April 1, 2015

Redskins Continue to Beef Up on the Defensive Line

After Scot McCloughan reunited with former draft pick Ricky Jean-Francois and signed former Chicago Stephen Paea, the Redskins have added a third defensive linemen, Terrence Knighton. Knighton, also known as Pot Roast, signed a bargain of a deal at one-year, $4 million. Knighton, like Jean-Francois, has finished his sixth season in the NFL. After being drafted by the Jaguars, Knighton played the past two years for Denver.

Knighton has had a consistent NFL campaign with a career 12.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. Although, one might think there is too much repetition between the three free agency signings to start the 2015 NFL season, there cannot be enough quality linemen that have made a living shedding multiple blockers.

Knighton has mainly played nose tackle under Jack Del Rio’s 3-4 defensive scheme and could be in a solid role to split time at that position with his recruiter and friend Chris Baker. Along with the “prized” free agency addition last year of Jason Hatcher, the revamped defensive line looks poised to cause more havoc without blitzing next year. Moreover, the signing of Knighton might mean the Redskins will not resign Jarvis Jenkins, who is currently an unrestricted free agent after being drafted in the second round four years ago.

Although the Washington Redskins have many needs, they needed to start from the inside out with their lines of both sides of the ball. On the defensive side they have made vast improvements by getting rid of Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen while adding the younger and better bodies of Jean-Francois, Paea, and Knighton. Knighton might not be considered a three-down player, but smart moves likes these with McCloughan at the helm will help the Redskins regain respect in the league.

First Noticeable Addition of Washington Redskins 2015 Offseason comes on the Defensive Line

Ricky Jean-Francois (“Zhon fran-SWAH”) finished his sixth season in the National Football League as an Indianapolis Colt, but was released prior to free agency on Feb. 23. Three short days later it was reported that Jean-Francois had signed a deal with the Washington Redskins. Friday, it became official that Scot McCloughan had signed his former seventh-round draft pick from his days in San Francisco to a three-year deal worth up to $11.5 million (including incentives) and $4 million guaranteed.

Jean-Francois is coming off of his best statistical season with three sacks, six passes defended, 18 tackles, and 16 assists on tackles in a full 16 games played. In a defense that needed serious revamping by Jay Gruden, Joe Barry, and Scot McCloughan, this was the first of many moves to be made leading up to the start of the upcoming season which is six months away.

The signing of Jean-Francois led the Redskins to pull the trigger on a couple of holdovers, parting ways with both Barry Coefield and Stephen Bowen. Both were already 30 years old and today’s league is turning into a battle where those in their 20s are being able to outwork the elder veterans. The contract terminations cleared approximately $8.7 million in cap space.

Jean-Francois has a lot of playing time at defensive tackle and nose tackle. At 6-foot-3 and nearly 300 pounds, it will be interesting to see if he is utilized at defensive end or nose tackle in Barry’s 3-4 scheme. Others on the team that will likely see time on the defensive line include Jason Hatcher, Jarvis Jenkins, and Chris Baker.

Washington Redskins GM Scot McCloughin media availability Jan. 9

The Washington Redskins introduced Scot McCloughin as their new general manager at Redskins Park today. The following is a complete transcript of the proceedings [courtesy Redskins media relations].

President Bruce Allen

Opening remarks: “Well, good morning, good afternoon. Welcome to Redskins Park. Today’s an exciting day for the franchise because we really feel today the Redskins are going to get better. Before we go forward, I want to just give you a little bit of the history with this young man to my left. I was fortunate to have worked with his brother and his father for a number of years with the Raiders. About 10 years ago, I was one of the people who called the 49ers to recommend him for his general manager job with the 49ers. [Read more…]

OPINION: McCloughan hire a watershed moment for a beleagured franchise

Yesterday afternoon, I went through a roller coaster of emotions over the course of about five minutes when it was first reported that Scot McCloughan would be the next General Manager of the Washington Redskins.

First, I was very happy to hear that someone with a good track record was coming to Washington, and that owner Dan Snyder had finally made a wise decision.

Then, I remembered how excited I was for Steve Spurrier to come to the District. How intriguing the idea of Albert Haynesworth on the defensive line was. How confident I was that Mike Shanahan could use his leadership skills and championship experience to bring the Redskins back to glory. How all of those moves and more turned out terribly.

Finally, I admitted to myself that this is different from any decision that Snyder and his organization has made in the past decade and a half.

