The Washington Commanders' search for a new head coach and head of football operations is already well underway. Managing Partner Josh Harris said the process would be "rapid but thorough," and he's lived up to that with reports of interviews with candidates circulating on social media.
Although Harris will ultimately make the final decision on who will lead the effort to rebuild the Commanders' roster, he's made sure to receive input from several voices over the past few days since his end of season press conference.
Harris is heading a six-person advisory committee that has helped him interview candidates for the head of football operations role and eventually the head coach. The group is primarily made up of Harris and limited partners Mitch Rales, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and David Blitzer, but he has also included former executives Bob Myers and Rick Spielman to hear their opinions on candidates.
Myers, a two-time NBA Executive of the Year, is well known for playing a large role in turning the Golden State Warriors into a championship organization and finding the right players and coaches to build a sustaining culture. Spielman is known for similar accomplishments in the NFL. In his 16 years with the Minnesota Vikings, his rosters produced a record of 132-123-2 with six playoff appearances.
As the person on the committee with the most institutional knowledge of the NFL, Spielman's thoughts on the candidates will matter a great deal.
"Rick Spielman brings a wealth of football knowledge, the ins and outs of football," Harris said. "He was Executive of the Year with the Vikings, with many other teams and kind of brings that knowledge of football that you need when you're interviewing candidates."
Here are three things you need to know about Spielman as he helps Harris evaluate candidates.
1. He's been in the NFL for decades.
There aren't many people -- executives, coaches or players -- who have been around the NFL as long as Spielman. Over half of the former general manager's life -- 34 years, to be exact -- has been dedicated to the league, and he's had success almost everywhere he's been.
After two seasons of trying to make it as a player -- he tried out with the Chargers and Lions but didn't get further than that -- he joined the Lions as a college scout and spent seven seasons with the franchise. Spielman helped the Lions become one of the more exciting teams in the 1990s with four winning seasons and playoff appearances, including a trip to the conference championship game in 1991.
Spielman's success in the Motor City helped him land in Miami, where he went from vice president of player personnel to senior vice president-football operations/player personnel and general manager. Things went well for the Dolphins with help from Spielman's leadership. They had four consecutive winning seasons and two playoff berths, fueled by solid ground attacks from Lamar Smith and Ricky Williams.
After a brief break as an ESPN analyst, Spielman joined the Vikings, where he spent most of his career. We'll get to a more detailed look at his accomplishments in Minnesota in a bit, but consider this: 23 players the Spielman acquired, whether it was through the draft, free agency or a trade, received Pro Bowl honors.
The point is, Spielman has been in the NFL long enough to confidently say he knows a thing or two about success in the league, which leads us to...
2. He knows how to identify
You don't stay with an organization for 16 years unless you know how to get the best talent in the league to play for you. It wasn't perfect -- nothing ever is in the NFL -- but Spielman certainly developed a reputation for identifying the best prospects and bringing them to Minnesota.
Spielman's list of draft picks is a mix of franchise players and solid contributors. The best example of the former was Adrian Peterson, who Spielman selected with the No. 7 overall pick in 2007. Peterson spent a decade in Minnesota, leading the league in rushing yards three times and amassing 2,097 yards in 2012. All seven of his Pro Bowl appearances came with the Vikings, and he received Offensive Rookie of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and MVP honors.
It's hard to top drafting one of the best running backs in league history, but Spielman added other players over the years who helped shape the franchise for several years. Two years after Peterson, he drafted Percy Harvin with the No. 22 overall pick. Then there were defensive backs Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhods, linebacker Anthony Barr and Stephon Diggs.
As for other offseason acquisitions, Spielman played a pivotal role in signing Kirk Cousins in 2018. Cousins, who has been two three Pro Bowls since joining the Vikings, has thrown 171 touchdowns to just 55 interceptions in his six seasons with the team. He also made a move to bring in Patrick Peterson, who had two of his better seasons in 2021 and 2022.
While Spielman isn't going to play an active role in improving the Commanders' roster, the fact that he's been able to bring in quality talent adds to the list of reasons why Harris trusts his counsel in choosing the next leaders of Washington's football operations.
3. He's already given some thoughts about how front offices should be structured.
Other than the statement Spielman provided earlier this week, when he said he was "thrilled to apply my experience in the NFL and collaborate with Josh, Bob and the ownership group to identify the best leaders to guide the Commanders forward," we likely won't hear from Spielman again until the process is over.
However, we did already get a peek at what Spielman values in a front office.
Nearly three weeks before it was announced that Spielman would be part of the Commanders' advisory committee, Spielman was a guest on The John Keim Report to primarily discuss his thoughts on Sam Howell and what the Commanders should do with the second-year quarterback. At the end of the interview, Keim also asked Spielman to give his take on the Commanders' head coach and front office situation if they were to make changes there.
The first topic he touched on was the ownership group and how much patience they would have to rebuild the roster.
"Do they understand where the organization is and where the team is right now and how long is it going to take to get that team up to the standards of potentially being a playoff team every year and potentially competing for a Super Bowl?" Spielman said.
We got an answer on that from Harris during his press conference. Obviously, the ideal situation is to become a playoff team as quickly as possible, but Harris wants to create a consistent playoff team, not just one that has one or two postseason appearances before needing another rebuild.
To Spielman, whoever the Commanders bring in as the head coach and head of football operations needs to be on board with that vision.
"Everybody has to be on the same page and understand this is what we're going to do, approved by the ownership, this is the approach we're going to take, and the ownership is fully on board, 100% behind you, and this is how we're going to try to get our football team competitive year in and year out," Spielman said.
Whoever the Commanders decide to fill those roles will have plenty of tools to shape the roster in their own image. The team has nine draft picks and some of the most available cap space in the league with over half the roster set up to hit free agency.
All of that is great, Spielman said, but there needs to be one vision on how to use those resources.
"You can have all that, but if you're not all on the same page or going in the same direction, then it's not going to matter."