The Washington Redskins know all too well how the Beltway works, surviving as much as thriving amid constant change. There was more of it in the team’s unstable front office on Tuesday, although we’re sadly left to ask what actually is different?
It might be notable that Doug Williams has been named the Redskins’ new senior vice president of player personnel. It represents another former player — a Super Bowl MVP for the franchise, no less — rising in the ranks of a prominent team’s front office, and it certainly is a promotion for Williams, who in essence replaces fired general manager Scot McCloughan.
But therein lies the issue.
This is still the Daniel Snyder and Bruce Allen show, no matter how anyone at Redskins Park spins it. As long as Snyder owns the team, as he has since 1999, it will be business as usual. As long as Allen lords over whomever the de facto GM might be, we know he will be the one ultimately pulling the strings.
Oh, and about that …
Bruce Allen: "This was Doug's plan," to proceed without titular GM.
— Nora Princiotti (@NoraPrinciotti) June 13, 2017
Titular. Good word. And fitting.
I read this as Williams being a smart man. Sure, he would love to be one of only a handful of African-American general managers in the league. It’s an honor, and the league certainly would have liked to see it as well. That’s positive publicity for the NFL. But Williams knows that, whether he deserves this role or not, there will always be the umbrella over his head deciding when he can stay dry or not.
At Tuesday’s news conference Allen would not say who has control over the 53-man roster, calling it a “Redskins decision.” That’s cute. But really, that power never was going to be handed off to anyone who might replace McCloughan, who was fired in May, anytime soon. McCloughan was fired amid his own personal troubles away from the field in what only can be described as Redskins drama, when he wasn’t with the team at the NFL scouting combine. But below those personal demons where the underlying truth that Allen and McCloughan were at odds, and Allen always has tried to wrest the power or the praise when things were going well and shift the responsibility and blame when times were tough.
We don’t know if Williams, a smart football mind with two stints as a college head coach at Grambling and extensive personnel experience, would be a great GM or not, but we’re never going to find out as long as the current structure remains static. It’s overstating to say that anyone below Allen must be a straight yes man, but it’s also naive to think that he won’t have his hand on every major decision going forward, such as the thorny contract status of quarterback Kirk Cousins, which looms over everything currently.
Allen also made sure to mention that Eric Schaffer, a valuable member of the front office who has handled both legal and financial decisions for the team well for more than a decade, would have a very football-y title now amid the restructuring: vice president of football operations. Other promotions included Kyle Smith being elevated to director of college scouting and Scott Campbell receiving a senior executive title.
So having a nominal general manager was never that important anyway. The rumors on Monday were that Schaffer would earn that placard, but it turned out to be Williams. This should not be viewed as a knock on Schaffer, nor should it be viewed as a massive leap for Williams, who served under Allen previously in Tampa Bay as well.
It should be seen for what it is. Business as usual.
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