Adam Schefter has confirmed that McCloughan has finalized his deal with the Redskins to become the next GM of the Redskins. He will have four years to turn this franchise into a contender again, after being so terrible for so long. I have been fooled before, but I do believe that this one man will change the fortunes of the preeminent sports team in our nation’s capital more than anyone has in Snyder’s tenure.

Why?

Two reasons. One is that he turned two teams into juggernaut franchises in the past decade in San Francisco and Seattle, as I detailed in yesterday’s piece. His draft philosophy, according to veteran journalist Andrew Brandt, is that you “don’t jump for need, you don’t get desperate, you don’t get emotional.”

This was on display in Seattle, where he drafted Super Bowl MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith in the seventh round of the NFL Draft in 2011. He drafted two-time Pro Bowler Richard Sherman in the fifth round that year. Quarterback Russell Wilson? A third-rounder in 2012. While an executive in San Francisco, he spotted five-time Pro Bowler Frank Gore in the third round. His legacy is one of success and Lombardi Trophies, with ticker-tape parades following him seemingly wherever he goes.

“Okay,” says Joe Q. Redskin Fan. “But how do I know he can be good in Washington? Executives here don’t get to make the decisions. Snyder has the ultimate say in who plays for or coaches the team.”

If this report is to be believed, McCloughan will have the final decision when it comes to who who will wear the burgundy and gold. It would appear that Snyder may have at last learned his lesson. Maybe there is a culture change underway in Ashburn. The results will not be apparent immediately, as the past five years of decision-making have been devastating to the Redskins’ ability to win on the field.

But today is about hope. Hope that Snyder and Allen finally have displayed humility. Hope that there will not be a new embarrassing leak coming out of Redskins Park every other day. Hope that Redskins fans can hear more about the team’s on-field performance than about the name. Hope that fans can be proud of the team again. Hope that they can win.

I do not know what kind of results that McCloughan will bring to DC. I don’t know how long it will take for those results to transpire, whether in the form of a playoff berth here and there or in the form of a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue that will, no matter which team in our area brings it, be the most exciting outdoor event in Washington’s history.

I do know this. Snyder being embarrassed by the past couple of years is a good sign. That Allen is willing to take a step back and be more of a figurehead is a good sign. That the Redskins finally hired a good football mind to oversee personnel operations is a very good sign.

Don’t expect double-digit wins next year, or maybe even the year after. Don’t expect a Super Bowl in two or three or even four years. Do expect, however, a positive culture — one that focuses on winning on the field, that expects a reasonable competition in every game, and one that views ineptitude and failure with disdain.

Smile, Redskins fans. It’s a new day.

Second Big Change of the 2015 Washington Redskins Offseason comes at General Manager

Less than a week after the organization “mutually” parted ways with Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett, the Washington Redskins made a big splash in the management department. Last week, Bruce Allen said “it’s not too much on his plate” to serve as both President and General Manager, but something must have changes as the Washington Redskins are on their way to hiring talent evaluating guru Scot McCloughan as their 14th General Manager in franchise history (after they meet the terms of the Rooney rule).

After rumors swirled that former San Diego Charger President and GM A.J. Smith would be given a promotion in the organization, McCloughan was reportedly meeting with owner Daniel Snyder for six hours. Although an official press conference will come later this week, McCloughan is believed to have been given a four-year deal.

So far this looks like an excellent move by the franchise in a possible long chain of massive overhauls to rebuild the organization. It must have taken a lot for Bruce Allen to swallow his pride and hand over full power over the personnel department including adding or subtracting from the actual evaluators, but it was a move than needed to be done after another brutal season.

Although McCloughan spent last year out of football because of problems he had with alcohol, it is reported that he has handled those demons and ready to make contenders out of a third NFL franchise. Fans should be excited about the track record he brings to the Redskins and that Snyder was able to lure him here as he also had rumored talks with the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.

In 2005 McCloughan was named vice president of player personnel in San Francisco and was general manager from 2008-2010 before moving on. He subsequently served as Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider’s right-hand man from 2012 to 2014. McCloughan has been credited with hitting on late-round picks such as Richard Sherman while he was in charge and is also believed to be a catalyst in turning the respective franchises into Super Bowl contenders and powerhouses.

The Redskins have been in dire need to enhance their personnel department during the recent years of Dan Snyder’s ownership and adding an individual such as McCloughan with a true scouting background might do the trick –or at least start the process. Since McCloughan ran a private scouting service that the Redskins were clients of last year he should be able to immediately help as soon as the upcoming draft in late April into early May.

