Wil­liams has al­ways been a leader

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

Doug Wil­liams worked to­ward be­com­ing an NFL gen­eral man­ager for two decades. He’d prob­a­bly be one to­day if a dif­fer­ent fran­chise is­sued his pay­checks.

But the job mat­ters more than the ti­tle.

That’s why he pro­posed be­com­ing Wash­ing­ton’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel. Know­ing what he knows about the or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der pres­i­dent Bruce

Allen, Wil­liams fig­ured this was the best route to his dream po­si­tion.

The NFL of­fers only 32 op­por­tu­ni­ties to run a front of­fice, ei­ther in­di­vid­u­ally or in a power-shar­ing ar­range­ment. Wash­ing­ton surely ranks near the bot­tom of de­sir­able des­ti­na­tions but it has all the ba­sics: A ros­ter to fill with draft picks and free agents; scouts to un­earth raw tal­ent and hid­den gems; and count­less hours of game film — col­lege and pro — to de­vour.

Ev­ery­one else can harp on Allen’s abil­ity to over­rule

when­ever and how­ever he sees fit, but not Wil­liams. He says every­body an­swers to some­body. Oth­er­wise, he’s in charge, as­sum­ing a pos­ture he longed to en­joy again.

“From the time I’ve been an ath­lete, I’ve been in a lead­er­ship role, ba­si­cally,” Wil­liams told re­porters Tues­day. “If you’ve got a good group of peo­ple you’re work­ing with, it makes lead­er­ship a lot eas­ier. I love be­ing in this po­si­tion and I’m look­ing for­ward to work­ing with the guys that we have down the hall.”

Wil­liams em­bod­ies a fa­mous quote from Ralph Waldo Emer­son: “There is no limit to what can be ac­com­plished if it doesn’t mat­ter who gets the credit.”

If the praise heaped upon for­mer GM Scot McCloughan both­ered Allen, Wil­liams is guar­an­teed to de­flect and re­di­rect any ac­co­lades.

In that sense, he’s still the Su­per Bowl MVP, the Skins’ quar­ter­back en­cour­ag­ing his line­men to block, his re­ceivers to get open and his backs to hit the holes. He’s still the Gram­bling leg­end who was an All-Amer­i­can un­der leg­endary coach Ed­die Robinson in the 1970s. He’s still the coach who led his alma mater to three con­sec­u­tive South­west­ern Ath­letic Con­fer­ence ti­tles in the early 2000s.

He saw McCloughan’s fir­ing, though un­for­tu­nate, as an op­por­tu­nity to keep the front-of­fice team to­gether. “In Scot We Trust” was catchy. But Wil­liams knows the GM alone didn’t pro­duce Wash­ing­ton’s first back-to-back win­ning sea­sons in a quar­ter-cen­tury. The per­son­nel depart­ment was in place when McCloughan ar­rived. It re­mained in­tact when he was ousted at the worst pos­si­ble time — the runup to the com­bine and NFL draft — and grew more co­he­sive.

That helped Wil­liams re­al­ize he didn’t need to be the GM, just the front-of­fice QB.

“When we did the draft board this year, we met for two-and-a-half weeks, and we had a good dis­cus­sion and put it to­gether as a team,” Wil­liams told Sports Il­lus­trated. “We did it with­out a GM. So I thought, ‘Do we re­ally need a GM?’ A GM over­sees ev­ery­thing. But I looked at our team — I don’t want to be in charge of the coaches. That’s [coach] Jay Gru­den’s job.”

Wash­ing­ton isn’t the only or­ga­ni­za­tion with­out a gen­eral man­ager on its staff di­rec­tory. The Cincin­nati Ben­gals have pro­duced win­ning cam­paigns in 10 of 15 sea­sons since de facto GM Duke Tobin was named di­rec­tor of pro per­son­nel. Other fran­chises have gen­eral man­agers who take a back­seat on the org chart, like in Mi­ami, where Chris Grier has the ti­tle be­hind ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of foot­ball oper­a­tions Mike Tan­nen­baum.

Wil­liams couldn’t care less about be­ing the face of the front of­fice. Be­ing the head of the per­son­nel depart­ment was his goal and he made that clear to Allen.

“I was proud of when Doug pre­sented his plan be­cause his vi­sion was a team,” Allen said Tues­day. “He was a quar­ter­back again lead­ing a team. … The way he talked when we had dis­cus­sions about his team­mates and what they bring to the ta­ble and the ne­ces­sity of hav­ing good peo­ple re­ally, re­ally shined.”

When it comes to good peo­ple, the Skins couldn’t do bet­ter than Wil­liams. Now he’s re­united with Gru­den in a re­la­tion­ship they es­tab­lished briefly in 2011.

Wil­liams was gen­eral man­ager and Gru­den was coach of the Vir­ginia De­stroy­ers, an ex­pan­sion fran­chise in the short-lived United Foot­ball League. Both men left be­fore the team played a game. Gru­den be­came the Ben­gals’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor; Wil­liams re­turned to Gram­bling for an op­por­tu­nity to coach his son. (Iron­i­cally, Marty Schot­ten­heimer was hired as coach and gen­eral man­ager and won the 2011 cham­pi­onship be­fore the folded in 2012.)

Wil­liams is look­ing for a much longer union with Gru­den this time.

“To­gether, we’re go­ing to have a good mar­riage be­tween Jay and my­self and the per­son­nel depart­ment and that’s what it’s all about,” he said Tues­day. “Our job is not to coach ‘em, our job is to pick ‘em. … We will do the best job to give Jay and his coach­ing staff the play­ers he needs to take all of us back to the Su­per Bowl.” Wil­liams has his dream job.

The ti­tle is ir­rel­e­vant.


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