McCloughan still seen by peers as top eval­u­a­tor

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - BY LIZ CLARKE AND MAS­TER TESFATSION liz.clarke@wash­post.com mas­ter.tesfatsion@wash­post.com

As the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins moved for­ward with free agent sign­ings and the search for a new gen­eral man­ager, there are mixed sig­nals about how the fir­ing of Scot McCloughan is af­fect­ing per­cep­tions of the team among prospec­tive signees and po­ten­tial hires.

In fir­ing McCloughan two years into his four-year con­tract as gen­eral man­ager, the Red­skins lost a tal­ent eval­u­a­tor of rare abil­ity, in the view of for­mer NFL ex­ec­u­tive Joe Ban­ner, who held front-of­fice posts in Philadel­phia and Cleve­land be­fore join­ing ESPN as an NFL an­a­lyst.

“I think Scot is in the small group of the best tal­ent eval­u­a­tors in the en­tire league,” Ban­ner said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “Hav­ing a dif­fer­ence-mak­ing eval­u­a­tor is a very, very valu­able thing, and that’s ev­i­denced by over the last two years.

“No mat­ter how we [de­cide] whose fault it is, if we cut through that, it’s un­de­ni­able that they lost an out­stand­ing tal­ent eval­u­a­tor. And that’s an ex­tremely hard thing to find.”

Ban­ner wasn’t alone in point­ing out McCloughan’s ex­per­tise in the wake of the Red­skins’ an­nounce­ment Thurs­day that he had been re­leased from his con­tract.

An­drew Brandt, who worked with McCloughan when Brandt han­dled con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions as vice pres­i­dent of the Green Bay Pack­ers, tweeted: “Have known Scot McCloughan since Pack­ers in 1999. Loved eval­u­at­ing tal­ent, and very good at it. Hope he con­tin­ues to do so.”

What McCloughan brought to the Red­skins was a vi­sion of sus­tained suc­cess and a mul­ti­year plan for achiev­ing it. He rev­eled in the fine de­tails of eval­u­at­ing play­ers — not just their phys­i­cal qual­i­ties but also their in­ner drive.

He also brought a col­le­gial ap­proach to an or­ga­ni­za­tion pre­vi­ously de­fined by a top-down cul­ture. In both pub­lic and pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion, McCloughan did not seek credit for de­ci­sions that panned out — such as re­plac­ing quar­ter­back Robert Grif­fin III with Kirk Cousins or ac­quir­ing promis­ing wide re­ceiver Jami­son Crow­der in the fourth round of the 2015 draft — cast­ing each suc­cess­ful move as a “Red­skins” de­ci­sion, reached in con­cert with owner Daniel Sny­der, Pres­i­dent Bruce Allen and Coach Jay Gru­den.

As for any dam­age to the Red­skins’ rep­u­ta­tion in the eyes of po­ten­tial signees or job can­di­dates, for­mer NFL ex­ec­u­tive Charley Casserly, who held the top per­son­nel jobs with the Red­skins and Hous­ton Tex­ans, said he be­lieved it would have no ef­fect.

“Money talks,” said Casserly, now an NFL Net­work an­a­lyst. “They lost play­ers [to free agency] be­cause they got more money.”

A few NFL agents, how­ever, ac­knowl­edged pri­vately that they had tried to steer their clients away from the Red­skins be­cause of the team’s in­sta­bil­ity.

None­the­less, ac­qui­si­tions pro­ceeded apace in the first 48 hours of the NFL’s free agency sign­ing win­dow. With Allen and chief con­tract ne­go­tia­tor Eric Schaf­fer han­dling the de­tails, the Red­skins added wide re­ceiver Ter­relle Pryor on Fri­day.

On Thurs­day the team signed safety D.J. Swearinger and de­fen­sive line­men Ter­rell McClain and Stacy McGee, and the Red­skins’ web­site fol­lowed quickly with videos of them ex­plain­ing why they were ex­cited to be Red­skins.

It re­mains un­clear whether is­sues re­lated to al­co­hol were the pri­mary fac­tor in McCloughan’s fir­ing, a con­tribut­ing fac­tor or largely a pre­text to shift blame for a failed re­la­tion­ship that had shown early prom­ise. Surely at play was the grow­ing rift with Allen, who dis­agreed with some of McCloughan’s ros­ter moves and clashed over more picayune is­sues be­fore bar­ring his gen­eral man­ager from speak­ing to me­dia.

Nei­ther McCloughan nor his agent has re­sponded to re­peated re­quests for com­ment. It’s pos­si­ble that le­gal ac­tion over the terms of his ouster will fol­low. McCloughan had com­pleted two years and two months of his four-year con­tract when dis­missed on Thurs­day. He had not been work­ing at Red­skins Park for roughly one month prior.

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