The Washington Redskins’ pursuit of a new general manager remains in full swing. It may turn out to be a somewhat futile process in terms of landing the type of prime candidate they purport to be interested in, but the effort, on the surface at least, seems sincere.
According to numerous league sources, Redskins representatives are reaching out to some of the more successful organizations in the NFL seeking to find a highly qualified executive to fill their GM job that was created after the club fired Scot McCloughan, a move the team made for cause due for allegations about his drinking impacting his ability to do the job.
Running personnel for owner Dan Snyder has generally been an unforgiving road to nowhere and filling this position now will be increasingly difficult.
But the Redskins are trying and they are casting a wide net, reaching out to potential general managers who have enjoyed success with Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay and elsewhere. Their goal is to land someone with a very strong resume from one of the NFL’s top franchises -- precisely the kind of guys who would generally want nothing to do with this type of opening.
Sources said the team is dangling a salary in the $1.5 million-per-year range, which won’t blow anyone uber-qualified away. Several of Washington’s targets have already bailed out at the initial stage -- disinterested in even interviewing for the job -- because of concerns over how Snyder has run the team and the over-reaching powers of Bruce Allen, the team president.
But they most definitely continue to look around and this process is hardly limited to people like former Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik, who worked with Allen in Tampa, or former Chargers GM A.J. Smith (neither of whom is expected to land the position), who was brought in as a consultant years ago and is tight with Allen. Another name mentioned, NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock, has been linked to the job as well.
The Redskins are trying to land someone established and currently with a winning franchise.
The primary issue that many of those A-List types have is the age-old one in Washington -- who really has the power?
Allen isn’t going anywhere in the short term it seems -- some believe he is a made man at least unless or until Snyder gets a new stadium built -- and that’s a problem. Allen controls the Redskins’ pursue strings, budgets and can effectively veto moves by dissuading the owner from opening the coffers for a particular players (oh, like, say franchise-tag quarterback Kirk Cousins a year ago).
If Allen controls the money -- and he has since he’s been there even during McCloughan’s brief heyday of “personnel control” -- then he controls the building.
Oh, and there are the same old issues as well about whether or not Snyder will really spend sufficiently on his scouts, evaluators and infrastructure within football operations to procure and retain the type of front office staff it generally requires to win at the highest levels. It takes a village my friends, not just a GM, and if the prime candidates feel they won’t get the purse to bring in their most trusted lieutenants, then the job looks even less appealing.
So, let’s call it an uphill chore. And one that might ultimately result in few takers.
Which would bring the Redskins back to the kind of figurehead, puppet regime many believe Allen wants deep down inside, with little to no checks and balances in personnel decisions. Furthermore, given the unusual timing of Washington’s GM search, teams could block any current employee from interviewing for the job if they so choose.
Nothing is going to happen until after the NFL Draft (April 27-29), though the sense I get is the Redskins would like to have this nailed down before then if possible and certainly want to make the formal transition as close to the conclusion of the draft as possible.
Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder if they follow a recent trend of somewhat outside-the-box hires (Browns promoting lawyer Sashi Brown to GM; 49ers hiring John Lynch out of the FOX broadcast booth to be their GM) and give their longtime ace contract negotiator and cap whiz Eric Schaffer a shot running the team.
Schaffer has spent 14 years in a management position with the team -- 14 years in Ashburn; that’s astonishing -- and is one of the truly key members of the organization. He’s spent more than a decade as the club’s vice president of football administration, finding ways to turn Snyder’s whims into reality and navigating the cap. He’s highly respected as a contract negotiator and well liked within the building by “football people” and “non-football people” alike.
Schaffer is a critical thinker and a team player and also serves as the team’s general counsel, advising the team on all legal matters. He is very well thought of inside and outside of Washington and empowering him wouldn’t be anything close to crazy. He is the rare highly qualified person able to last with Snyder and, while not a traditional GM candidate, his promotion would be well received within that franchise and would help rebuild the ebbing morale there.
The Redskins could do far worse than promote personnel men Doug Williams or Alex Santos to the job, either. But at a time when the league is moving in some mysterious ways, and given the backgrounds of some of the outside candidates the Redskins are interested in, Schaffer is not all that different in terms of his skill-set than some of them. He can already navigate the many minefields in that building and he understands the challenges of the personalities involved and could bring more strategic thinking to the fore.
Front office changes in Buffalo and San Francisco?
There will be at least a modicum of front office movement after the draft, above and beyond anything the Redskins do.
The Bills and 49ers are both interested in bolstering their front offices following a regime change. It remains to be seen how many execs can be brought in, and leagues sources indicated the Colts may have to essentially stick with much of their scouting core for another year with that personnel still being under contract.
But league sources indicated that new Colts GM Chris Ballard is very bullish on bringing in Seattle executive Ed Dodds. The Seahawks senior personnel consultant is an uber-scout who would be in line for a promotion with the Colts and industry sources would be surprised if that doesn’t go down.
Ballard is also very high on Rex Hogan, the Jets’ director of college scouting, but he has time on his contract remaining and might not be as available. Ballard would be wise to reunite with several of the personnel men he was with back in his early days with the Chicago Bears, and one of them, Morocco Brown, could also be under consideration with the 49ers.
Brown had a strong relationship with Kyle and Mike Shanahan when he was with them in Washington and it wouldn’t be shocking it he ended up back with Kyle in San Francisco.
And I continue to hear that new Bills coach Sean McDermott has growing cache with ownership and that team could be bringing in vice presidents and/or personnel figures with ties to the coach in the near future.
Panthers director of player personnel is someone particularly well thought of who could end up in Buffalo after the draft in one capacity or another. There are already rumblings that the marriage of McDermott and Bills Gm Doug Whaley likely isn’t built to last.