Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has preached the importance of character since his arrival in Washington.
But character is rarely a black and white issue, as the scouting department is charged with knowing the full story of a draft pick.
“It all depends on how big a risk. If it’s a big risk, we’re not going there. We’re not going there,” Shanahan said during his pre-draft press conference. “We’ve worked too hard to build this football team to take big risks.”
The Redskins have weathered character issues during Mike Shanahan’s tenure, with multiple players battling suspensions and remaining in the organization.
“Will you take a risk? It all depends on how much research you do and you decide if it’s worth the risk,” Shanahan explained. “Sometimes we’ll look at a guy and someone will think it is a big risk but we’ve done our homework. If it was that big a risk, he wouldn’t be on our football team.
“There’s always mistakes made, but that’s something that we put a lot of time in.”
Most teams in the NFL will check with college and high school coaches to assess a player’s credentials over a long span of time. The risk in trusting these reviews is that coaches have a vested interest in the player advancing to the NFL.
Shanahan instructs the Redskins’ scouting department to dig deeper, speaking with high school equipment managers and the training staff who also may have worked with the player.
“There’s a lot of different people that you can find out about the true character of a guy and usually it’s the people that aren’t your coach or aren’t the people that are talking to the scouts,” he said. “Teachers in college. Go back to the equipment man, the trainer.
“We try to do that and if you do it enough and you’ve got scouts that work hard enough, you start eliminating mistakes and that’s what we’re hoping to do.”
In the digital age, teams must also be cognizant of a player’s activities on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook.
Despite the public nature of these accounts, talented players like Giants safety Will Hill fell completely out of the draft after referencing criminal activity on his Twitter page gave too many teams red flags.
“We have always [checked a player’s social media]. We try to get as much information as we can,” Shanahan said. “We have different other kinds of evaluations we do besides Twitter and Facebook. A lot goes into the profile of the person.
Shanahan noted that he has never made a decision solely based on social media, but the accounts may confirm other concerns the scouts have already established.
“There are rumors that get circulated, but there are a lot of times we take players off the board because of character,” he added.
One scenario in which the Redskins may be willing to take a greater risk on a player is if they fall several rounds past their projection on the Redskins’ draft board.
“You get ready for each round and sometimes a guy will fall a little bit further than you think he will,” Shanahan explained. “If you are lucky enough to get in that situation, you gobble him up.
“Sometimes you just take a guy because he is just the best available.”
In situations where that player may have minor character concerns, Shanahan said he is confident in the team’s locker room to be able to guide a player back to the straight and narrow.
“If a guy is a great player and you’ve got a feeling that this guy can overcome this problem, for whatever the problem may be, you might take a chance,” he said. “The stronger a locker room you have the more of a chance that guy has to turn, but some guys just don’t want to turn.
“You go back and [see] how much of a problem it is and if you think it’s a problem, then you stay away from it. You don’t want to bring a problem into your team if you don’t have to.”