew one of the first moves he needed to make was to hire Peters to help him build a roster that could compete for championships.

The 49ers have yet to win it all with Lynch as their GM, but no one would deny they've been one of the best teams in the league. They've had four winning seasons and as many playoff selections in seven years and won the NFC West in three of the last five seasons. The 49ers earned the No. 1 seed in the 2023 playoffs with home field advantage throughout the postseason.

Peters has been through it all alongside Lynch, serving as his right-hand man and playing a vital role in the team's recent success. Whether it was handling responsibilities with football operations while Lynch dealt with ownership or adding a voice in roster decisions, Peters helped keep the process running and was critical to establishing the standard that San Francisco now prides itself on.

Now, Peters has been tasked with creating something similar as the general manager for the Washington Commanders. After working in tandem with him for years, Lynch knows that he is ready for the task.

"They [Washington] have a lot of work to do, but he knows that and he's eager and excited to get going," Lynch said.

Imagine telling Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback considered one of the best of all time with two Super Bowls, that a team might be better suited going in a different direction than the player he liked on a draft board. 

Going along with Elway's way of thinking was the easy thing to do. Like Lynch, he has decades of experience as a player to lean on, and when Elway made a suggestion, that's usually the direction the team went in.

Peters was one of the few who would offer a counterargument.

"He was somewhat bold," Lynch said. "Adam, in a very tactful way, would say, 'No, I think we should look at this player more.' So, he had a little gumption to him, and a little conviction. When he was convicted, he wasn't afraid to say it. And that always impressed me."

Peters might not have a Hall of Fame career to lean on, but over two decades of experience in evaluating players is nothing to dismiss, either. He spent six years as a scout with the New England Patriots before joining the Broncos in 2009 and spent the next eight years working his way up to being named the director of college scouting in 2016. In that span, he observed the way people like Elway and Bill Belichick crafted championship teams.

So, when Peters advocated for a player, Lynch knew it was coming from an opinion that was based on not only years of learning from other successful coaches and executives, but also one that was supported by a thorough process.

"You have to empower people, but it's hard to empower people if you don't have a lot of belief in them and the way they have to earn that belief," Lynch said. "You don't just show up. And so [it's] having conviction, but having support as to why you're convicted, that's one thing he just did."

Peters can't take all the credit for the 49ers' success when it comes to finding talent, but there's no denying that San Francisco had more hits than misses in the time that he was there. Peters was part of a 49ers leadership team that selected George Kittle, Fred Warner, Deebo Samuel, Mike McGlinchey, Javon Kinlaw, Brandon Aiyuk and Nick Bosa. Through free agency, the team was equally effective, adding key contributors such as Richard Sherman, Kyle Juszczyk and K Robbie Gould. They also acquired All-Pros Christian McCaffrey and Trent Williams via trade.

In 2023, the 49ers placed a league-high nine total players in the Pro Bowl. Following the conclusion of the 2023 regular season, San Francisco had five players named First Team All-Pro by the Associated Press, which was the most by a single team in the NFL.

Now that Peters is leading the effort to rebuild Washington's roster, Lynch said that Peters will need to decide on what kind of vision he wants to have and the players he wants to bring in to fulfill that vision. Peters said during his introductory press conference that the team will be built "the right way," and that will be clear with "the energy, the passion, the toughness, the physicality and all those things that are going to resonate in the DMV area."

Whoever Peters brings in during his first few months with the Commanders, Lynch has confidence they will be the ideal fit for what he wants to do.

"He's smart," Lynch said. "I think when he advocated for a player, he did so, but he supported it really well. He had a good eye."

In the time that Lynch and Peters were together, their biggest priorities were making sure the head coach and team had everything they needed to be successful, but like every job, there's more to the role than the highlights.

There were some days when Lynch needed to meet with the 49ers' ownership or the team president. Sometimes he needed to have a discussion with the team's public relations department or meet with sponsors. All of those are important job functions, but they did take time from focusing on the roster.

When those moments came up, Lynch knew he could count on Peters to "keep the process going."

"He could handle anything I threw at him," Lynch said.

Though his role changed from vice president of player personnel to assistant general manager, one thing that stayed the same was Peters' ability to take some of the burden off Lynch's shoulders by dealing with some of the responsibilities, both written and unwritten, that are normally given to a general manager. Having someone he could trust to handle the needs of the football operations while he dealt with other things made Peters "vital" to Lynch, because it allowed him to prioritize his time.

"You can't do everything," Lynch said. "And he allowed me to prioritize and not have to do everything and be very comfortable that the message was gonna get communicated, that the job was gonna get done to my liking. He also took good direction."

And there was evidence that Peters conveyed that message well, both with players and other members of the staff. With players, whether it was cornerstone pieces like Williams and Warner or members of the practice squad, Peters had a way of relating to players and earning their respect. Players know the NFL is a business, and teams are constantly making decisions on their careers to make the best possible decisions for the trajectory of the organization.

At the same time, players want to have confidence, Lynch said, and Peters was able to give that to them by taking an up-front approach.

"Just the ability to communicate and tell them very bluntly, 'Here's what we're trying to do. Here's how we're trying to do it,'" Lynch said. "You bring them in the process and tell them, 'Here's what we stand for.' I think it goes a long way."

That's not something that is necessarily a requirement of the job. He could have been "old school," as Lynch called it, and decided not to talk much with players, but he doesn't think that approach works well. Peters' desire to connect with players will be even more important now.

