After an improbable NFC East title and a near playoff upset over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just how close the Washington Football Team is to truly contending for a Super Bowl title has been up for debate among fans.
Those taking the optimistic view see Washington as a young team that exceeded expectations in 2020, despite playing four different quarterbacks and dealing with a bunch of other issues. Many in this group feel that if the Football Team is able to find stability at the sport's most important position, this team is immediately a contender.
Others, those with a more pessimistic outlook, see Washington's NFC East title this past year as the result of one of the worst divisions in NFL history. These fans think Washington still has a ways to go to be a legitimate contender, with quarterback just one of the many holes this team needs to address.
On Wednesday, Washington held a press conference to introduce its two new high-ranking executives: general manager Martin Mayhew and VP of player/football personnel Marty Hurney. About midway through the presser, both Mayhew and Hurney were asked that same question fans have been debating for weeks: How far is Washington from truly contending?
Mayhew answered first, and while he didn't directly answer the question, the general manager said that the only way Washington will ultimately reach that level of contention is if it continues to focus on the task in front of it.
“One thing I’ve learned — and I went to two Super Bowls 28 years apart — is you don’t get there by talking about it," Mayhew said. "You get there by working every single day to be the best you can be every single day. That’s the only way this team will have a chance to actually get there. That’s where my focus is."
Mayhew was a cornerback on Washington's Super Bowl-winning team in 1991 and an executive for the 49ers when they lost in the championship two seasons ago. Washington's new GM saw plenty of parallels between those two clubs and is hoping to bring that same mindset to the Burgundy and Gold this time around.
"There were a lot of similarities in those two locker rooms, but one of those was the ability to consistently work to get better every single day," Mayhew said. "Having guys that love it, having guys that like the process, not just working on Sunday, that enjoy the work and enjoy the practice and enjoy the film study — we have to get there."
Once Mayhew concluded, Hurney answered the question by quoting the legendary Bum Phillips.
"I think that, as Martin said, it starts with one good decision at a time. You take it in steps," Hurney said. "Then when you get there and you have a chance, as Bum Phillips said: ‘If you knock on the door long enough, eventually you’re going to kick it down.’ That’s just what we have to do is keep making the right decisions to put ourselves in the position to have a chance."
Twice as the Panthers' general manager, Hurney's teams went to the Super Bowl. Both times, Carolina came up short.
"When you’ve gone to two and you’ve lost two, the longer, the further you go in the playoffs, the more it hurts. It takes months," Hurney said. "When you lose that Super Bowl, it takes months to get over it. Martin’s been fortunate enough to be on the winning end once. That’s why you do this. That’s what you strive for.”
Since taking over as Washington's head coach, Ron Rivera has stressed changing the culture in Washington. Now, he has two executives who have tons of experience to collaborate with and help continue to turn things around in Ashburn.
"We have to get that culture instilled here, and then we have to get better every single day," Mayhew said. "Then we have a chance to talk about championships.”