A few days after the New York Giants’ ill-fated 5-11 season ended, general manager Dave Gettleman faced reporters in a press conference. For 35 minutes he fielded questions about Eli Manning’s and Odell Beckham Jr.’s futures with the team, why the defense played poorly and whether the Giants were in the midst of a rebuild.
That’s not the way they do it in Ashburn, Virginia.
Not only did Washington Redskins team president Bruce Allen not speak publicly during or after the 2018 season, over the years he has earned a reputation as one of the least transparent head executives in the NFL — all while fans call for the team to fire him through a growing social media campaign.
Of the 20 teams that missed the playoffs this year, 11 made their general managers or other key executives available in a postseason press conference, a Washington Times news analysis found. Many of them did so because they were firing their head coaches, but Gettleman and others — the 49ers’ John Lynch, the Falcons’ Thomas Dimitroff, the Bills’ Brandon Beane and the Lions’ Bob Quinn — gave “state of the franchise” addresses not accompanied by coaching changes.
Allen was hardly the only football executive not to elect to speak to the media last week. But the Redskins president hasn’t held a press conference in more than a year and a half, last taking questions back in June 2017, when he promoted Doug Williams to senior vice president of player personnel.
Since then, he has sporadically granted one-on-one interview requests to various outlets, like during the owners’ meetings last March.
Unlike players and coaches, no requirements are in place for owners or executives to speak to reporters. But facing the media is an exercise in transparency with fans, something the Redskins‘ faithful have been asking for.
Washington has gone 59-84-1 since Allen’s arrival in 2009, and many fans feel the front office has a lot to answer for, especially after another losing season.
In recent months, the team has struggled with controversies on and off the field — from falling attendance figures, to reports of secret dealings over public funding for a new stadium, to the team’s decision to sign a talented-but-troubled linebacker while a domestic violence charge was still pending.
To be sure, there are general managers who, like Allen, avoid the spotlight. In Cincinnati, 83-year-old team owner Mike Brown is the de facto GM and rarely speaks publicly.
Others choose, as Allen does, the route of one-on-one availability rather than press conferences, albeit on a more frequent basis than the Redskins‘ boss does. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst gave an interview to their ESPN beat reporter in mid-December; Vikings GM Rick Spielman spoke with Sports Illustrated for a season-long project that followed the team.
When Allen does speak publicly, he sometimes catches grief for what he says. In 2014, the last time Allen gave a typical year-end presser, reporters grilled him over the course of 40 minutes about the team’s 4-12, last-place finish and years of losing. That session produced Allen’s famous “winning off the field” quote, a phrase still mocked on local talk radio.
In the same press conference, he also claimed he talked to the fans “on a regular basis,” but that he believed the head coach should be the team’s spokesman in-season.
“I know I talk more than Chris Cooley has call-ins on his show,” Allen said. “Through different events, whether it’s a town hall or meeting them in the parking lots or communicating with them, our fans do know a lot of my thoughts and I’ve had those conversations with them. I’m available to talk almost all the time. I’m here every day. But, when you want to ask me a question in December, ‘Is the coach’s job secure? Give us this, give us that,’ that’s never been a winning formula for anyone because all it does is fuel the speculation.”
When the Redskins made the controversial move of claiming former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster days after his second domestic violence-related arrest, the team released a statement in which Williams, not Allen, explained the decision.
Williams also gave an interview that week on The Team 980 (a station formerly owned by Snyder) and said the allegation against Foster was “small potatoes” compared to things other people have done — a comment he then apologized for.
Ahead of the Redskins‘ “Monday Night Football” game in Philadelphia, ESPN’s Lisa Salters said Allen spoke to her off-camera about the team’s Foster investigation. But that has done little to quell people’s desire to hear from Allen in a more open setting. (Last Thursday, the charge against Foster was dropped due to a lack of supporting evidence.)
Regardless of whether he talks to the press, Allen holds final say over football matters, which he has held throughout his tenure — even during former general manager Scot McCloughan’s stint with the team. The Redskins officially opted to not fill their general manager position after McCloughan was fired in March 2017, promoting Williams instead.
Fans have called for Allen’s firing with near-constant use of the hashtag #FireBruceAllen ramping up in December. Short of that, there has been speculation that Allen could be reassigned within the organization to focus on planning a new stadium, given his ties to local politicians — and leave football responsibilities behind.
As with so many other topics, Allen has yet to address the public about that.
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