The punditry’s view of the Redskins’ firing of General Manager Scot McCloughan has appeared overwhelmingly critical of the team, near as I can tell. And much of the focus of that criticism, near as I can tell, has focused less on the firing itself than on the anonymously sourced quote in the Washington Post that painted the general manager as an 18-month disaster who repeatedly came to work drunk and who “didn’t make the best of his third chance in the NFL.”
That quote seemed intended to change the tenor of a debate that had been shifting toward McCloughan’s side as the saga dragged on. I’m not convinced it worked. Instead, many saw this as smearing a man for a medical condition the team knew about when it hired him. And so witness, for example, former Post columnist Tony Kornheiser’s take, delivered via his podcast.
“Here’s what I know from all my years at newspapers: This is the most savage cutdown of a human being that I have ever seen,” Kornheiser said. “The Washington Redskins trot somebody out there who just obliterates Scot McCloughan, so that when they don’t want to pay him any more money … they say, ‘Well look, 18 months, this was a disaster.’ If it was a disaster for 18 months, why did you wait 18 months? If he had multiple relapses, with a history of problems with alcohol, why didn’t you step in?”
Kornheiser sounded a similar, perhaps even angrier message on Friday’s episode of “Pardon the Interruption.”
“I like the Washington Redskins,” he said. “I like to watch them play and I’m happy when they win. I have a good relationship with the owner, Dan Snyder. So pay attention to what I’m going to say now. This is the low point. This is the low point that I have ever seen with this team. What they did, by trotting somebody out, and giving that person anonymity, and allowing that person to just kill Scot McCloughan and say all these things — that he’s drunk all over town and it’s been going on for 18 months — that is the most cowardly, small act imaginable by a franchise of any stripe. If this has been going for 18 months, why didn’t you help him? Why didn’t you reach out and do anything for him? You knew he had problems with alcohol when you hired him. Everyone knew it, and he talked about it. How could you do this to him in the end this way? How?”
“The answer to your question is because it’s a low-rent organization,” PTI partner Michael Wilbon responded. “That’s why. Because it’s an organization that the league, the NFL ought to be concerned about. … I don’t care how much money they spend, I don’t care what they do in free agency. What they did in this instance is low-rent. It is unprofessional. It’s cruel. It’s unbelievable.”
“It’s cruel, it’s small, it’s cowardly,” Kornheiser went on.
“The best thing you can do is run as far away from the Washington Redskins as you can,” Wilbon added.
I don’t know who gave that anonymous quote to The Post, or why he or she did it. I know it did convince some Redskins fans that McCloughan was unprofessional, had forfeited a golden opportunity and needed to be removed from his job. It also convinced others that the team was vindictive and petty, and was out to help ruin the guy’s life.
“Not good at all,” Herm Edwards said on ESPN. “You’re trying to ruin a guy’s reputation, and you don’t need to go there. Obviously, if there’s some conflict between ownership and Scot, you handle it within the framework of your facility. Because this is not good optics for anyone: for your organization, what the players see, what agents see. I mean, that’s never a good look. … This is Washington. This is politics at their best. That’s why they’re Washington. That’s what they do there.”
“If this really was the issue, you certainly don’t send him out the door by smearing his reputation or pointing the finger at him,” ESPN host Michael Smith said. “That’s why this team will never prosper. That fan base is a dedicated fan base, a loyal fan base. But just like they fired, if I were a fan of that team, I would fire that team. I would quit that team. That is now the way you treat an employee. … It’s sickening and disgusting to see the information pour out, after they said he’s coming back after he grieves his late grandmother.”
“The bottom line is that the working relationship fractured,” Jay Glazer said. “But I’ll say this: Everybody in this needs to look inside themselves. Because the Washington Redskins again, there’s drama. And regardless, you have to look: Why are we not the Patriots? Why are we not the Packers? There are franchises that have stability over and over. The Steelers have stability. The Ravens have stability. You’ve got to look inside yourself and go, why are we always the other way? We are failing to get deep in the playoffs, when we are willing to spend money. And only they can answer that themselves, from the upper management.”
And how about one more bit of criticism, this from ESPN 980’s Bram Weinstein. That station, of course, is controlled by Snyder, but Weinstein was withering in his remarks. He said Bruce Allen’s comments about the situation at the NFL scouting combine were “a blatant, abject lie.” He said there is nothing the Redskins complain about more than the use of unnamed sources, making this episode especially ironic. And he said he doesn’t need to know whether McCloughan was actually drinking too much to draw certain conclusions.
“Career sabotage occurred yesterday, which is unseemly and problematic, just for me as someone who is a consumer of this team,” Weinstein said. “This is two decades of clear, abominable activity by the organization that we emotionally and financially have put our heart and soul into. And this has happened over and over and over. … To fire him on the first day of free agency is patently absurd, unless something happened that they eventually should be transparent about. Because we’re owed an explanation. We are owed that. We are stockholders, emotionally and financially, in the team, and we are owed something beyond what we’ve gotten, which is that we’re just firing the guy a week after we abjectly lied about his place in the organization.”
“It’s not right, it’s unseemly, it’s wrong, it’s not how you treat people, and it does not come off in any way positive or optimistic about the future of the organization,” he went on. “If this was some level of anomaly and this team was a steady ship and these things don’t happen, then I would be more inclined to take the side of the organization and automatically say they’re probably telling the truth. … But because every couple of years something like this — where you’re slapping your forehead, trying to figure out what in the world the direction of the team — occurs, then it’s hard to take the side of the organization, to take them at face value.”