Whether Bruce Allen willingly gave up power or was stripped of it isn’t important. What should matter to the Washington Redskins and their fans is that with Scot McCloughan in charge of the roster, a proven football man would finally be leading the football operation.
By empowering McCloughan to build the team the right way, owner Daniel Snyder would be trying something new. Snyder would rely on a longtime player-personnel executive who truly has a good game instead of someone who merely talks one.
After the Redskins were a 4-12 embarrassment in Allen’s first season with roster control, it was painfully obvious that the front office needed new direction. Less than a year after Snyder doubled down on Allen (after the 2013 season, the general manager was promoted to team president), Snyder appears to be making a major move in an attempt to fix this mess.
In finishing last in the NFC East six of the past seven seasons and eight of 11, the Redskins have made a laundry list of mistakes in the draft and free agency. For years, the roster has been so badly mismanaged that you could wonder whether Redskins officials actually scout the players whom they acquire.
From what we hear about McCloughan, he’s a man with a good plan.
Formerly a senior personnel executive with the Seattle Seahawks, McCloughan is said to be at his best where Allen falls short: in the draft room.
While serving under Seattle General Manager John Schneider, McCloughan played a key role in drafting, among others, quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerback Richard Sherman and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Although Seattle’s scouting staff is arguably the NFL’s strongest and many in that organization have contributed to the team’s recent run, McCloughan has a rock-solid reputation for making good recommendations.
Before joining the Seahawks, McCloughan picked many of the San Francisco 49ers’ standouts during his time as the team’s general manager and vice president of football operations. Players such as linebacker Patrick Willis, running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis helped revive the franchise, which appeared in three consecutive NFC championship games and a Super Bowl after McCloughan’s departure.
McCloughan’s success does raise a question: Why is he available? The short answer is he had personal problems involving alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with giving someone another chance, and in the Redskins’ situation, hiring McCloughan would be well worth the risk.
In the past 15 seasons, the Redskins have qualified for the postseason three times. McCloughan has been a central figure in constructing two powerhouse teams. If you’re lost, it’s smart to turn to a guy who has a good sense of direction.
McCloughan reached the top the old-fashioned way, climbing the ladder one rung at a time. The son of a scout, McCloughan gained valuable experience in low-level positions and steadily proved he could do more. At Redskins Park, he would encounter the biggest challenge of his career.
Having a good eye for talent will help McCloughan, who would have many holes to fill, especially on defense. But his most difficult task would figure to be changing the organization’s approach to both picking and retaining players.
Too often, the Redskins go for sizzle over substance or fail to identify glaring weaknesses in players they view as franchise cornerstones. That’s how you wind up guaranteeing almost $12 million to Brian Orakpo.
Obviously, the Redskins erred in using their franchise-tag designation on Orakpo, who had just a half-sack in seven games before an injury cut short his season. The Redskins believed it was necessary to re-sign Orakpo, two team officials said, because they had no one to replace the edge rusher. Problem is, they shouldn’t have been in that position.
Every team makes mistakes in picking players. The Redskins, however, have made an inordinate amount, largely because they’ve lacked a strong voice in scouting. McCloughan has the juice to be as loud as he prefers.
And in addition to laying out his vision for the draft and free agency and sticking to it, McCloughan should fight to bolster the scouting department. Other organizations have placed more emphasis and greater resources in scouting. The Redskins’ record tells the story.
With McCloughan making decisions, the next chapter could be better for Jay Gruden.
The rookie head coach had little talent to work with, and it showed. Now, Gruden could lean on someone capable of providing what Washington needs most: competent players.
For the first time, Snyder appears ready to shake up the front office to make room for a top-notch talent-evaluator, which has been long overdue. And although there’s no telling what a new era might produce, at least the person who could be directing it is qualified for his job.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.