Marty Hurney does not have an opinion about the engineering industry because he admittedly is not informed enough. But ask Hurney's son, an engineer, about the NFL, and he will likely have some thoughts.
"Everybody knows football, and everybody has an opinion," Hurney told Senior Vice President of Media & Content Julie Donaldson about what it's like to be a general manager. "So, you really have to have the confidence in yourself after going through all the work, after listening to everybody, after taking that collaborative approach that Martin and I have continuously referred to. Then you have to have the confidence to make those recommendations for what the organization does."
The Washington Football Team utilizes a coach-centric structure, meaning Martin Mayhew (general manager) and Hurney (executive vice president of football/player personnel) will report directly to head coach Ron Rivera. Still, the duo's combined 23 years of general manager experience will be invaluable as the reshaped front office attempts to rebuild this franchise into a consistent winner.
"Being in the general manager's chair and making the number of decisions that we both have done, I think that is such a valuable asset to both of us because we've both had those experiences," Hurney said. "That's why we get along so well."
Hurney became a GM first, in 2002, with a Carolina Panthers team that went 1-15 the year before. But within two seasons, the Panthers were playing in their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Leading the charge were defensive end Julius Peppers -- Hurney's first-ever draft pick -- and quarterback Jake Delhomme -- one of his first free-agent signings.
Hurney has yet to return to the sport's biggest stage, but Carolina averaged nine wins per year from 2004-08 and made the playoffs twice during that span. And when the Panthers did return to the Super Bowl in 2015, it was Hurney's first-round draft picks -- quarterback Cam Newton in 2011 and linebacker Luke Kuechly in 2012 -- that helped get them there.
"I've kind of admired his career as a GM, going to a Super Bowl and accomplishing the things that he has accomplished," Mayhew said of Hurney. "When we were both GMs at the same time, we obviously worked in communication during that time period, so the opportunity coming up to work with him really excited me and to partner with him."
Mayhew entered an even more difficult situation when he became the the Detroit Lions' permanent GM at the end of the 2008 season. The Lions were finishing up the first 0-16 campaign in NFL history, and they only won a combined eight games the next two seasons.
But by the start of 2011, the Lions were postseason contenders. Mayhew drafted their franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, first overall in 2009, and selected their defensive stopper, Ndamukong Suh, second overall in 2010. The byproduct was a 10-6 record and the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1999. Three years later, they again secured a wild card berth at 11-5.
"He's smart," former Washington general manager Charley Casserly said about Mayhew. "He has experience in all areas. Administration, contract negotiations, salary cap, player personnel, pro and college. This guy was in the XFL, the first XFL he ran operations for them, so [he has] a wide variety of experience. Not an ego guy; a team guy, and obviously has some tradition here so he can appreciate what he's walking into. So, excellent hire."
Both executives have made mistakes -- Mayhew said last year that he should have chosen perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the 10th pick in 2014 -- but those miscues will serve as lessons as they evaluate players and college prospects to add to a young and talented roster. Washington has the fifth-most cap space in the NFL, according to Over The Cap, meaning it has money to spend in free agency if it chooses to do so. It also has eight draft picks (not including compensatory picks, which are announced later), including the 19th overall selection.
It has been a busy first week for Mayhew and Hurney, who have been in Mobile, Alabama, scouting potential targets at 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl. They quickly realized how much they have in common aside from both being former general managers, but their backgrounds as the main decision makers will go a long way towards ensuring Washington constructs the best team possible.
"I look forward to collaborating with both Marty and Martin in the years to come." Rivera said.