McCloughan’s eventual hire might play in the role of deciding who will fill the vacant opening at defensive coordinator the Redskins have, whether it be former Dallas Cowboys’ Head Coach Wade Phillips, current San Francisco 49ers’ Secondary Coach Ed Donatell, or current San Diego Chargers’ linebacker coach Joe Barry, as well as possible firings at lower level assistants on both sides of the ball.

Moreover, this will most probably have an impact on the expanded role A.J. Smith is planning to have as he is scheduled to meet with upper management on Sunday. All in all, if the Redskins are planning on returning to prominence in the recent future, they need to continue to make moves that make logical football operations sense like this one moving forward.

Washington Redskins hire Scot McCloughan as General Manager

According to multiple media reports, the Washington Redskins are expected to hire Scot McCloughan as the franchise’s ninth General Manager after the two parties met for several hours on Tuesday.

[Read more…]

McCloughan hire a step in right direction

On Tuesday, news broke that the Washington Redskins will hire Scot McCloughan, former 49ers GM, as the team’s General Manager. The formal announcement should be imminent. It is an important move in the right direction.

Since Daniel Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, the team has known two head personnel managers: Vinnie Cerrato and Bruce Allen. This is the first time the team, under Snyder’s stewardship, has gone “outside the lines” in hiring a player personnel director.

Cerrato was a college recruiter, way over his head when tasked to evaluate pro talent. He was a glorified “yes man”, doing Snyder’s billing to attract and acquire every big name available on the market, usually with spectacular failure.

Allen is a marketing man. Always has been, dating back to his time with Tampa Bay. Talent evaluation is not his strong suit, evidenced by the dearth of talent produced form the past several drafts.

So this is a departure, of sorts, with the Redskins hiring an actually qualified candidate for the position.

McCloughan’s resume is strong. He has been involved in player personnel decisions for three teams over 20 years, and each have reached the Super Bowl on his watch or immediate upon departure using players he was responsible for.

McCloughan is a disciple of Ron Wolf, longtime GM of the Packers. He’s been responsible for the drafting and developing of several All-Pros, including Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Ahmad Brooks and Russell Wilson. It’s a good track record.

If — and this is a big if at Redskins Park — McCloughan is allowed to do his job without interference from the owner’s box, he should be able to construct a personnel and development staff that can compete in the NFL. The Redskins currently have one of, if not THE, smallest scouting department in the league.

McCloughan should change that — very quickly.

But that’s always the caveat, isn’t it? IF. IF Snyder can stay out of areas he shouldn’t be meddling in. IF he can stay away from becoming chummy with pet players, making things more difficult for his coaches and personnel staff. IF he can dedicate his resources in the right places instead of pursuing fool’s gold.

If, if, if.

Redskins fans had high hopes for Marty Schottenheimer. For the second coming of Joe Gibbs. For Mike Shanahan. None of these moves restored any glory to the franchise past glimpses of hope. Instead, they all ended just like every other decision Snyder has made in 15 years: poorly.

This move becomes the latest in high-profile offseason acquisitions for this franchise. They got the right guy this time. Let’s see if they allow him the time, space and resources to do his job correctly.

_____________

Biggest questions for McCloughan on the field:

1) The Redskins own the fifth pick in the NFL Draft. Do they keep it, or move down for multiple picks. If they keep it, will they use it to help rebuild the porous offensive line?

2) Wither RGIII? Will McCloughan see enough from Robert Griffin III to install him at quarterback and make Jay Gruden integrate Griffin better into his offense? Or will the new GM defer to the current head coach?

3) With that in mind, with McCloughan expected to clean house in the personnel and development staffs, will he make similar changes in the coaching area? Will he take a year to evaluate Gruden and how he works with Griffin, or will he start anew?

Washington Redskins: The more things change… Bruce Allen meets the press

“We’re winning off the field,” Washington Redskins GM Bruce Allen.

In the absolutely most wishy-washy firing ever, the Washington Redskins and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett “mutually agreed to part ways,” according to the team’s press release. The wording of the press release couldn’t have been more ambiguous if they tried. But both GM Bruce Allen and coach Jay Gruden have a personal relationship with the now-departed Haslett, so the team’s statement is deferential to Haslett to allow him to “save face” on his way out of town.

“Jim and I have had discussions over the last few days and have decided that it’s best for everyone that we have a new Defensive Coordinator for the Washington Redskins. I wish him nothing but the best in the future,” said Gruden.

“Jay and I mutually agreed it’s time for the Redskins to have a new Defensive Coordinator,” Haslett said through the team’s release. “I want to thank Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen, Coach Gruden and all the players and fellow coaches for their efforts the last five years and I wish them nothing but the best.”

It is yet another example of this team doing bad business and allowing interpersonal relationships affect how they conduct themselves.

