Fran­cois knows NFL just a busi­ness

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

Of course the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins would still use Scot McCloughan’s player eval­u­a­tions as part of their draft strat­egy. Why wouldn’t they? He is very good at eval­u­at­ing play­ers — like when he drafted Ricky Jean Fran­cois in the sev­enth round of the 2009 draft for the San Fran­cisco 49ers, and then, two years ago, shortly af­ter tak­ing the job as the Red­skins gen­eral man­ager, signed him as a free agent for Wash­ing­ton.

So, like many in the foot­ball busi­ness — and like a lot of Red­skins fans — Fran­cois was stunned when Wash­ing­ton, for rea­sons that had noth­ing to do with his abil­ity to judge ta­lent, fired McCloughan.

“I was shocked,” Fran­cois said in an in­ter­view on my pod­cast “Cigars & Curve­balls,” avail­able on iTunes, Google Play, the re­Volver pod­cast net­work and The Wash­ing­ton Times web site.

“For a guy who so many dif­fer­ent fran­chises has spoke so highly of — the Red­skins re­leased him, I was shocked ... every­body spoke highly of him. No­body said any­thing neg­a­tive about him.”

Well, no­body ex­cept the Red­skins.

A few days af­ter McCloughan was fired, so was Fran­cois — re­leased by the Red­skins. With the de­par­ture of free agent Chris Baker to Tampa Bay, Wash­ing­ton lost its top two de­fen­sive line­men this win­ter.

His re­lease also came af­ter Fran­cois had pub­licly ques­tioned some Red­skins Park busi­ness in an in­ter­view on SB Nation Ra­dio.

“It seems like we’re get­ting back to the norm ... dys­func­tional, we’re get­ting back to the

drama,” Jean-Fran­cois said.

“It just feels like ... we’ve never had that pe­riod where we were just com­fort­able with ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­thing was just run­ning smooth,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing is changed and it’s like, why? We let go of DeSean Jack­son, one of the most ex­plo­sive re­ceivers in the NFL. We let go of Pierre Gar on — only had one drop last year. You let Chris Baker go, Chris Baker was one great pass rusher for us.

“At the end of the day, it’s busi­ness,” Fran­cois said. “But it’s not the busi­ness that you want to see each and ev­ery other day at work when ev­ery­thing is go­ing hec­tic and you just don’t know what’s go­ing on, who’s mak­ing calls. Who’s what.

“It’s like as soon as you open the front of the news­pa­per you just see drama.”

A few days later, Ricky Jean Fran­cois was no longer a Wash­ing­ton Red­skin.

To his credit, in his first in­ter­view with Wash­ing­ton me­dia since he was re­leased, Fran­cois re­fused to di­rectly at­tribute his re­lease to his pub­lic crit­i­cism of the team.

“I don’t know,” he said, when asked if he thought he was let go be­cause of his pub­lic crit­i­cism. “At the end of the day, I don’t take stuff per­son­ally. It’s foot­ball. It’s a busi­ness. Don’t let your feel­ings get into it or try to fig­ure out what hap­pened.

“When they re­leased me, it was my time to go,” Fran­cois said. “It was my time to take that next step. When I got the phone call from dif­fer­ent teams, I didn’t feel bad, be­cause I was get­ting phone calls from Su­per Bowl con­tenders each and ev­ery year. I wasn’t mad. It was just my time to move on. I wasn’t shocked.”

Per­haps his next stop eased the shock — sign­ing a one-year, $3 mil­lion deal with one of the NFL gold stan­dard fran­chises, the Green Bay Pack­ers — a fran­chise that ap­pears to op­er­ate 180 de­grees op­po­site of the Red­skins.

“The Seat­tle Sea­hawks, I took a visit there,” the 30-year-old Fran­cois said. “I took a visit to Chicago too. There were other teams in­ter­ested, but it came down to Seat­tle and Green Bay. I talked about it with my wife and we de­cided to take a shot at Green Bay. They are not big go­ing af­ter free agents, and them al­low­ing me to be part of the fran­chise and take an­other shot at the Su­per Bowl, I am blessed to have the op­por­tu­nity to suit up in that Green Bay Pack­ers uni­form.

“I am ex­cited to be part of the Green Bay Pack­ers his­tory, from Vince Lom­bardi to Bart Starr to Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers to just so many guys, Reg­gie White,” Fran­cois said. “When I got a chance to visit there, the his­tory just took me in. I never knew the com­mu­nity owned the team. They have al­ways been held to a high stan­dard. It’s a bless­ing to be part of a fran­chise with such a rich his­tory.”

Iron­i­cally, it was the Green Bay Pack­ers where Scot McCloughan got his start as a scout.

“If he wants to come back to the Green Bay Pack­ers, I am ready for him to take that step,” Fran­cois said. “He’s a great GM.”

Af­ter fac­ing Aaron Rodgers a num­ber of times over his ca­reer — in­clud­ing with the Red­skins in the play­offs two years ago. But he thinks that the Red­skins have that sort of elite quar­ter­back — Kirk Cousins.

One of Fran­cois’ crit­i­cisms in his ra­dio in­ter­view was the team’s fail­ure to sign Cousins to a long-term con­tract. He hasn’t backed off that crit­i­cism.

“He (Cousins) broke nearly ev­ery Red­skins record,” Fran­cois said. “He put us in po­si­tions to win. He helped those guys be great. A quar­ter­back can help re­ceivers get from good to great and be their best, and I think Kirk Cousins did that.

“He hasn’t even hit his ceil­ing yet,” Fran­cois said. “He’s not that Pey­ton Man­ning or that Tom Brady yet, but when he gets to that point, he’s go­ing to be one of the scari­est quar­ter­backs in the NFL. Look at his num­bers. Tell me what he has not done yet. To do it in back-to-back sea­sons, that’s enough said. I re­spect him so much, he worked on the field, first man in, last man out, he was go­ing to show you he was one of the best quar­ter­backs in the league.”

If Cousins does get to that point — a Man­ning or a Brady — he, like Fran­cois, may wind up do­ing it some­place else. The NFL, like Fran­cois said, is a busi­ness. But some are bet­ter at that busi­ness than oth­ers.

● Thom Loverro hosts his weekly pod­cast “Cigars & Curve­balls” Wed­nes­days avail­able on iTunes, Google Play and the re­Volver pod­cast net­work.

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