I have no idea what Alex Santos will do in his current role, but his promotion to director of pro personnel as Morocco Brown's replacement made sense. He’d been in the scouting department since 2006 and had a strong reputation in the building. I do know of some others around the league who would have been interested in the job who had more experience (but in one case their situation changed so it became irrelevant).
One person who worked with Santos considered him an opinionated talent evaluator with an affable personality, able to unify and with excellent people skills. Plus, and this can’t be underscored, there’s a willingness to grind.
Yes, the Redskins have had an awful lot of stability in the front office for a team that has finished last five of the past six seasons.
Does that record mean those behind the scenes have failed? Well, you win as an organization. But the tough part to always know: How much are the reports being listened to?
I know of at least one player in recent years who was not written up favorably by the defensive coaches – and I mean all of them – and others but were still brought in because one person wanted them. He was OK at best. Another player, safety O.J. Atogwe, was signed because he had played under coordinator Jim Haslett. Was that a scouting mistake? Doubt it. Scouts I spoke with in other organizations felt Atogwe was done at least a year earlier.
That doesn’t mean everything that happened in the past was the coaches' fault. It’s too easy now to blame everything on Mike Shanahan. He did have the power, though. However, what it means is that I can’t dismiss a promotion from within only on the basis of the team has been bad for a while so therefore it's a bad move.
And, yes, I’m sure some would have preferred a fresh set of eyes in the front office. Just because.
Neither Doug Williams nor A.J. Smith was going to get this job, by the way. The hours are a killer – 100-hour weeks for a job that is No. 3 in power in the front office and, in terms of the organization would be even lower because they’d be behind a head coach, too. It’s a job best given to those on the way up. If Smith, for example, wants to get another general manager’s position, he won’t get there being a No. 3 in charge. His résumé as a GM already is built. Smith’s focus this offseason was more on the draft than anything else; Santos’ job will be more about pro scouting.
Regardless of who they brought in, though, the power rests with general manager (and, don’t forget, team president) Bruce Allen and then director of player personnel Scott Campbell. I don’t know if a new, young hotshot would have made a dent, certainly not more than the coach Allen hired or the coaches he retained. The fresh set of eyes, for better or worse, belong to Allen and coach Jay Gruden. Allen has new power; Gruden offers a different way of doing things than Shanahan.
Is that good or bad? Don’t know; they haven’t gone through a season with this setup so for now anything is a guess. For now you can paint it however you want, depending on your level of faith or cynicism.
Nor do I know what sort of job Santos will do. It’s always easy to measure a team because there’s a won-loss record, but it’s tougher behind the scenes. Then it becomes more like politics in terms of who gets credit or where blame is focused. Front-office type when things go bad: “We got him the players. They need to coach them better.” Coach: “They needed to get me better players.”
The pressure here remains on Allen. He has to prove he’s capable of building a winning organization with power he’s never had in the past. It’s hard to trust a lot of what the Redskins do because they haven’t won consistently in a long time. Until they do, everything will be (justifiably) viewed cynically. For those wanting that perception to change, there’s one way out: win. Of course, that's been said for too long now.