- The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Washington coach Ron Rivera interviewed at least six-candidates for the team’s general manager vacancy. But when it came down to picking someone to help him guide the franchise through what will likely be a critical offseason, Rivera opted for familiarity.

Washington is expected to hire Marty Hurney as its next general manager — reuniting Hurney with Rivera after the two worked together for five years across two stints with the Carolina Panthers. Hurney held the same title with Carolina from 2002 to 2012 and later from 2017 to 2020. He is largely credited for helping build rosters that reached two Super Bowls, once in 2004 and another in 2015. 

The move also marks a homecoming for the 65-year-old Hurney, a Maryland native who was a sportswriter for The Washington Times before becoming a public relations assistant for the Washington Redskins in the late 1980s. He worked closely with former Redskins executive Bobby Beathard, who hired him as an assistant general manager in 1990 with the San Diego Chargers. 

But it was Hurney’s connection to Rivera — along with his years of experience — that ultimately landed him the job. 

Since Rivera arrived in Washington last year, the 59-year-old coach has leaned heavily on his Carolina connections. Last year, he hired 12 members of his previous coaching staffs, brought in trainer Ryan Vermillion and reshuffled Washington’s front office with hires like Rob Rogers and Eric Stokes — both of whom worked with Rivera in Carolina. 

Hurney has built a reputation as an executive with a keen eye for top-end talent. From 2002 to 2012, eight of Hurney’s 10 first-round picks became Pro Bowlers, including Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis.

Washington’s general manager position has been vacant since 2017 when the team fired Scot McCloughan. Rivera opted against filling the spot last offseason, opting to promote 36-year-old Kyle Smith to an elevated personnel role. Under Rivera, owner Dan Snyder said Washington would adopt a “coach-centric” approach, meaning Rivera is believed to have the final say under most football matters. 

Rivera, though, at times has been stretched thin. He told 106.7 The Fan that the general manager position is “more than meets the eye” and said it required a lot of “operational stuff.” 

This coming offseason also figures to be vitally important for the franchise. After a surprising 7-9 season in which Washington made the playoffs, the team will look to build on its success and must find a long-term answer at quarterback. The team used four different signal-callers last season, and veteran Alex Smith, who led with six starts, turns 37 in May. 

Washington officially began interviewing candidates for the job last week, but rumblings that Hurney could land with the team started weeks before. 

The Panthers fired Hurney in December after four seasons at the helm, and Carolina owner David Tepper said the move was done in part to give the veteran NFL executive time to explore other opportunities. 

Rivera added fuel to the speculation when he praised Hurney after the executive was let go.

“I really appreciated working with him,” Rivera said. “He’s a very hard worker and a very bright man. He knows the game. If you look at what he helped us build in Carolina when he helped us build our run, it’s pretty impressive. He pretty much put a lot of pieces into place.”

Rivera also interviewed San Francisco’s Martin Mayhew, Tennessee’s Ryan Cowden, the Chargers’ JoJo Wooden, Atlanta’s Nick Polk and an internal candidate in Stokes. Kyle Smith, the team’s vice president of player personnel, was not believed to in the running for the position. 

Hurney’s pending hire could be met with some skepticism. After all, Hurney struggled to sustain success in Carolina — making the playoffs in just three of his first 11 seasons at the helm. He rejoined the Panthers on an interim basis in 2017 and then was promoted to full-time general manager in 2018, but was unable to put together a winning roster. 

Hurney, critics say, has a spotty record with late-round draft picks and has faced criticism for his handling of the salary cap.

Still, Rivera trusts Hurney, who hired the coach in 2011. Rivera has said he wants Washington’s front office to be collaborative — modeling it after places like Seattle and Kansas City, contenders that have a general manager but whose coach retains final say. Now, Rivera has his man. 

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