The Washington Redskins are in turmoil. Again.
It happens all the time and it has been the norm for most of Dan Snyder’s regime as owner. They can keep it together and try to adhere to the slow, steady build for a little while. Eventually, though, the powers that be get a little bored and get a little caught up in their feelings about being marginalized and not getting the accolades for whatever modicum of success is being attained, and then they begin to nose around and peddle in chaos and the turnover eventually begins anew.
This was a nice two-year run of relative continuity. Now with general manager Scot McCloughan banished from the scouting combine and out of the building for the start of free agency, it’s fair to say Snyder is back on script. Dysfunction abounds, the team’s employees are unsure of who really is in charge or what the future holds. At this point I fully expect the Redskins to be moving on from McCloughan shortly after the draft.
When former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, who remains an employee at the radio station Snyder owns (and which broadcasts Redskins games) goes on the public airwaves to opine about whether McCloughan’s alcohol issues have resurfaced, it’s fair to say the circus is back in town. And when that’s followed by McCloughan being at his home in Virginia during the combine, watching the event on television and scouting free agents and draft picks from his house, while team president Bruce Allen is back in the front and center, all-powerful-decision-making role he loves so much, well, times they are a changin’.
Except, well, for this franchise it’s simply more back to the future.
According to numerous league sources, and several who have been in contact with Allen and/or the owner, the team’s brass has been entertaining new options for general manager for quite some time. They have had internal discussions about the next GM, and essentially have begun the process. The name of former Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik, who worked previously with Allen, has surfaced, though I’m not sure they go in that direction. (I can’t help but wonder if executive Alex Santos, well thought of and who has risen from the lowest ranks in the organization, would make sense as well, as this team has never promoted from within at the GM spot and it would love to sell that idea now, not to mention that a veteran GM might not be as malleable to Snyder’s ways).
Regardless, they are making contingencies and when the team is charting the course for the 2017 season in real time, and McCloughan isn’t there and the staff he has assembled is unsure if or when he will return, that’s not exactly morale generating. But knowing the history of this organization, the denizens of Redskins Park are bracing for a new regime.
As for the assertions about alcohol and the like, the team has said nothing on the matter -- except for Cooley’s remarks -- and for obvious reasons, it is doubtful they do. But the silence becomes more deafening by the day, and if a team employee needs support, there are far more holistic ways to go about showing it. If they are willing to keep McCloughan away during these most crucial weeks of the offseason, whether he is tending to family issues (as has been the company line) or not, then there are more sensitive and less awkward means to go about the messaging.
I’ve been told by several sources the general manager is not in rehab and has not been in rehab during this time. McCloughan is trying to do his job as much as anyone can under these circumstances. He’s staying focused on his work and his passion -- which is evaluating talent at the highest level. If there are problems going on with him fans are not privy to, and if the Redskins are trying to do things to help their GM and protect their own best interest, then you can release a statement and do it in an honest and straightforward manner.
But to let Cooley’s comments linger without addressing them is more The Redskins Way. (This isn’t about Cooley, a guy I truly enjoyed covering as a player and who I think highly of, by the way; it’s about the culture at Redskins Park that continues to foster these bizarre circumstances).
To many in Ashburn, it smells a lot like the final months of the Jim Zorn regime, when management hired a new play-caller and offensive coordinator in-season and thrust him upon the head coach. In 2009, every attempt was made to marginalize and belittle the head coach, basically daring him to quit (hoping not to have to pay him the remainder of his salary), essentially running a coup from within. All the while the owner was flirting with Mike Shanahan and making advances toward hiring him, which ended up happening.
Here we go again.
The impromptu two-year extension given to coach Jay Gruden at the combine, amid the intrigue and whispering about McCloughan and his future, was a classic misdirection and it allows Allen to blather on about continuity and cohesion whenever he gets in front of the mics again. (If you need a laugh, Google some of his final press conferences before McCloughan assumed personnel duties; he was Sean Spicer before Sean Spicer. Will Ferrell should have played him in a “Saturday Night Live” skit).
Giving Gruden an extension at some point this offseason, sure, I get it; doing it on the fly amid this tempest with the entire football world congested into downtown Indianapolis is too cute by half. Finally, a head coach gets a contract extension from Snyder. Progress! Hooray! Never mind the backdrop around which it was negotiated.
But it won’t erase the questions about the general manager until the point he is eventually gone, and it won’t convince anyone that sweeping changes won’t come in 2018 if this team takes a slide.
It continues to perpetuate the prevailing thought of so many of the coaches and execs who have come and gone through Redskins Park the past two decades: If you gave Snyder the choice between staying completely out of the way and letting his football people run the entire operation with the payoff being a team that can contend for the playoffs with some frequency, or running it his way, being intimately involved and maybe stumbling into the postseason every five years, he’d take door No. 2 nine times out of 10.
Soon enough, we just might find out all over again.