Some thoughts on Washington Redskins GM Scot McCloughan following the owners meetings in Phoenix:
I’ve heard the Redskins express plans that have sounded smart in the past. I’ve also heard those plans change every other year; they were never committed to a plan because there really wasn’t an organizational philosophy to support one. You need a belief that shapes who you are and what you want to be. For the first time in a long time, I think they have a guy who can help in this area in Scot McCloughan. There are always ifs involved here: If he handles the off-field issues and if the team allows him the freedom to build how they need to build.
McCloughan learned from guys like Ted Thompson and John Schneider and when you talk to them or you talk to others who were part of that tree, you realize they know exactly what they’re looking for in a player.
I'll make this clear: One person does not change an organization. Too many people here have failed to build a consistent winner and until he's surrounded by more of his guys, and if others don't butt in, then it will require more patience. History has not been kind to those who feel the Redskins just made the move that will turn them around. Let's see.
Jay Gruden must prove he can be a good head coach. I'm on record saying how much the quarterback(s) must improve, but that's one person. Just like I've written that good quarterbacks can still succeed behind bad lines, so too can a team still play better despite less-than-ideal quarterback play. You can't pin seven wins in two years on one player. Regardless, McCloughan is a good start.
Listening to Jacksonville coach and ex-Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, for example, talk about not falling out of love with, say, a corner just because of a poor 40 time. Rather, is there an attribute that compensates? What if a guy is physical with long arms? He can play press coverage, get physical at the line and all of a sudden that 40 time is not a deal-breaker. I’ll have more on this in a future post, but it was a glimpse into a thinking that he learned in Seattle during McCloughan’s time as an executive.
If you’re going to try and develop players, the key is finding out what a guy does well and putting him in position to do that. McCloughan grew up on this philosophy. Every coach might espouse this belief but not every one practices it. McCloughan is not a coach, but he and Gruden talk an awful lot and if you’re on the so-called same page in this area, you have a chance to find good players.
It’s also about sticking to a philosophy in free agency. The Redskins won’t become Green Bay East when it comes to building a roster almost exclusively through the draft. They don’t need to be. But when you listen to Schneider and Thompson, two men who have had great success, they know what they want. Seattle has taken some shots with trades and free agency, but their core was built a certain way.
I’m not going overboard in saying that everything will be great. There are other factors that will determine his success: Again, it can’t be just one guy in a place that has a belief and philosophy, it has to be an organizational one. So much more work remains for this franchise to ever be turned around.
I also like how McCloughan is not tied to any player and how he recognizes they were not one or two players in free agency from becoming a contender. And that the goal is just to add good players through the draft regardless of position. When you win as little as the Redskins have for much of the past decade, nobody should ever feel safe. Nobody.
Right now there’s a positive vibe when you listen to McCloughan talk about working with Jay Gruden or even offensive line coach Bill Callahan. McCloughan really seemed in sync with Callahan as far as what they want in a lineman. I’ll be curious to see what they do here in the draft. It does not mean they’ll take one high, but it does mean they might have better luck finding one later in the draft, something the Redskins haven’t had in years.
The last offensive lineman who wasn't a first- or second-round pick to become a quality starter for them? Probably Mark Schlereth, a 10th-round pick in 1989. There have been others like Derrick Dockery in 2003, but he had a short shelf life here and I did not consider him anything other than ordinary. Other than that? Zippy. So from 1989-2014, the Redskins drafted 28 offensive linemen in Rounds 3 or later and only one developed into a quality starter. Now, last year’s third-rounders Spencer Long and Morgan Moses might get there and Tom Compton is still around as is Josh LeRibeus. But, still, that’s bad. If McCloughan and Callahan can change that thanks to their shared vision, a foundation will be set.