Haslett’s record speaks for itself, despite whoever might try to defend him in the local media. He needed to be dismissed — without prejudice — several seasons ago, but was retained and allowed the Redskins defense to suffer and flounder, instrumental in yet another double-digit loss season.

Allen met the press today — for the first time all season.

For the record, here was his statement on the arrangement.

“Jay and Jim had been talking the last few days. This morning, when they were talking, they decided it was the best way for both sides. I appreciate Coach Haslett’s work and what he’s done for the Redskins, but I think it was the right decision.”

Bruce, bubbie, if you think it was the right decision, why on earth didn’t you make??? Isn’t that, like, your job?

Allen’s remarks today were as wide-ranging as they were head-scratching. For the entire transcript, click here. But Allen talked around many subjects more than specifically addressing them.

He mentioned amorphous “change” several times, without including any specific ideas or details about such change. But several times he also indicated his faith in those already in place to affect that “change.”

“I think there is going to be changes. I know Jay mentioned that he’s going to make some changes and there’s going to be some other changes. But that’s part of the evaluation process right now. We’re looking for the solutions to get the team back on track. It seems like a long time ago when we won the division, and in football I guess it’s sort of like those dog years, it does multiply with each year. But, I’ve seen different people perform, I’ve seen the way people have evaluated talent, I’ve seen the way they’ve worked together, and I know this group will do it again.”

Allen identified what he thought was the recipe to fix the organization, identifying “good players, good coaching, good chemistry” as the secret. He ignored the ideas of good scouting, good drafting and good player development strategies, but hey, maybe we’re nit-picking at this point.

But Allen came up with some doozies today.

On the role A.J. Smith has played: “A.J. is a consultant. He lives in Del Mar, Calif. He’s somebody I’ve known for a number of years – we worked together 30-some years ago. When he got let go of the Chargers, I said, ‘If you have a few weeks a year and you want to come out, please do. Give us some insight into it.’ And so he’s sat in some meetings, and we’ve utilized his wisdom and experience.”

On whether Smith would be more helpful in DC rather than San Diego: “You know, the technology today, if you’re in Hawaii, you can watch the game tape as quickly as I can watch it here at Redskin Park. And, because we have telephones in Hawaii, we can have a conversation immediately after the game.”

On Jay Gruden’s first year as head coach: “He’s not the first coach in the history of this NFL to have a losing season in his first year and we are not the first team to have back-to-back losing seasons in the NFL. And it will happen again [in the NFL]. Do I believe he is the right leader? Absolutely. I believe he is the right leader and I believe the players believe that he is the right leader. We just have to make sure we augment the roster with the right players and give him the talent that he needs.”

And this winner: “I do think our Charitable Foundation does a fantastic job. We’re winning off the field, but we’ve got to start winning on the field.”

The punchlines write themselves.

This organization it rudderless at this point, and it doesn’t seem as if the person ultimately in charge has any clue that the man he’s tasked with making the changes to the football operations is completely and utterly ill-equipped for the job. Allen is a marketing man, not a football executive. Yet, he’s the one person over the past five seasons that has been in charge of football operations.

Mike Shanahan has come and gone. His son Kyle too. Jim Haslett and the team have “parted ways.” It seems like it’s just more of the same at Redskins Park.

Yet, the man making the decisions stays, with the owner’s well wishes and respect.

OPINION: Allen encapsulates Redskins’ woes with disaster press conference

Washington Redskins President and General Manager Bruce Allen took time this morning to speak with the D.C. media after his fifth season at the helm of the franchise.

If his late father, George, were on the Redskins’ Mount Rushmore for his services as head coach in the 1970s, the proverbial Hall of Shame would be too great of an honor for the younger Allen.

[Read more…]

Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen’s Wednesday Media Availability

Here is the entirety of Washington Redskins head coach Bruce Allen’s media availability on Wednesday after the Redskins completed their 4-12 2014 season. [Transcript courtesy Redskins media relations.]

Opening statement:

“We just finished a frustrating season that had a few ups and too many downs. As Coach [Jay] Gruden talked about with you all on Monday, we’re going to take this time to start a full evaluation of everything and look into the way we acquire players, look into the way we coach players, looking at the way the players prepare in the offseason and in-season, and make sure we correct the problems that occurred and make sure they don’t happen again and bring in the right people. You know, I’d like to tell you there’s a secret ingredient in football, but there really isn’t. It’s getting good players with good coaching and good chemistry, a little luck with injuries, and that’s a successful formula. That’s what we’re going to start addressing.” [Read more…]

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