As the Washington Redskins moved forward with free agent signings and the search for a new general manager, there are mixed signals about how the firing of Scot McCloughan is affecting perceptions of the team among prospective signees and potential hires.
In firing McCloughan two years into his four-year contract as general manager, the Redskins lost a talent evaluator of rare ability, in the view of former NFL executive Joe Banner, who held front-office posts in Philadelphia and Cleveland before joining ESPN as an NFL analyst.
“I think Scot is in the small group of the best talent evaluators in the entire league,” Banner said in a telephone interview. “Having a difference-making evaluator is a very, very valuable thing, and that’s evidenced by over the last two years.
“No matter how we got whose fault it is, if we cut through that, it’s undeniable that they lost an outstanding talent evaluator. And that’s an extremely hard thing to find.”
Banner wasn’t alone in pointing out McCloughan’s expertise in the wake of the Redskins’ March 9 announcement that he had been released from his contract.
Andrew Brandt, who worked with McCloughan when Brandt handled contract negotiations as vice president of the Green Bay Packers, tweeted: “Have known Scot McCloughan since ackers in 1999. Loved evaluating talent, and very good at it. Hope he continues to do so.”
What McCloughan brought to the Redskins was a vision of sustained success and a multiyear plan for achieving it. He reveled in the fine details of evaluating players — not just their physical qualities but also their inner drive.
He also brought a collegial approach to an organization previously defined by a top-down culture. In both public and private conversation, McCloughan did not seek credit for decisions that panned out — such as replacing quarterback Robert Griffin III with Kirk Cousins or acquiring promising wide receiver Jamison Crowder in the fourth round of the 2015 draft — casting each successful move as a “Redskins” decision, reached in concert with owner Daniel Snyder, President Bruce Allen and Coach Jay Gruden.
As for any damage to the Redskins’ reputation in the eyes of potential signees or job candidates, former NFL executive Charley Casserly, who held the top personnel jobs at the Redskins and Houston Texans, said he believed it would have no effect.
“Money talks,” said Casserly, now an NFL Network analyst. “They lost players [to free agency] because they got more money.”
A few NFL agents, however, acknowledged privately that they had tried to steer their clients away from the Redskins because of the team’s instability.
Nonetheless, acquisitions proceeded apace in the first 48 hours of the NFL’s free-agency signing window. With Allen and chief contract negotiator Eric Schaffer handling the details, the Redskins added wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Friday.
On Thursday the team signed safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, and the Redskins’ website followed quickly with videos of them explaining why they were excited to be Redskins.
It remains unclear whether issues related to alcohol were the primary factor in McCloughan’s firing, a contributing factor or largely a pretext to shift blame for a failed relationship that had shown early promise. Surely at play was the growing rift with Allen, who disagreed with some of McCloughan’s roster moves and clashed over more picayune issues before barring his general manager from speaking to media.
Neither McCloughan nor his agent has responded to repeated requests for comment. It’s possible that legal action over the terms of his ouster will follow. McCloughan had completed two years, two months of his four-year contract when dismissed on March 9. He had not been working at Redskins Park for roughly one month prior.