Here’s five takeaways from Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan’s Jan. 27, 2016, press conference at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
1. By all accounts, McCloughan’s first season as the Redskins’ general manager was a success.
Not only did the Redskins capture a division title, they laid the foundation for what McCloughan hopes is a strong football team moving forward.
"The main thing, the positives were the fact that the team got better and better as the season went on,” McCloughan said. “The coaches did an excellent job, the players did an excellent job just competing, battling. You know, we had a lot of roster moves made because of IR stuff, but I was proud of the way it ended with four in a row, three on the road, two in division, and I think it’s kind of setting the culture.”
While the Redskins’ resilience allowed them to enter the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the NFC, McCloughan believes the team still needs to grow some, too, to reach a position where he wants it to be.
“We have a ways to go still and we all know that, and that’s why we use the all-star games, the Combine, free agency and the Draft,” McCloughan said. “But I think the culture is going in the right direction and I think the coaches and players, especially being the second year for a lot of these offensive guys, being in that system for a second year is more confidence. I think you saw with Kirk [Cousins], and I think you saw guys play better and better as the season went on."
Cousins was able to shed the “interception-prone” label placed on him as he showed stark improvement in his first season as a full-time NFL starter.
A pending unrestricted free agent, McCloughan said placing the franchise tag on Cousins is an option, but that the team would ideally rather get a long-term deal in place with him.
“I thought Kirk did a really nice job, you know, but it wasn’t all about him, too,” McCloughan said. “It was about the 10 guys around him on offense, but the defense playing well, special teams playing well, getting turnovers, getting in certain positions on the field where we could score. But, I saw improvement as the season went on. From the standpoint of going forward, of course you’d like to have him around. Philosophy with me and the organization is we won’t talk contract stuff with the media, but I want him to be part of the Redskins."
As for Griffin III, the Redskins can choose to either exercise his fifth-year option or release him before free agency starts on March 9th.
While the 2012 second-overall pick did not play a single snap during the 2015 season, and he was inactive in all but one game, McCloughan said the team is still in the evaluation process with Griffin III and the rest of the roster.
"Well you know what, the thing is, and I’m looking forward to getting back because we had the playoff game, of course, then you had the loss,” McCloughan said. “I had that week where I met with the staff as a whole on that Monday, we went over the game, you know, the tape and all that, and then they had that week to self-scout their own guys and I got the book right before I went to Florida last week for the East-West Shrine Game, and then of course I came here. So, I’m looking forward to getting back there after the Super Bowl and meeting with each coach individually and going over every player."
McCloughan didn’t rule out the possibility of Griffin III returning, too.
"Certainly, the thing that’s good about what we have right now is that we have until March 9th, and that’s why I want to sit down with the coaches,” McCloughan said. “Not just the coordinators, the position coach, but everybody individually and just get a feel for it. He is a good football player, he’s a really good person, and he’s under contract. That’s where we’re at right now."
3. The Redskins will not be “big players” in free agency this year.
“I think we, like I said, we just need to add legit football guys that understand it’s about the [Washington] Redskins and it’s not about themselves,” McCloughan said. “That you’re going to come in here, ‘This is what we’re going to be.’ And you’re going to be in or out – one or the other."
That’s not to say the Redskins won’t dip into free agency, but when it comes to finding players to add to the roster, McCloughan wants to do “what’s best for the organization.”
Last season, McCloughan made it a priority to bring in veterans that he either had connections with previously or that had tasted NFL success before.
“I knew all those guys I brought in, personally,” McCloughan said of last year’s free agency class. “I either drafted or I was around organizations with. Leadership is very important, and guys that have been in big games with
4. When it comes to the draft, McCloughan likes to stock up on the number of picks he has at his disposal.
Last season, McCloughan made two different draft-day trades that pumped up the Redskins 2015 draft class to 10 members.
If given the opportunity to do something similar this year, McCloughan won’t be shy in considering it.
While in Mobile, McCloughan gets a chance to see potential future Redskins for the first time in-person.
"A lot, a lot,” McCloughan said of what he can gain out of the Senior Bowl. “Because everybody says, ‘You go watch the game, don’t you?’ Well, I get the game taped, I see that. But just seeing them out here and how each day the guys respond, the competition. Because it’s not easy, and these are the best of the best. They’re beating each other up each day and to see who can come back the next day and respond, that starts showing character, that starts showing the stuff I’m looking for in toughness."
McCloughan also believes all positions are open for the Redskins’ first-round pick.
What I’m doing here is… quarterback, O-line, safety, corner, doesn’t matter. I’m looking for the best football players,” McCloughan said. “It would be nice to have everything locked in place going forward but we don’t, and no team really does completely. So it’s always about building, no matter what."
McCloughan added: “I don’t need the biggest, the fastest, the prettiest – I want a football player.”
5. McCloughan’s relationship with Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is “excellent.”
"The passion he has for the position – the head coach – and how he makes the coaches coach the players, how important it is to him to be successful and be a competitive team – I loved it,” McCloughan said. “It was a great year. It was one of the best years I’ve had with a coach. You know, it’s one of those things where it’s tough for a head coach going into his second year and coming off a four-win record, and to see how he competed and battled every day, and how he made those coaches better and those players better."
Both being born and raised in football families helped, too.
"Similar background, he comes from a football family, I come from a football family. It’s sad, but that’s all we know,” McCloughan said with a smile. “But, he’s got a great personality and like I said, I just love the fact that the passion he has to be a head coach and help us win."