With Marty Hurney's deal to take over as GM of the Washington Football Team all but finalized, there was one serious omission in the hiring process that Grant Paulsen just cannot overlook.
Hurney brings a long history with head coach Ron Rivera and an NFL track record to Washington. But that track record isn't exactly pristine.
In 15 seasons spread across two separate stints as GM of the Panthers — including their 11-5 2017 season prior to which Hurney was rehired as interim GM — Hurney's general management has resulted in exactly four winning seasons in Carolina, a 114-126 record in total, good for a .475 winning percentage.
"I still, every time they hire another Panthers person — maybe I'm in the wrong here — I go, 'What was so great about the Panthers? What am I missing here?'" Paulsen said Tuesday on 106.7 The Fan. "You guys probably had a lot of fun, and maybe on set making that movie, everybody was cutting up and doing shtick so we're all gonna get together and Adam Sandler's buddies are all gonna do the movie every single summer."
"Yeah, we don't need 'Grown Ups 3,' guys," said Danny Rouhier. "We're good."
"But the movies weren't that good," Paulsen said. "And it just doesn't seem like anybody cares about that!"
Both Paulsen and Rouhier were put off by the fact that Kyle Smith — who was promoted to VP of Player Personnel in Jan. 2020, shortly after Rivera's arrival — seemed to be left out of the GM search, in so much as he was never allowed to interview for the position.
They view Washington's neglect of Smith as the organization repeating the same mistake it's made when letting other talented up-and-comers out of their building. Between John Schneider, Trent Baalke, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, Washington has watched its four former employees lead other organizations to five Super Bowl appearances. Schneider, who led Washington's front office as VP of player personnel — the same position Smith currently holds — has guided the Seahawks to nine playoff appearances in 11 seasons since taking over in Seattle in 2010, including two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl championship.
"Here's the way it looks: They don't care if they lose him," Rouhier said of Smith. "Washington Football Team fans and media — the folks that have been plugged in here — know how this looks. It's when an assistant coach takes a team to the NFC title game. It's when a guy that was in your building, taking notes and getting coffee, is now extended until 2027 with the Seattle Seahawks, one of the three best programs in all of sports.
"It's when Trent Baalke gets to a Super Bowl. You've seen how this looks. An executive, a person that's smart, sharp, young, up-and-coming is here, is stunted because of this terrible hierarchy, this dumb culture, this incorrect way that they've done things for the entirety of Dan Snyder's ownership. And you go, 'Hey, has anyone noticed we've got some of the same signs? Anybody noticing this, that this is exactly what happened before and this guy's gonna leave?'"
"It right now looks — and there's a lot we don't know. I want to make sure I'm very clear about that. We don't know what conversations may or may not have been had behind the scenes," Rouhier continued. "But here's how it looks: We don't care if we lose this person. I care if they lose that person. I think you care if they lose that person. It doesn't seem like they do. That's why we're both kind of sounding the alarm bell, I think."
"The comment that JP [Finlay] made — if you want to talk alarm bells — that doesn't sit great for me, is when he says there are people with the team that have told him that they don't really understand why so many people give credit to or talk about Kyle Smith," Paulsen said. "Because that's loser culture, I'll be honest with you."
"Caring about why someone gets credit, that's Bruce [Allen] and Scot McCloughan crap and I want it over with," he said. "I want that gone yesterday. Stop caring who gets credit. If people are saying good things about someone in your organization, that's a good thing.
"If we're not clubbing Bruce Allen, we're not clubbing Dan Snyder, we're not spending our time making fun of the fact that you're sub-.500 again, and instead we're talking about some young executive — right or wrong — that had a great offseason, why does that bother someone? That shouldn't bother anybody."
"In winning cultures, in winning organizations — and I'm not just talking about sports — it doesn't matter who gets the credit," he said. "We're all in the thing together... Positive press about your team is good, not bad, every single time."
Paulsen can't seem to shake the idea of Washington not even bothering to interview Smith for the GM vacancy, and the larger issue that may represent from inside Washington's building.
"Getting the job or not, it's the interview part of it," he said. "It tells me something is amiss, and if we spent the year assuming that this guy's pretty good, which is what we did, are we just gonna touch a button now and say, 'Okay well, if Ron Rivera doesn't love him then maybe he's not'? No."
"I'm approaching every move still as: I'm going to question this," he continued. "They went 7-9 with a weak schedule where they probably should have gone 7-9. I'm happy about a lot of things. I think Ron Rivera did a good job this season. I think they made major strides this season. I think they're in a really good spot compared to a calendar year ago.
"I feel very positive and good about the momentum. But, they probably should have won eight games this year, frankly, when you look at some of their losses, and how weak their schedule was, and how terrible their division was and the talent that they have on this team, much of which has been assembled by the staff that just got overlooked."