- The Washington Times
Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Coach Ron Rivera said Sunday he would inform owner Dan Snyder whether he wanted to hire a general manager. Now, days after that comment, Washington‘s search for a lead executive is beginning to take shape. 

Washington requested to interview San Francisco’s Martin Mayhew and Tennessee’s Ryan Cowden, according to multiple reports — a clear indication that Washington will at least explore adding a general manager. 

Mayhew and Cowden are both respected executives in the NFL.

Mayhew, 55, is currently the 49ers’ vice president of personnel, but he is best known for being the former general manager of the Detroit Lions from 2008 to 2015. In that span, Mayhew helped Detroit make the playoffs twice. Before becoming an executive, Mayhew spent nine seasons in the NFL as a cornerback — including four with Washington, where he won a Super Bowl in 1991. Mayhew has been with San Francisco since 2017 was promoted to his current role in 2019.

Cowden, meanwhile, has been with the Titans since 2016 — but he holds ties to Rivera.  Starting his career as a scout with the Carolina Panthers in 2000, Cowden was promoted to assistant college scouting director in 2014, when Rivera was Carolina’s coach. According to the Tennessean, Cowden is general manager Jon Robinson’s “right-hand man” and serves as the team’s vice president of player personnel. 

While Washington could interview candidates and ultimately not hire someone, that appears to be unlikely. During the season, chatter began that Washington would look to add another voice to its front office in the offseason.

Under Rivera, Washington employs a “coach-centric” approach, with Rivera having the final say over personnel matters. Adding a general manager wouldn’t necessarily diminish that approach. Other coach-centric teams like the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs employ general managers while the coach (Pete Carroll, Andy Reid) is still the most prominent voice in the organization. 

In a hybrid role now, Rivera found out how tasking additional responsibilities can be during the 2020 season. Last offseason, Rivera crafted the team’s response to social justice movement happening around the country and was involved in the search for a new name when the team announced it would retire “Redskins” in July. The team hired president Jason Wright to help take things off Rivera‘s plate, though Wright is only involved on the business side.

Rivera told 106.7 The Fan on Monday that there’s “more than meets the eye” when being a general manager. 

“There’s a lot to it,” Rivera said. “This is not just picking players and making decisions on contracts or hiring coaches or what have you. It is a big task.”

This past season, Rivera worked with Kyle Smith as the team’s lead executive. Shortly after Rivera‘s arrival, the team promoted Smith, a holdover from the Bruce Allen’s front office, to vice president of player personnel. Rivera complimented Smith for his work in the draft, but once the season started, his praise was more lukewarm.

At 36 years old, Smith, the son of former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, is believed to be a promising young executive within league circles. But he does not appear to be a serious candidate for Washington‘s opening. The Athletic reported that Washington intends to make an outside hire for the vacancy.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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