Williams may be QB, but Allen still call­ing plays

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

Wes Unseld is the most iconic fig­ure in the his­tory of the Wash­ing­ton Bul­lets/ Wizards fran­chise.

He was one of the few play­ers in NBA his­tory who won both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valu­able Player honors in the same sea­son, in 1968 with the Bal­ti­more Bul­lets. He was the heart and soul of teams that went to the NBA fi­nals four times, and brought Wash­ing­ton its only NBA cham­pi­onship in 1978.

He was as revered and re­spected as any sports fig­ure in town for a gen­er­a­tion of fans.

Then he be­came a team ex­ec­u­tive, then head coach, then gen­eral man­ager, from 1981 to 2003. And all the Wizards did dur­ing that time was lose, lose, and lose, for the most part. So a gen­er­a­tion of fans here came to iden­tify Wes Unseld with that los­ing.

Mike Flana­gan was one of the most beloved pitch­ers in Bal­ti­more Ori­oles his­tory, a for­mer Cy Young win­ner who pitched the Ori­oles to two Amer­i­can League pen­nants and one World Se­ries cham­pi­onship. He was re­spected and revered, as a player and later as a broad­caster.

Then in 2002 he be­came the Ori­oles vice pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions and led the Ori­oles front of­fice un­til 2008. All the Ori­oles did dur­ing that time was lose, lose and lose. And now a gen­er­a­tion of fans in Bal­ti­more iden­tify Mike Flana­gan with that los­ing. He took his own life in 2011, re­port­edly in part be­cause of de­pres­sion over his front-of­fice fail­ures.

There is lit­tle that is sad­der in sports than a le­gend turned into a sym­bol of fail­ure, a tar­get of ridicule.

I hope there is a dif­fer­ent fu­ture for Doug Williams, Su­per Bowl XXII Most Valu­able Player and one of the 80 great­est Wash­ing­ton Red­skins. I doubt there will be.

The Red­skins an­nounced Mon­day morn­ing that Williams, 61, a fran­chise icon, was pro­moted to se­nior vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel. Williams had al­ready served in the front of­fice as a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive, a role he had been in since com­ing back to Wash­ing­ton in 2014.

He had been in­vis­i­ble, for the most part, since then.

But on Mon­day, the tar­get was placed on his back, as he was pre­sented as the guy re­spon­si­ble.

We all know that won’t be the case — the guy truly re­spon­si­ble re­mains team pres­i­dent Bruce Allen, the Prince of Dark­ness who has over­seen a ten­ure of dys­func­tion, dis­ap­point­ment and dis­grace since he was hired in De­cem­ber 2009.

But the team pre­sented Williams as the next, lat­est sav­ior — 2½ years af­ter they pre­sented the last sav­ior, gen­eral man­ager Scot McCloughan as gen­eral man­ager and three months af­ter they dis­missed that sav­ior un­der a cloud of chaos and shame.

So is Doug Williams the new gen­eral man­ager?

“We had a gen­eral man­ager,” Williams told re­porters. “It didn’t work out that well.”

I don’t think the ti­tle of gen­eral man­ager is the prob­lem, Doug. Teams with Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onships all over the NFL have gen­eral man­agers. So if it “didn’t work out that well” in Wash­ing­ton, it is be­cause it is the Red­skins, the ele­phant graveyard of the NFL, where ca­reers and rep­u­ta­tions come to die.

“A gen­eral man­ager has his hand in ev­ery­thing,” Williams said. “My job is to con­trol [the front of­fice]. And I think if we do a good job, no mat­ter what hap­pens, we all get credit for what this foot­ball team does.” Credit.

That’s the bone that re­port­edly stuck in the throat of the Prince of Dark­ness dur­ing McCloughan’s reign.

Bruce Allen had be­come a run­ning joke, called the “di­rec­tor of pants and pic­nics” by ESPN 980 talk show host Steve Cz­a­ban, for­ever ridiculed for his com­ments af­ter their 4-12 sea­sons in 2014, when he de­clared the fran­chise was “win­ning off the field.”

Mean­while, peo­ple were walk­ing around town wear­ing T-shirts that de­clared, “In Scot We Trust.”

You will never see T-shirts that say, “In Bruce We Trust.”

How­ever, Red­skins fans will now trust Doug Williams to do what no one — let me make that clear, for those who have short mem­o­ries

— no one has been able to do in 25 years. They will trust him to turn the fran­chise into a re­spectable, con­sis­tent win­ner.

“We wanted some­one with un­ques­tion­able char­ac­ter, great lead­er­ship skills, a pres­ence and a great team­mate for ev­ery­one around him,” said Allen, who had hired Williams in the front of­fice in his pre­vi­ous stint in Tampa Bay. “And that pointed to Doug.”

It will be a shame if all that is for­got­ten. It will be a shame if a gen­er­a­tion of fans re­mem­ber Doug Williams as an­other front of­fice fail­ure. ●

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