New Redskins GM stresses patience, building through draft
ASHBURN, Va. — During a six-hour interview at the Washington Redskins owner’s house, Scot McCloughan saw Dan Snyder’s eyes light up "like a little kid," which the prospective new general manager found "as cool as crud." McCloughan also laid out a plan that essentially told Snyder it was time for a change.
The subject of Snyder’s renowned impatience had been broached by team President Bruce Allen, who was also present. McCloughan spoke of a different approach, once that runs counter to the quick-fix mode that has come to embody the franchise.
"I laid my vision out. It’s the vision I know; it’s the vision I’ve been around for 20 years," McCloughan said. "Again, there’s no right or wrong way, but they understand where I’m coming from. They understand how important the draft is to me."
The Redskins’ new GM, who will have full authority over the roster, met with reporters Friday in what has become a seemingly annual rite of passage — the big offseason news conference that is supposed to signal a turnaround. This one, which came exactly one year to the day after coach Jay Gruden’s introductory turn at the podium, didn’t come with a sense that all the wrongs will suddenly be rights.
It’s time for a team that has finished last in the NFC East in six of the last seven years to start doing things differently.
"The draft’s the lifeline of your organization," said McCloughan, who honed his philosophy in the 1990s as a scout with the Green Bay Packers and over the last decade in the front office of the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
"You start dabbling in free agency sometimes, you get older guys, you get the medical history," McCloughan said. "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. You train them how you want to train them.
"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 that have different plans."
Sounds like no more Albert Haynesworths or Donovan McNabbs or Jason Hatchers on the free agency plate at Redskins Park. Snyder, who sat in the second row of the auditorium taking it all in, exited quickly after the news conference and did not take questions, but he chuckled at McCloughan’s "little kid" and "cool as crud" references, which were meant to reflect the owner’s passion for winning.
Allen is giving up the role of GM he has held for five years and will remain team president. Asked who will have control over the makeup of the team, McCloughan, with arms folded, responded: "I have final say."
Before being offered the job, McCloughan had some tough questions of his own to answer. While he had been a success with the 49ers (2005-09, including the last two as GM) and the Seahawks (2010-13), he left both jobs because of personal reasons.
He later disclosed to ESPN The Magazine that he had drinking and family problems, and he spent the 2014 season running his own private scouting service that evaluated college players for NFL clients, one of which was the Redskins.
"It was very tough," McCloughan said. "But I learned a lot from it, professionally and personally, and it made me a better father. It’s going to make me a better personnel guy because I went through it. … Honestly, I’m kind of glad I went through it to realize who I am and what I have to be."
Allen said he had a "forthright conversation" with McCloughan.
"He would not be taking this job if he thought that was going to be a concern," Allen said.
Allen and McCloughan go back a ways. Allen said he recommended McCloughan for the 49ers GM job, and he said the Redskins were one of the first teams to sign up for McCloughan’s scouting service last year. By the end of the season, Allen had essentially targeted McCloughan.
As for Robert Griffin III, who has been benched twice in two years, McCloughan said it’s too early to give up on the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year. McCloughan said it took Brett Favre two years to figure out the Packers’ West Coast offense, which is similar to the one introduced by Gruden last year.
He also said Gruden would be in charge of hiring the coaching stuff, which as of now needs a defensive coordinator to replace Jim Haslett.
"If you’re not winning games, there’s turmoil everywhere," McCloughan said. "That’s just common knowledge. … This is my fourth organization. I’ve been around a couple of really good ones, but this place is right. It’s set to go in the right direction."