MOBILE, Ala. — Following Mike Shanahan’s firing on Dec. 30, Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen announced a reshuffling of the organization’s power structure. Allen would replace Shanahan as ultimate authority on football decisions, but said he expected to lean more heavily on director of player personnel Scott Campbell and his assistants.
With one phase of the college scouting season coming to an end at this week’s Senior Bowl, and another crucial stage set to begin next week, Campbell will play a key role in reshaping the Redskins’ roster. But Campbell, who just completed his 27th NFL season and 13th with the Redskins, insisted on Tuesday that it’s business as usual for him at this point.
“Nothing changes for me and Morocco as far as what we’re doing or how we’ve done our work,” Campbell said, referring to his top assistant, Morocco Brown, who oversees pro talent evaluation. “We’re doing the same work that we’ve always been doing as far as preparation and providing to the coaches and staff. But most of them haven’t gotten into any personnel meetings. But I feel good about the staff Jay [Gruden] is putting together and how that bodes for us.”
While Gruden this week puts the finishing touches on his staff and begins designing the offense for the coming season, Campbell and his scouts were finalizing their initial assessments in advance of next month’s NFL Scouting Combine and this spring’s draft.
After four months of scouring the country’s college ranks for talent, Campbell and his six scouts this week got one more up-close evaluation opportunity while attending this week’s practices leading up to the Senior Bowl, which takes place Saturday in Mobile.
Allen and senior executive A.J. Smith, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, offensive line coach Chris Foerster and defensive line coach Jacob Burney also have taken in the practices from various vantage points at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. But their talent-judging work doesn’t begin in earnest for another couple of weeks.
Campbell and his staff take notes on practice and conduct interviews with players throughout the week. Then, early next week, they will convene at Redskins Park and go over their assessments, hammering out a list of 500 players — down from 1,200 at the start of the college football season — for further evaluation. They’ll whittle another 200 names off that list, compile their rankings and present 300 individual scouting reports to Allen, Gruden and the other coaches.
“I’ve probably hit about 50 schools through the fall, coast-to-coast, heavy travel, and you’ve looked at tape and have in your mind — your memory — what you think of them,” said Campbell. “Then, you get to see if you still think of them, last week at the East-West game, and this week at the Senior Bowl, and see how they perform. You don’t kill them for how they do here, because a lot of these guys haven’t had pads on in a month. But what you’re looking for is guys to flash athletically, for you to say, ‘Man, I didn’t realize he had that much natural speed and athleticism.’
“Any time you have a season that we had, where it ended terribly,” Campbell added, “I think everybody’s excited to get working on preparing for the next season, and the enthusiasm is high for a fresh start.”
On the day he fired Shanahan, Allen indicated the Redskins would naturally experience a change in philosophy when it comes to roster construction.
“We are going to redefine some of the characteristics that we’re looking for in players,” Allen said. “Obviously when we have a new head coach there will be some schematic adjustments that we will make, but that power will be with me.”
The Redskins will stick with the 3-4 defense, and Gruden and new offensive coordinator Sean McVay (promoted from tight ends coach under Shanahan) are expected to design an offensive system that blends elements from Washington’s previous offense with those of the new head coach’s prior playbook.
But it remains to be seen exactly how that will impact the type of talent the Redskins will acquire.
“I can’t say that yet, because I haven’t been through the process [with Gruden],” Campbell said. “It’s still way too early. I’d be better off telling you that in May than right now. [The coaching change is] going to impact it because Jay is going to have a different philosophy and he’s going to put his stamp on what kind of player we want for the Washington Redskins. But for what we’re doing right now, in the general sense, we haven’t whittled it down to the point where we’re eliminating players yet. We’re just stacking them as football players.”
Campbell & Co. will have rated players from best to worst regardless of schematic fit, and then as further evaluations follow, with the inclusion of the coaching staff, more specific rankings will take place.
“Once you get into meetings, they may say, ‘This guy doesn’t fit what we want.’ And if so then we’ll just move on. But I don’t want some guy getting drafted in the second round and me say, ‘Well, coach, I didn’t show him to you because I didn’t think he was going to fit what you want.’ You have to thoroughly comb through them all in the process.”
By late February, when the NFL combine rolls around, the Redskins will have more specific lists and a chance to measure and interview during that week in Indianapolis. Pre-draft workouts at colleges and pre-draft visits will help finalize the draft board. Campbell said he doesn’t yet know if his input will actually be more welcome than in years past. But he said he always speaks up with confidence.
“I always share my opinion. I’ve been doing it 27 years,” he said. “I don’t spend four months of my life every year on the road just to sit in a room and not have an opinion. It’s not always the popular opinion, but I do voice my opinion, and I’ll continue to voice my opinion. Ultimately, it’s going to be the decision-makers with Bruce and with Jay.
“But the pressure to get it right is still the same,” he added. “It’s not an exact science, and nobody gets it right 100 percent of the time. But I feel the same amount of pressure. I take a lot of pride in my work. I know it’s important. I know the coaches depend on us. I grew up in this business. My dad was a life-long NFL coach, and I know the challenge of it. But it’s my passion, and I understand it.”