After three months of deliberations over the direction of their front office following the nasty divorce from general manager Scot McCloughan, the Washington Redskins turned to one of their most beloved former players, Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, to oversee their talent evaluation department.
Williams, who had worked the last four seasons as a senior executive with the Redskins, helping with talent evaluation while working under team President Bruce Allen and McCloughan the past two years, now assumes the leadership role of Washington’s front office, elevated to senior vice president of player personnel.
“Standing here today, I’m a real humble individual and I’m going to say something my college coach used to always say to me,” Williams said shortly after his introduction. “He ‘had to be the luckiest man in the world,’ and that’s how I feel this morning to be in this position, proudly. I’m humbled this morning. But it’s my job to lead the personnel department, and we’re going to do that with all the continuity that we have back here. So, I want to say thank you to Bruce again, thanks to Mr. [Daniel] Snyder for giving me this opportunity, and thanks to all of the fans in Washington, D.C.”
Williams’s first act was to expand Washington’s scouting department and strengthen the front office, and the Redskins wasted no time during that. Also on Tuesday, they announced they have elevated Eric Schaffer to vice president of football operations while also expanding his duties, while promoting area scout Kyle Smith to director of college scouting, area scout Tim Gribble to a national scouting position and pro scout Richard Mann to assistant director of pro personnel under director Alex Santos. Former director of college scouting Scott Campbell now holds the title of senior executive, but will continue to scout NFL draft prospects.
Allen said that he interviewed “over a dozen” candidates for the general manager opening. However, it was long expected that the Redskins would wind up promoting from within. Allen and Coach Jay Gruden both said they liked how the free agency and draft planning and execution proceeded in McCloughan’s absence.
Allen said he interviewed a number of internal candidates. But it was Williams’s plan – which entailed his promotion to director of the front office and the expansion of roles for some of his coworkers and promotions for others, along with the impending additions to the scouting department – that impressed Allen the most.
“This was Doug’s plan,” Allen said when asked why no one was awarded the official title of general manager. “People interviewed with different titles and all of that, but this was Doug’s plan of wanting to develop and lead the personnel department.”
Allen further explained, “[Williams’s] job is daily communication and leadership of the personnel department. It’s daily communication and leadership of our coaches and players. And Doug, being a high school [and college] coach, a high school athletic director, obviously an outstanding player, fits the role perfectly for where we want to be as Washington Redskins.”
Meanwhile, Gruden praised the move, as did the longest-tenured members of the team, defensive back DeAngelo Hall.
“He’s worked very hard,” Gruden said. “He’s never used his name and what he’s accomplished here as a crutch to get him to where he is right now. He just worked very hard and earned the role that he received today, so we’re very happy for him.”
Said Hall, “He’s a guy who’s done it. He’s won Super Bowls. He’s been in the trenches, and as a player, to know you have a guy in the front office who’s been in your shoes, it just makes you feel better and gives you the sense that we’re going in the right direction. We all want to win a championship, and for him having been a part of it, it helps us feel like he understands what it takes to get back to that.”
In his previous position, Williams held a variety of responsibilities as he helped evaluate college quarterbacks and defensive backs, and also scouted potential pro free agents on both offense and defense.
But Allen, along with Campbell and Santos and Schaffer assumed additional responsibilities beginning at the NFL Scouting Combine, and in those expanded roles, they impressed Allen, and inspired Williams to present his plan for a new direction of the front office.
Schaffer has long served as contract negotiator and general counsel. However, now he will study roster composition, assist in talent evaluation, and compile detailed talent reports for coaches while still serving as point man for negotiations.
Kyle Smith, the son of former San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, who also served as an adviser for the Redskins in 2013-15, previously had served as scout for the southeast region, which included schools such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn. Now, in addition to directing Washington’s other college scouts, he will attend the games of the top draft prospects, as will Gribble and Campbell, which will give the Redskins more in-depth reports and cross-checking.
“It’s something we didn’t do,” Williams said. “We usually relied on maybe two guys: the guy that’s in the area and the director maybe did it. But now, we have a chance to have three to four eyes on the top players in this league and college, which gives us a greater understanding of a player. When we’re talking about a player, we don’t just have one guy trying to sell a player. Now we’ve got three or four guys and try to put it all together. … With four sets of eyes on it, it makes it more interesting in picking players for this team.”
Williams plans to add three more scouts and hire scouting interns. But this plan will enable the Redskins to better utilize what he views as the bright minds already on staff.
“One thing that’s important for a football team and staff is continuity, and I think the plan I have, I didn’t say ‘I want to go out and bring Johnny in or John in.’ I think the quality guys are already here. It’s just a matter of moving them around and shaping the positions.”
Allen, Williams and Schaffer all talked about the importance of working hand-in-hand with the coaching staff to ensure they select the players that fit the coaches’ visions. But Williams said he knows what characteristics he prioritizes in players.
“Number one, character matters, and athletic ability matters a great deal,” he said. “But I think at the end of the day, I don’t think you can pick the size, because when you think about it, we got a little guy on our football team by the name of Jamison Crowder. Probably the toughest football player in the league. So, you can’t say we don’t want little guys. But what we really want is good football players. I think at the end of the day, we’re going to see, ‘Could he play football? And ‘Does he help us win the Super Bowl?’ ”