"He'll have to even bring that to new heights in this role," Lynch said. "But that's a lot of things. I keep going back to he really is prepared for the job. I think as prepared as anyone I know."

It was also important when it came to working with the scouting department. Peters is known across the league for being an exceptional talent evaluator, but he was helped by establishing a good relationship with the team's area scouts, most of whom Lynch and Peters kept from the previous regime, and giving them strong direction on the kind of players they needed to execute their vision.

"Adam did a tremendous job of helping to lead them and creating our process," Lynch said. "And I think the hallmarks of that was it was extremely collaborative. It started with Kyle [Shanahan] and my own relationship and being right there with each other, but that's not enough. It's gotta permeate throughout the entire organization."

And the process yielded results, too, particularly in later rounds of the draft, where Peters prefers to build rosters. Kittle was a fifth-round pick in 2017 that has been to five Pro Bowls; Warner was taken in third round; and Brock Purdy, perhaps the best example, was the last pick in the 2022 draft.

Peters wasn't responsible for all of it, but his imprint was on just about every pick the 49ers made.

"I think Adam was very integral in creating that process," Lynch said. "And it worked out for us. We had our misses, like everyone did, but we had a lot of good picks that turned into great players."

Peters has been on the job for less than a week and already has plenty to do. He's evaluating staff members, and his voice will be a deciding factor in who to keep and which new perspectives need to be brought in.

The biggest task for Peters in the coming days: who will be the Commanders' next head coach?

That's something Peters dove into "headfirst as soon as I was hired." Virtual interviews with candidates will reportedly be conducted later in the week, and in-person interviews are set to occur on Jan. 22, per league rules.

Washington should have its pick in terms of finding someone to fill the position, but whoever they decide to bring in, they will be expected to take a collaborative approach, because it's a core quality of Peters as an executive.

"It's having an aligned vision, having collaboration, having inclusion with everybody, everybody pulling in the same direction," Peters said. "That's how we did it in San Francisco and that's what allows you to get through, not just, the good times are easy, but that's what allows you to get through the tough times as well."

Peters has done some work on evaluating the roster. He knows there are some "cornerstone pieces," but there's also work to be done before the Commanders become contenders. For now, he's setting some of that aside until he and Managing Partner Josh Harris can decide on a head coach. From there, the two will sit down and decide on their vision for the future.

No doubt Peters will incorporate some of what he's learned at previous stops. The benefit of working for organizations that have had immense success is that Peters has seen different approaches on how to build sustainable franchises. And considering how important Peters was to making the 49ers into what they are today, it's reasonable to expect that there will be flashes of that philosophy in Washington.

But Lynch doesn't expect carbon copy from Peters. Instead, it'll be a mix of his and the head coach's tendencies.

"That's what you do when you go to a new place and you're gonna be successful," Lynch said. "You all work together and you all go in the same direction ... Adam may have something, but the head coach...may have his own beliefs. They're gonna be intertwined in some facet."

That's what Peters had with Lynch and Shanahan in San Francisco. It wasn't always perfect, and there may have been times when they disagreed, but they faced every obstacle with an aligned vision. That's exactly what Harris and Peters want to do with the Commanders.

"Ultimately, [we want] a partner where the three of us can be aligned and work for the city on behalf of the city to win," Harris said.

Lynch believes Peters will also add new approaches to the job, but whatever he does to improve Washington's roster, don't expect him to be the ruling voice in the decisions.

"It's not gonna be dictatorial like, 'Hey, go do this,'" Lynch said. "It's gonna be, 'Hey, let's all set out, but here's what I need from you.' I think he's seen a lot. He's been challenged by a lot of people, and he's ready. I know that."

Peters could have gone almost anywhere in the NFL. He was one of, if not the most coveted executive in the league, and multiple teams tried to hire him away from the 49ers. He turned them down, but Washington was an enticing destination for him, so much so that he thought the Commanders were "the best opportunity in my mind in the NFL," and he knew early in the process that he wanted to join the team.

So, why did Peters choose Washington? Well, everything about where the organization is headed had him "all in" for the opportunity.

"Everything is exactly what a person in my seat would want," Peters said. "A great ownership group, a great fan base, the ability to start new with a new coach."

Most people hired by an organization aren't going into an organization because it's a great situation. There's some of that with the Commanders. They finished 4-13 -- their seventh straight non-winning record since 2016 -- and had the NFL's worst defense with a middling offense in 2023.

But the Commanders are heading into the future with about as blank of a slate as one could hope for in the NFL. They have nine draft picks, including the No. 2 overall selection, some of the most available cap space and half of the roster set to hit free agency. Despite how things have gone for the franchise, Peters believes the right leadership, rather than "wholesale changes," are needed to push it in the right direction.

Peters is ready to get to work, and Lynch is excited to see what he does.

"He has the opportunity to put his imprint on a really storied organization,' Lynch said. "That's typically when you go into some place, it's not because they've been great most of the time. It's because there's been some challenges, and he's up for that. I think he's been there before, albeit not in that role. But he has been around that and knows what it takes. It's just kind of tireless work."

"There's a lot of pride" for Lynch seeing Peters become the Commanders' general manager. From the time they sat down together in the Broncos' draft room, he has seen Peters grow as a talent evaluator, an executive and a person. "He's been outstanding and integral to our success," Lynch said of Peters, and he's confident that his second in command for the last three seasons will change the team's direction.

And he knows that Peters has earned it.

"I think the Commanders made a great hire," Lynch said. "He's a great friend, and I wish him all the success in the world."

back to top

Related Content