The Washington Football Team is hiring Marty Hurney as their next GM. It’s not a surprise. Ron Rivera and Hurney worked together for the Carolina Panthers and as soon as two weeks after Rivera was hired by Washington, there were rumblings that Hurney could take Washington’s GM job even while still employed by the Panthers.
Now, nearly 13 months after Rivera was installed as Washington’s head coach, it has happened. Hurney has gone full circle and now will run the team that gave him his first NFL job back in 1988.
Hurney certainly isn’t the candidate that fans wanted to run the front office. And it’s easy to understand why. His success in Carolina was middling, at best, and his weaknesses line up with some of the weaknesses that Washington has had in previous years.
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Hurney has tended to overspend on free-agent deals during his career, whether it’s to retain a key player or to bring in some outside help. On a team that is focused on a gradual build back to prominence but is also flush with cap space, that could emerge as a problem.
In the draft, Hurney, to his credit, has been great at finding impact players in the first round. However, his success after that hasn’t been very good. For every one Josh Norman he has found outside of Day 1, there have been at least five players like Armanti Edwards. Considering that Washington has had a lot of success finding impact players on Days 2 and 3 of the draft, that’s a discouraging sign.
Of course, it’s worth wondering what type of role Hurney will have in Washington, as I noted in a piece about the team’s decision to hire him.
Now, the big question for Washington is, how will their front office be structured? Sure, Hurney will be leading the charge, but will he be making all of the decisions for the team or will he be in more of a facilitator role for the front office?
Fans should hope that it’s the latter. If Hurney is there to organize the front office and give it structure while relying on the staff that Washington already has to add talent, that could work out well. Kyle Smith has done an excellent job finding top-notch players during the draft. Eric Stokes is an up-and-coming pro personnel executive who earned a GM interview with Washington. Hurney should rely on their strengths to help build this team with Rivera having input on the roster as well. If that happens, this hire could pan out.
However, if Hurney is the be-all, end-all decision-maker for this team, some of his weaknesses, along with the weaknesses of the team’s ownership group when it comes to spending in free agency, could be magnified. Needless to say, this move is a risk and it’s one that lacks upside with the wrong structure.
That structure will be important and we’ll get a taste of it in the coming months. It will also be important to see if Kyle Smith sticks around this year or leaves to pursue Assistant GM work elsewhere. If he’s out, that would be a big-time loss for Washington as a result of this hire.
A major positive about the Marty Hurney hire
That said, there is a silver lining for this hire. Rivera got the guy that he wanted. That means that Daniel Snyder isn’t interfering with the process and that Rivera has control of this team as the coach-centric model dictates.
Considering that Rivera has made plenty of big-time decisions that have worked thus far — among them hiring Jack Del Rio to run the defense, drafting Chase Young, benching and eventually cutting Dwayne Haskins, and many more — he deserves to be the one making the decision. So, while it’s fair to be skeptical of his choice here, at least Rivera is the one making it.
Usually, general manager hires are about facing the unknown. With Hurney, there are a lot of questions about what will come next. How will the front office be structured? What type of GM will Hurney be? What additions/departures will follow this hire?
But because Hurney is a veteran, there are a lot more “knowns” in this equation than usual. In this case, that isn’t great, as Hurney would appear to lack upside and has weaknesses that line up with weaknesses that have troubled Washington in the past. Of course, the fact that Rivera is the one who made this decision is also known, and that’s good, so that has to weigh on this grade as well.
Still, at the end of the day, it’s hard to be overly optimistic about this hire. Hurney has twice been fired by the Panthers from their GM job. His track record is full of draft-day misses and free-agent overpays. Washington fans should give him a chance, but their angst is understandable. On paper, there were candidates with more youth, upside, and fresher ideas than Hurney.
For now, this hire deserves a below-average grade. Hopefully, time will prove this grade wrong and rectify Rivera’s decision to roll with Hurney.