ASHBURN — Through March, April and May, as the Redskins navigated free agency, the draft and beyond without a general manager after firing Scot McCloughan, Redskins President Bruce Allen would often stroll down the hallway in the personnel department as if nothing was amiss.
“Morning fellas,” is all Allen would say.
Even trusted personnel executive Doug Williams, who Allen first hired in 2004 while general manager in Tampa Bay, wasn’t sure how interviews were going along. He wondered when things would get settled.
His pitch: he would be senior vice president of player personnel, not general manager, and lead a scouting department strengthened mostly by promotions from within.
“We’ll meet again,” Allen said.
Sunday, Williams was in the Bahamas, packing up to head home from vacation, when he got an email saying Allen wanted to meet at 7:30 Monday morning before an 8:30 staff meeting. His return flight landed around 8 p.m. and Williams went home to get some sleep.
Monday morning, they met again.
“Dougie,” Allen said, “We’re going to go with your plan.”
The analogy is apt, not only because Williams was the man who led Washington to victory in Super Bowl XXII but because Allen, and by proxy owner Daniel Snyder, will continue to call the plays. Though Allen was sure to stress that decisions will be made as a team effort, Williams and coach Jay Gruden will report to him.
Williams said that Gruden will decide which players play, and how much. He will not interfere with those areas, but is hopeful that he and Gruden will work well as a team. Though Allen has the ability to override either, the hope is that he will rarely need to.
After Allen and Williams met Monday morning, the next step was to tell the others, including handing out promotions. Kyle Smith, an area scout who started with the Redskins as an intern in 2010, was elevated to director of college scouting.
Smith is the son of A.J. Smith, the former Chargers general manager, Redskins advisor and longtime friend of Allen. Smith stood out to Williams in this year’s draft process where he led Washington’s evaluations of players from the Southeast, including Alabama products Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson who became the team’s first- and second-round draft picks.
Tim Gribble was promoted to assistant director of college scouting and Scott Campbell, who had previously held the director of college scouting title, was made senior personnel executive. With With Campbell, Smith and Gribble all focusing their attention nationwide, the Redskins will aim to get three or four sets of eyes on all top players. Whatever else, Washington let go of a prolific evaluator in McCloughan and was short on a number of reports for the draft in April.
“Between the three of us, this is something we haven’t had here in a long, long time,” Smith said.
Richard Mann, another in-house promotion, was made assistant director of pro personnel, serving under Alex Santos, who remains director of pro personnel. The Redskins will add some lower-level scouts, hired by Williams, before all is said and done.
As part of Williams‘ plan, Eric Schaffer, the team’s chief contract negotiator and general counsel, was named vice president of football operations. The promotion gives Schaffer more formalized responsibility in personnel matters, where he will answer to Williams, while maintaining his former duties.
“We keep giving him more,” Allen said of Schaffer. “He’s been doing this. He’s been the great note-taker and reminding everyone what their grades were for the last several years. We’re just recognizing that.”
At the end of practice Tuesday, Williams was called into the center of the huddle to address the team. The first African-American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, charisma pours out of Williams like his smooth, Louisiana drawl. From Allen to Gruden to Williams himself, everyone at Redskins Park calls him a natural-born leader. Williams said he doesn’t need a title to lead and that, perhaps, one could do more harm than good, which is why he did not ask to become general manager as part of his plan.
“That wasn’t important to me,” Williams said. “This is the honest to God truth: We had a general manager. It didn’t work out that well.”
Implicit in Williams‘ words is the understanding that, while his role has changed, it exists within a structure that is largely the same. Though McCloughan’s firing coated Washington’s offseason with a patina that was familiarly dramatic, those within the Redskins said all along that they were happy with the group they had and the way things turned out.
In choosing Williams‘ plan, they codified that structure.
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