Media access issues typically put fans to sleep — or prompt an anti-media backlash. But McCloughan is both the team’s general manager and, for many fans, its most trusted decision-maker. So many people wondered why he would not be permitted to speak.
ESPN 980’s morning drive program tackled this question Tuesday morning. And Chris Cooley — the tight-end-turned-radio-host, who also serves as the team’s color analyst, and is on the payroll — offered a fairly stunning possibility.
“You start to wonder, what the hell is going on here?” Cooley asked. “And I start to look at this and say, ‘Do we not trust what Scot McCloughan is going to say to the media, and is that why he’s not allowed to talk to the media?’ And if we don’t trust what he’s going to say to the media, why don’t we trust what he’s going to say to the media? Now, if you look at the history of Scot McCloughan, I think the one thing that you’d immediately start to flush out as to why we don’t trust what he’s going to say is that he’s had a drinking problem over his entire career. And so you ask right away, is he drinking?”
Now this question was preceded and followed by all sorts of qualifiers and caveats. Cooley said the team’s scouting department has been “working relentlessly” in recent weeks, and that McCloughan might actually be occupied with work. Cooley said no one has told him that McCloughan is being muzzled, and that he doesn’t want to ask anyone about the topic “so I don’t have to protect anybody” He said he was merely acting as a fan or radio host on this matter, using uninformed guesswork, “because I really don’t know.” But he also publicly floated a pretty inflammatory suggestion, more than once.
“It’s a totally intuitive reaction from anybody that knows the history of Scot McCloughan,” co-host Kevin Sheehan said.
“It’s totally fair — and it’s nothing that I’ve heard or been told,” Cooley added.
McCloughan opened up about his issues with alcohol in a 2014 ESPN story, which came just a few weeks before he landed the job in Washington. He talked to ESPN about going into rehab while he worked for the 49ers, and about the self-destructive behavior that cost him that job. He later lost his job in Seattle under uncertain circumstances. This is widely known, as is Cooley’s reputation as something of a loose cannon.
Still. You don’t often hear an NFL team employee publicly wondering whether one of his co-workers is battling alcohol problems. Cooley and Sheehan noted that they’ve had McCloughan on their program in the past, and that he was a phenomenal guest. They said they’ve requested an interview with him six or seven times in recent months, and repeatedly have been denied.
“If he didn’t speak previously, there’d be nothing to [ask] why about,” Sheehan said.
“Yeah, if he didn’t speak previously, we wouldn’t care whatsoever,” Cooley agreed. “But because of the ban on talking to the media, something’s going on.”
“Yeah, something’s going on,” Sheehan said.
“And no one wants anyone to know about it,” Cooley continued. “Because normally if there’s something going on, I hear about it. There’s a rumbling, there’s a rumor, there’s something. There’s nothing from Redskins Park on this. Nothing. This is mum, silenced. It is like you do not mention this. No one will talk about this. And I’m not asking about it. I’m sure [other reporters] are, right now. … I’m sure they’re digging and digging and digging and digging. So I don’t want to dig.
“And if you want to keep something a complete secret in the sports and entertainment world, then you have to be ready to have people speculate on it,” Cooley said. “And that’s the position that we’re in, so that’s what we’re going to do. … I say number one, we’ve got to be concerned that he’s in the right state of mind all the time. That he’s not having a couple pops. Have to. He got fired from San Francisco; he got fired from Seattle, both places, because he was drinking.”
“It’s an intuitive conversation to have, because of the history,” Sheehan said.
The pair then offered other plausible reasons to keep McCloughan silent: to try to stop Redskins Park leaks, to try to lessen the chatter about the Kirk Cousins negotiations, to allow Allen and Coach Jay Gruden be the team’s public faces, to decrease the number of Redskins Park voices. These all make sense, without potentially defaming anyone.
And so there seem to be three possible results of this speculation:
1. A team employee, on a Dan Snyder-owned radio station, falsely suggested that the team’s general manager relapsed into drinking. That seems not great.
2. A team employee, on a Dan Snyder-owned radio station, correctly guessed that the team’s general manager relapsed into drinking. That, also, seems not great.
3. A team employee was fed unflattering information about the team’s general manager by a palace rival, which he then placed into the public sphere, via a Dan Snyder-owned radio station. That seems both impossibly Machiavellian, and also in-keeping with modern D.C.
And also: not great.