The Washington Football Team's front office just received another couple decades of experience.
Washington spent the initial weeks of the offseason bolstering its front office as it plans to improve on its 7-9 record in 2020. It started by hiring Martin Mayhew, who was recently with the San Francisco 49ers, as its general manager, followed by bringing in head coach Ron Rivera’s former Carolina Panthers GM Marty Hurney as the executive vice president of football/player personnel.
Now, it has added Chris Polian to the group as its director of pro personnel, providing an added 72 years of NFL executive experience.
With Washington staying true to its "coach-centric" approach, the revamped front office's goals are to work with Rivera to make the best possible football decisions for the organization. That is exactly what Polian intends to do in his first days on the job.
"The biggest thing is that I hope to be a good teammate. I want to be a collaborative, contributing teammate," Polian told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "I'll hopefully help...to provide some consistency, and where we can build a scouting platform to where all those things come together."
The best way Polian can help Rivera in his new role is by focusing on the 31 other franchises; that, he said, is how he will spend a "high 90%" of his time. The rest of his time will be focusing on players who aren't with teams as well as other leagues like the CFL. In doing so, he'll arm Mayhew, Hurney and Rivera with knowledge to prepare for opponents and address any roster needs that arise over the course of the year.
Polian will continue to help Rivera focus more on coaching and less on things like roster structure. In Mayhew and Hurney's introductory press conference, Rivera said he would often have to take time away from his own preparations during the week to look at the roster with senior vice president of football administration Rob Rogers.
"I'd grab something quick to eat and I'd set up to start watching tape and then Rob would have to come in and say, 'Hey Coach, we have to take a look at this; Hey Coach, can we go through this; Hey Coach, let's go through the roster; Hey Coach, we've got to go through who the actives are going to be,'" he said. "So now, all of a sudden I'm in the middle of trying to watch the team, but now I'm trying to do the other parts of it that are for the team."
Now, Polian will have a say in who the team adds via free agency and trades -- a role in which he excelled with the Jacksonville Jaguars. His biggest success during his seven-year tenure was the Jaguars' 2017 free agency class, which included defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive tackle Malik Jackson and cornerback A.J. Bouye, all of whom were integral to the team finishing No. 2 in overall defense and advancing to the AFC Championship game.
All three also had some of their best statistical seasons with the Jaguars in 2017. Bouye grabbed six interceptions and deflected 18 passes; Campbell recorded 14.5 sacks and 67 tackles; and Jackson added a stifling presence off the edge with 8.0 sacks of his own. All of those numbers were then-career highs for each player.
For Polian, taking on the same role with Washington will be like riding a bicycle; other than little things like getting acclimated with whatever film system the team is using, he will pick up where he left off. But it also helps that he has held a variety of roles over more than two decades in the NFL, including a three-year stint as general manager with the Indianapolis Colts.
As Polian told Donaldson, he, Mayhew and Hurney have all held that role at various points in their careers, so it is beneficial to have three executives who know how to interact with a head coach on a daily basis.
"It's certainly helpful in anticipating what issues are," Polian said. "And I think the biggest thing is...we have the different experiences of what to encounter at different times, at different places, and that builds your instincts, it builds your experience and it helps build your lens through which you have to look at decisions. It's a real exciting group to be part of."
There is no doubt Polian's opinion will be part of the collaborative process that Rivera, Mayhew and Hurney have in mind for structuring Washington's roster. They have already had discussions on different schemes and players to form a blueprint for the offseason. All three have stressed the importance of working together to find the right solution, which will certainly involve people like Polian, who have experience with multiple successful teams.
"Listen, this is a group, collaborative effort, you listen to opinions," Hurney said during his and Mayhew's introductory press conference. "I'm not always right. When people disagree, I go back and you go back and you double-check things, and Martin does the same thing. It does help when you have great trust for each other, you respect each other and you like each other, and that's the situation that we're in right now."
Polian is already evaluating Washington's roster so he can get a hold on what it needs. He has only just started watching tape, but he can tell the defensive line is "really good." He also has previous evaluations from the other members of Washington's staff, but he wants to put those aside for now to "keep my eyes fresh and come to my conclusion, get that solidified, put that on paper and look forward to diving into everybody as we look forward to putting this together this offseason."
There are still several months left in the offseason with plenty of decisions to come, but Washington has made it clear how business will be done: it will make insightful choices based on collaboration between deeply knowledgeable executives and a head coach tasked with building a consistent winner.
"I really like what Washington is doing with its front office -- stocking the personnel staff with a ton of experienced hands," Sports Illustrated senior NFL reporter Albert Breer said in his Monday Afternoon Quarterback story. "Bottom line, if you're a believer that coaches benefit from experience the second time around, then that should go for scouts, too -- and, accordingly, the WFT operation now has a lot of institutional knowledge in-house."