Head coach Ron Rivera, general manager Martin Mayhew and executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney addressed the local media together for the first time Wednesday afternoon. Here's what we learned from their Zoom media session:
1. They plan to take a collaborative approach.
Washington is in a beneficial situation with Mayhew and Hurney helping Rivera make roster decisions going forward. Mayhew is the general manager, but Hurney has experience in that role as well, and they both report to Rivera. Their relationship is going to be important in shaping the team, and one of the words that was used often when describing it was "collaborative."
"We really have a very similar philosophy," Hurney said of he and Mayhew. "We like each other, we respect each other. We can talk things out and we work together...to make recommendations to Ron. But the only thing that matters to either one of us is to win games. That's all it's about."
It was apparent to both Hurney and Mayhew early on that they shared many common beliefs on shaping a roster. And if the past two weeks are any indication of how the two will work together, they will be in constant communication in Washington. Hurney said he and Mayhew have spoken about 20 times each day, which he admitted might even be a low estimate.
There have already been several moments when they realize they have the same viewpoints about where and how to use a player's talents. Mayhew said that is because they have so much in common in terms of how they view the game.
"Both of us feel the impact that we can have here and appreciate what we had here before," Mayhew said. "And just the passion I think that both of us have to get back to being the best. That's what our goal is, and I'm looking forward to working with Marty and Ron toward that goal."
Both Mayhew and Hurney know there will be times where they disagree, and that is OK, Hurney said. It helps that they all view themselves as great communicators, so they will be able to talk through those debates. What is more important is that they come out of those situations on the same page.
"I think we have enough quality minds in the room, enough experience that when we go through it and somebody points something out, it's going to catch our attention," Rivera said. "In this group, there's not enough ego between the three of us that there's just going to be one dominant attitude."
2. Both Mayhew and Hurney are impressed with Washington's defense.
When San Francisco played Washington in Week 14, Mayhew, then the 49ers' vice president of player personnel, thought the offense could potentially have some success against Washington based on its game plan.
The defensive line assured that would not happen by hounding Nick Mullens with 12 quarterback hits, four sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in a 23-15 triumph.
It was yet another dominant performance from what was statistically one of the NFL's best defenses.
"There's definitely some strengths there [on defense], and there are some areas we can build on, but it's a very, very good defense," Mayhew said Wednesday. "I think Coach [Jack] Del Rio's done a fantastic job, and then obviously the defensive line play is the engine that drives this defense, so I'm excited about that group and I'm excited about adding to it."
Mayhew and Hurney are in agreement that building successful teams starts with having solid offensive and defensive fronts, and Washington's defensive line is already the strength of the team. Having those players in place, Hurney said, will only help the unit as a whole moving forward.
"I'm a big believer that you start building defenses from the front back, and if quarterbacks don't have time to throw the ball, it makes it a lot easier on the backend," Hurney added. "So, I thought it was an excellent defense, and our job is to just try and continue to improve it and come up with players that can help make it better, but when you can get pressure on quarterbacks, when you can stop the run, that's where defense starts in my opinion."
3. Washington is exploring all of its options at quarterback.
Rivera said after the season that quarterback is "probably one of the most important things that we have to get done and get established," and the front office is currently in the process of going through that position group.
"I think the biggest thing we can say is that we're exploring all of our options," Rivera said Wednesday. "Nothing is off the table, and as we go through this, we're going to do what we believe is best for us."
Mayhew and Hurney understand the importance of having a franchise quarterback and know what to look for. Mayhew talked about having a player with football intelligence, arm talent, leadership ability and, most importantly, "football character" -- which he said is comprised of preparation, understanding of the game, mental toughness and having a passion for the process.
"All those things are required at that position, and you really can't cut any corners there," Mayhew said. "You have to be the complete football player to be successful there."
Hurney echoed Mayhew's desired quarterback traits while highlighting the importance of what that player is like as a teammate, and he has heard "nothing but complimentary things" about the signal-callers currently on Washington's roster. All of those attributes will factor into what direction the franchise decides to go at quarterback, as will evaluating the rest of the offensive position groups on the roster.
"This is a team game," Hurney said. "As important as that quarterback position is, you have to have people around him. You have to have an offensive line to protect him, you have to have skill players, so you can't isolate one position, although it's an extremely important one. ...You take one decision at a time, you make one good decision at a time, and go from there."
4. Mayhew and Hurney believe Rivera put Washington on the path towards taking the next step.
Neither Mayhew nor Hurney took their respective positions in Washington without experience working with a young team before. Hurney did it 2002 in his first stint as the Carolina Panthers' general manager, while Mayhew did so with the Detroit Lions in 2009. What they have realized is that in order to take the next step in being a contender, a proper culture needs to be established, and Rivera has already done that in his first season.
"You've got to have guys that like the full process," Mayhew said. "We want to keep adding guys that have those similar traits and keep adding young, talented players that love the game, have what I call football passion, that love the entire process. When you add the right kind of people, you're going to have the right kind of success."
That is what Hurney saw when he evaluated what Washington's coaching staff had already been able to accomplish with the roster. Now, the veterans and other players can teach the rookies and free agents signees about the culture from the start. He saw the leadership "really, really grow and stand out" last season, and that is a credit to what Rivera instituted.
Mayhew did not say how "close" he thinks Washington is to competing for a championship, but he has been to the Super Bowl as a player and an executive. One of the biggest similarities between the two teams was the ability to consistently improve every day. He mentioned that players on both of those teams were excited about the weekly preparation for game days, and that is the kind of attitude he wants to inject into Washington.
"We have to get there," he said. "We have to get that culture instilled here and then we have to get better every single day. And then we have a chance to talk about winning championships."
5. "Our goal is to win a championship."
Hurney knows what it is like to lose a Super Bowl. There is a big difference between getting to one and actually winning it, he said, and it can take months to get over a loss. But winning a championship is what he and Mayhew strive to accomplish, and that involves making one right decision at a time.
"You take it in steps," Hurney said. "Bum Phillips said if you knock on the door long enough, eventually you're going to kick it down, and that's what we have to do. Keep making the right decisions to put ourselves in a position to have a chance. And when I say 'have a chance,' I mean winning it."
Rivera said in his opening press conference last year that his goal is to win a Super Bowl with Washington, and the team has already made some strides towards accomplishing that, such as going from picking second in last year's draft to winning the NFC East this season.
Mayhew and Hurney are not just here to help build a sustainable winner like they have at previous stops. They want to construct a roster that is the last team standing at the end of the playoffs.
"Our goal is to win a championship," Mayhew said. "And we're working towards that together."