Thank you, Scot McCloughan.
For so many years, the Redskins have either neglected, under-emphasized or mismanaged the NFL draft, considered by nearly all proven football minds to be the No. 1 tool for constructing a perennial winner.
That's why the remarks by McCloughan, the Redskins' new general manager, at his opening press conference earlier this month were so refreshing. He talked about how in previous NFL experiences during his 22-year career in Green Bay, San Francisco and Seattle, the draft was the primary personnel mechanism for not only elevating his teams to big-time success -- but maintaining that success, too. He called the draft the "lifeline of our organization."
“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,” he said. “So all of a sudden now, you train them how you want to train them. See, in Washington, we’re going to draft these guys and mold them as Redskins. We’re not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32- and 33-year-olds who have different plans.”
McCloughan, who has drafted and acquired some of the best talent in the NFL over the past decade, also talked about what he learned from Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf when he worked under the two brilliant personnel executives years ago in Green Bay. One of the tips his picked up was to not rely excessively on free agency, an area the Redskins have overindulged in, for example, by signing over-hyped players like Albert Haynesworth to exorbitant contracts, then seeing them fall embarrassingly short of expectations.
“The first thing I learned from both of them is to not dabble in free agency," McCloughan said. "It’s always the draft. I’m a little different – I’m a little more aggressive than that. The thing about Ron and Ted both is (they’re) just so organized, so structured, and they knew exactly what they wanted in a football player. And you know what, every now and then they take a chance on a height-weight-speed guy, and it wouldn’t pan out. But all of a sudden, we’re taking guys – five, six, seven interior linemen coming in – five- to eight-year starters going to a couple of Pro Bowls. So I think it’s very methodical. You don’t do knee-jerk reactions. You’re very, very thorough, not just from the standpoint of how they play on tape but how they’re wired. What’s the strength coach say? What’s the trainer say? What do other teammates who played with them the year before say? I think once you get the whole portfolio kind of together, then you realize, you know what, this is the kind of guy we want. This is the kind of guy we know is going to be consistent every day on the practice field. And you might not be the best athlete or the fastest athlete. But you know what, you get enough of those guys together, you’re going to win more than you lose.”
Hopefully, McCloughan will reverse a trend that has crippled the Redskins not only during the Dan Snyder era, but also since Joe Gibbs left the team for the first time after the 1992 season, a near-quarter-century period when the Redskins have posted a dismal .411 winning percentage. That trend runs counter to the point McCloughan made about establishing longevity with draft picks, an area where the Redskins have been an utter failure.
The following statistics are shocking: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Redskins have the fewest number of draft picks in the NFL (37) who have started more than 10 games with the team during the period of 1999 to 2014, Snyder's 16-season ownership era. The Bills and Titans have the most (63 each), followed by the Browns (62), Bears (61) and Cardinals (60). The Titans, Bears and Cardinals have been to Super Bowls during that span. Moreover, from 1993 to 2014, 61 Redskin draft picks have started more than 10 games, third-fewest in the NFL during that 22-season span. The Bills (87), Titans (86), Cardinals (85), Rams (82) and Bears (81) top the list, and all five of those teams have reached the Super Bowl.
You've got your work cut out for you, Scot McCloughan. At least from the way things sound, however, you'll be trying to improve the team in a logical and professional manner, instead of resorting to the mind-boggling, amateurish, knee-jerk decisions that have been devastating the Redskins. As long as Snyder doesn't meddle and gives McCloughan the freedom to do what he does best, there’s room for optimism!