Around the league, officials from other teams say it’s not clear just whom Shanahan relies on for counsel. And many ask whether Shanahan heeds the advice he is given and whether anyone in the organization feels comfortable enough to challenge him.
“There’s a checks and balances system, very similar to government. . . . Everybody has a role,” an AFC front-office official said.
During the 2010 draft, some in the organization preferred that the Redskins pursue Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung as a first-round pick. Shanahan, though, wanted Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, and went that route instead.
“Scott Campbell is pretty good at what he does, but how much weight does he carry with Mike?” a longtime NFC scouting director asked. “With any team, it really boils down to the decision maker. You can have a great scouting staff, but if the decision maker isn’t listening to them, all that work goes for naught.”
‘It takes time to mesh’
Some in league circles say the Redskins employ an inexperienced scouting staff — their two pro scouts began the season with a combined four years of experience — and a bare-bones infrastructure, others warn that change for the sake of change isn’t necessarily the best solution.
“A place like Washington has had so much turnover, turmoil and different people — it’s hard,” the AFC front-office official said. “You’re changing terminology constantly, scouts are looking for different things from year to year. It’s really hard to build any kind of stability.”
When Shanahan took over, he changed the team’s systems on both sides of the ball. Shanahan wanted space-eaters on his defensive line and lighter, mobile players on his offensive line. He needed specific types of outside linebackers, defensive backs and receivers. Scouts who had spent two decades evaluating defensive players for a 4-3 scheme and big, powerful offensive linemen, had effectively spent the year leading up to the 2010 NFL draft looking for the wrong types of players. They suggested Okung and his bench-press numbers; Shanahan wanted Williams and his time in the 40-yard dash.
“It takes time to mesh,” said Charley Casserly, a former general manager in Washington and current CBS Sports analyst. “The coaches learning the scouts, the scouts learning the coaches, the front office working with everyone. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight.”
Only four of the six 2010 picks are still with the team, and with Williams suspended for the remainder of the season, only one is in the starting lineup. The Redskins’ scouts adjusted and the team fared better in Shanahan’s second draft. The Redskins stockpiled draft picks last spring, and 10 of their 12 selections have contributed this year as rookies. An 11th — defensive end Jarvis Jenkins — has spent all year on injured reserve, and the 12th — wide receiver Aldrick Robinson — is on the practice squad.