The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Scot McCloughan: NFL Draft is ‘the lifeline of your organization’

Team president Bruce Allen, left, listens to Scot McCloughan as he is introduced as the Redskins’ new GM. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

As he takes control of the long-suffering Washington Redskins‘ franchise, Scot McCloughan brings with him a new philosophy.

The key to success, he preaches, is building through the draft.

The Redskins for years have rolled the dice on high-priced free agent signings that they viewed as quick-fixes and franchise-saving moves. But year after year, the moves fail. Washington has slogged through one losing season after another, and this season finished last in the NFC East for the seventh time in eight seasons.

McCloughan is poised to change the way the Redskins operate, however. He will not just place more of an emphasis on the draft. His mission centers around building through the draft.

“I honestly think the draft is the lifeline of your organization,” said McCloughan, who was introduced as general manager on Friday.

The 43-year-old McCloughan has spent the last 20 years helping build the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks into contenders. McCloughan developed his philosophy from sitting at the feet of successful team architects, Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf.

“The first thing I learned from both of them is do not dabble in free agency,” McCloughan said. “It’s always the draft. But I’m a little different than them. I’m more aggressive than that. The thing about Ron and Ted both – just so organized. You know what I’m saying? So structured and they knew exactly what they wanted in a football player. And you know what? Every now and then they’d take a chance on a height, weight, speed guy and it wouldn’t pan out. But all of the sudden we’re taking guys five, six, seven – interior linemen coming in, five- to eight-year starters going to a couple of Pro Bowls.

“So I think it’s very methodical. You don’t do knee-jerk reactions. You’re very, very thorough. Not just from the standpoint of how they play on tape, but how they’re wired. What’s the strength coach say, what’s the trainer say, what’s other teammates that played with him the year before say? And I think once you get the whole portfolio come together then you realize, you know what, this is the kind of guy we want, this is the kind of guy we know is gonna be consistent every day on the practice field. And he might not be the best athlete or the fastest athlete, but, you know what, if you get enough of those guys together you’re going to win more than you lose.”

McCloughan said he doesn’t disregard free agency entirely. But he does not like relying on it.

“You’ve got to understand, with free agency that’s a tool that you can use and you can use it in a positive manner,” he said. “You start dabbling too much in free agency sometimes you’re getting older guys, you get the medical history. The thing I liked about what we did in San Fran, what we did in Seattle, we drafted our own, molded our own and re-signed the ones we wanted to re-sign. So all of the sudden now you train them how you want to train them. See in Washington, we’re going to draft these guys, we’re going to draft them and mold them as Redskins. We’re not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32, 33-year-olds who have different plans. I think the best-case scenario is you draft and mold your own and re-sign your own. But free agency is still there to be used to make a roster stronger, too. You can’t lose sight of that.”