Head coach Ron Rivera faced a quandary as he was deciding on who would be the Washington Football Team's next general manager.
On one hand, he had Marty Hurney, who he had worked with as the Carolina Panthers' head coach and who had a history of bringing in talented players through the draft, free agency and trades. On the other, he had Martin Mayhew, someone who he had not worked with before, but was just two years removed from helping the San Francisco 49ers reach Super Bowl LIV.
It was difficult for Rivera to decide who to pick. That's when Washington owner Dan Snyder offered a solution: "Well, what if we had both?"
Rivera loved the idea, and Washington went on to hire Mayhew as the general manager and Hurney as the executive vice president of football/player personnel. The decision, which gave the team not one, but two qualified executives in its front office, allow Mayhew and Hurney to play off each other's strengths. Rivera is still the primary person in control, but having twice as much general manager experience with different skillsets helping influence his decisions will help the team continue building its future.
"I couldn't be happier," Rivera told reporters in Mayhew and Hurney’s introductory press conference. "I really couldn't because to me it also just shows the commitment that Mr. Snyder is making in terms of giving us the tools and the opportunity to be successful."
Rivera actually knew he needed to hire a general manager around the middle of the season. Much of his weekly preparations for game day were interrupted by senior vice president of football administration Rob Rogers needing to discuss roster moves and who would be inactive on Sunday. It was clear to Rivera then that he needed more help so he could focus more on coaching.
"Just thinking that what we needed to do was bring an extra set of eyes in," Rivera said. "As I said, to my benefit, to this organization's benefit, we were able to get two extra sets of eyes, two very experienced guys in the league, so that was really the genesis of this entire situation to me."
It took about three weeks of Zoom meetings and phone calls for Rivera to decide on hiring Mayhew and Hurney. Eventually, Rivera met with the two in person, and the more he spoke with them throughout the process, the more he realized he liked them both for different reasons.
Mayhew is more of a "hands-on" person in the front office, Rivera said. Mayhew has a well-documented history of bringing in free agents that mesh with the schemes on both sides of the ball, including receiver Golden Tate and safety Glover Quin, both of whom were selected to the Pro Bowl, as the Detroit Lions' general manager. He was also part of the staff that made the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo as the San Francisco 49ers vice president of player personnel.
"He's also very strong in the pro department, and I think part of his strength comes from when he played," Rivera said. "So he understands fit."
While Mayhew operates more in the office, Rivera described Hurney as more of a "road GM." He enjoys watching the practices in person, meeting players and dissecting game film. He has already gotten an opportunity to do that in his first two weeks in Washington, as he and Hurney attended the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where they had a chance to interview 136 players, according to Hurney.
"You get a feel for their personalities, and then you see them on the practice field," Hurney told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "That's so important to see guys live. That's what we can bring Ron and the coaches. When you get out there in the season and you get to see these players up close and talk to them face to face. You get a better feel for it."
Hurney's strategy has a history of working out, too. It helped the Panthers reach the Super Bowl in 2004, and even though Hurney was not with the team in 2015, many of the players he added to the roster, like Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly, were part of the team that went 15-1, had 10 Pro Bowlers and appeared in Super Bowl 50.
"Eight of those 10 had direct ties to Marty Hurney either drafting them or bringing them in as free agents or traded for," Rivera told Donaldson, "and I always remember that and I always thought about that and I even talked to him about what his idea and thought process was behind that."
Rivera believes Washington has a strong personnel department because of Mayhew and Hurney, and both have strengths that complement each other. That has already been apparent in their first two weeks, as Hurney said they have talked "20 times a day, and that might be a low estimate." And in those discussions there have been moments where they realize they have the same viewpoint on prospects.
"There's just so much that we have in common with the way that we view the game," Mayhew said. "I think our history here, both of us feel the impact that we can have here and appreciate what we had here before. Just the passion, I think, for both of us to get back to being the best, and I look forward to working with Marty and Ron toward that goal."
Mayhew said he and Hurney have had different experiences in their careers, but both have been general managers in the past, and that common thread will be imperative to connecting their areas of expertise. It will take a collaborative effort, which is what each of them stressed during their introductory press conference.
"I'm not always right," Hurney said. "When people disagree...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."
One of Rivera's favorite sayings is "don't draw me a map unless you've been there," and now he has two executives who fit that description giving him advice. He plans on listening to both of them because that is how he has always operated; he shapes his decisions based on what he hears from those who have gathered years of experience over their careers.
And when it comes to shaping Washington's roster to eventually get to a Super Bowl, more advice is always better.
"I really do think if we do these things the right way and we collaborate and we listen to one another, we'll come out of the room with the right frame of mind that we just made a good decision."