Front of­fice ad­dress­ing scout­ing

Ex­pand­ing one of league’s small­est de­part­ments

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRIN­CIOTTI

One of the most im­por­tant changes to the Red­skins per­son­nel de­part­ment wasn’t rep­re­sented at the podium when the team an­nounced the slew of pro­mo­tions last week. In fact, it wasn’t rep­re­sented in the build­ing — yet.

The Red­skins are in the process of hir­ing sev­eral new scouts. That process was said to be near­ing its fin­ish when Doug Wil­liams was named se­nior vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel last Tues­day. Whether you think the changes at the top were good, bad or nom­i­nal, Wash­ing­ton felt it needed more man­power in scout­ing, and is ad­dress­ing that need.

“You just get more in­for­ma­tion [with more scouts],” said Kyle Smith, new­lyminted di­rec­tor of col­lege scout­ing and a for­mer area scout who, with Wil­liams and as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of pro scout­ing Tim Grib­ble, is mak­ing the hires. “It just helps with the process and it’s some­thing that with Doug [Wil­liams] and [Red­skins Pres­i­dent] Bruce [Allen], their vi­sion to ex­pand the de­part­ment, it’s some­thing we needed here. We needed to frickin’ re­vamp. That’s what we’re do­ing and it’s ex­cit­ing.”

A look through the scout­ing per­son­nel listed in 2016 me­dia guides re­vealed that the Red­skins tied with the Ti­tans for the fifth-fewest em­ploy­ees in­volved in scout­ing among the league’s 32 teams. On av­er­age, teams had 17.72 em­ploy­ees with key in­volve­ment in scout­ing and per­son­nel eval­u­a­tion, from gen­eral man­agers down to in­terns. The Red­skins had 15 — in­clud­ing ousted gen­eral man­ager Scot McCloughan.

Be­low the di­rec­tor level, the col­lege and area scouts who do the bulk of the work com­pil­ing re­ports over the course

of the year, the av­er­age NFL team em­ployed 10.68 last year. The Red­skins had nine.

That rel­a­tively small group of peo­ple shoul­dered the work lead­ing up to the draft, when they also had to com­pen­sate for the loss of McCloughan. All of the Red­skins area scouts and se­nior per­son­nel ex­ec­u­tive Scott Camp­bell, who was di­rec­tor of col­lege scout­ing at the time, came back a week early af­ter free agency to play catchup on draft eval­u­a­tions.

“We needed to re­assess every player that we were go­ing to con­sider on our draft board,” Allen said. “We had our area scouts, we had them have to do ex­tra work. We had to do cross-checks. We were short on a num­ber of re­ports for this draft and they did a great job of work­ing ex­tra time to eval­u­ate.”

There is in­ex­act science at work in as­sign­ing an ex­act num­ber of em­ploy­ees to each per­son­nel de­part­ment. Each team divvies up re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­tween front of­fices, scout­ing de­part­ments and foot­ball oper­a­tions or ad­min­is­tra­tion de­part­ments dif­fer­ently. Some staffers whose listed job de­scrip­tions may not in­volve scout­ing still get in­volved in the process.

For ex­am­ple, coach Jay Gru­den is not a mem­ber of the Red­skins per­son­nel de­part­ment or front of­fice even though he does play an im­por­tant role as an eval­u­a­tor. At the com­bine this year, Gru­den led the team’s player in­ter­views.

Quan­tity in scout­ing does not equal qual­ity, ei­ther. Three of the four teams with the small­est scout­ing staffs in the league – the Sea­hawks, Tex­ans, Ben­gals and Steel­ers – won their di­vi­sions in 2016. The team with the largest scout­ing de­part­ment? The Browns, with 28 peo­ple in­volved in eval­u­a­tions.

There is a limit to how stream­lined a scout­ing de­part­ment can be, though, when the goal is to get mul­ti­ple sets of eyes on a coun­try full of play­ers.

“To ask one guy to do a whole west re­gion, it’s hard,” Gru­den said. “You have got to have cross-checks. You have to be able to get the back­ground in­for­ma­tion, as much in­for­ma­tion as you can, on the in­di­vid­ual. Then you have got to get the player – how they do as a player – and get their opin­ions on them and talk to the coaches.

“There is a lot that goes into writ­ing up a player and the more opin­ions you have on them, ex­pert opin­ions, the bet­ter it will be. You’re never go­ing to be 100 per­cent to­gether on each and every player, but the more opin­ions you have, the bet­ter you will be -- es­pe­cially qual­ity opin­ions.”

When a team makes scout­ing hires in the sum­mer, one con­cern is usu­ally that all the best can­di­dates have been scooped up. Smith said that the qual­ity opin­ions Gru­den wants are still out there, even though the Red­skins are “a lit­tle bit be­hind.”

“There’s some re­ally good scouts with ex­pe­ri­ence that are still avail­able, which is great,” Smith said.

Par­tic­u­larly in col­lege scout­ing, get­ting peo­ple in place in lower-level po­si­tions will free Smith, Grib­ble and Camp­bell to fo­cus their at­ten­tion on top prospects. Smith, who was based in At­lanta as an area scout cov­er­ing the south­east, is mov­ing to the D.C. area and will fo­cus his at­ten­tion na­tion­ally, along with Grib­ble and Camp­bell.

Smith’s goal for next Fe­bru­ary, when the Red­skins do a first full as­sess­ment of their draft board, is to have three or four grades on all top play­ers. He be­lieves more cross-checks will not just give a bet­ter pic­ture of tal­ent, but of char­ac­ter as well.

“Be­tween the three of us,” Smith said. “This is some­thing we haven’t had here in a long, long time.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ process of hir­ing scouts was said to be nearly com­plete when Doug Wil­liams was named se­nior vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel last week.

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