On Doug Williams and Washington’s Front Office
The team promoted the beloved former quarterback to a prominent role, but ultimate power remains elsewhere in the organization, as the Kirk Cousins situation suggests. Plus mail on Bob Stoops, Hank Jr. and more
We spent a day with first-year Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay as the youngest coach in the NFL attempts to make his mark on his team at a recent minicamp.
There was a distinct “stay in your lane” element to Washington’s front-office realignment Tuesday. In fact, the big winner in the reshuffling—Super Bowl 22 MVP Doug Williams—used those words with me late Tuesday.
Which means the real winner might be club president Bruce Allen, because it’s likely he’ll continue to have final say on personnel matters—only with stronger input from Williams. With former GM Scot McCloughan having been banished after two years, Washington went the safe route. Williams, as good a soldier as the franchise has ever employed, will lord over a reshuffled personnel staff, with Allen likely to retain the power in the organization. Still, Williams is happy for the chance.
“When I interviewed for the job,” Williams said from Virginia, after being named Washington’s senior vice president of player personnel, “I didn’t put ‘GM’ on my proposal. When we did the draft board this year, we met for two-and-a-half weeks, and we had a good discussion and put it together as a team. We did it without a GM. So I thought, ‘Do we really need a GM?’ A GM oversees everything. But I looked at our team—I don’t want to be in charge of the coaches. That’s [coach] Jay Gruden’s job.”
“This was Doug’s plan,” Allen said at the news conference announcing the appointment.
Here’s a good example of the way the franchise will work: I asked Williams his feelings about getting quarterback Kirk Cousins signed sometime in the next month. The deadline for players with the franchise tag (which Cousins has been given) to sign a long-term deal is July 15. It’s thought to be a long shot that Cousins will get done. So will Williams get involved?
“I have not been in the Kirk Cousins negotiations,” Williams said. “And I don’t know if it’s smart, a month before the deadline, for me to stick my head in there and get involved. I think [vice president of football administration] Eric Schaffer is doing a good job with that.”
Regardless of authority, this was a good day for Washington. Williams is beloved in the building, and by current and former players. He said he had more than 200 text messages of congratulations after getting the nod from Allen at a morning news conference. This is his 11th year climbing the personnel ladder in the NFL for two franchises, Tampa Bay and Washington. When Washington hired McCloughan as GM two years ago, the 61-year-old Williams said he didn’t think he’d ever get the chance to run a front office in the NFL—whatever the title.
For those below him in the Washington personnel power structure, particularly the man Williams appointed director of college scouting on Tuesday, Kyle Smith, the hire should be a sign Allen and owner Daniel Snyder will promote from within. And it should be a sign that the normally impatient Snyder likes the direction of the team and of this front office. Why rip it apart again, or name an outsider like McCloughan to come in over personnel men the franchise respects? “I think it’s a significant day for the front office, and a significant day for the players in that locker room,” Williams said. “I know—I talk to them.” Williams’ point: This was a move for stability.
Williams is close to several of his front-office peers, going back to his playing days. Williams and Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome were drafted six picks apart in 1978—Grambling quarterback Williams at 17 by Tampa Bay, Alabama tight end Newsome 23rd by Cleveland—and they’ve remained close over the years. Newsome knew Williams was interviewing for the job, and a couple of weeks ago told Williams: “You’ve been in the huddle. You know how to do this.”
True. Williams is a quarterback again. His teammates on that Super Bowl-winning Washington team used to say Williams was a great and ego-less teammate. That’s part of the reason, and maybe more than part, why he got the job lording over the front office in Washington.
Now for your email...
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BOB STOOPS’ FUTURE
I think Bob Stoops becomes the new Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Ara Parseghian. He will get offers and will be a rumored candidate for every vacancy that can offer a ton of money. I would guess if Bob misses football, he will go into the broadcast booth. He was making $5.5 million and has made $2 million every season since 2000. He has won national championships and is beloved in Oklahoma. I think anyone that has had a family history of heart problems probably applauds his decision.
—Steve E., Royal Oak, Mich.
Quite possible. I like the TV life for him. But what happens if Bill Belichick calls this year and ask him to consult? What happens if the Falcons or Chiefs call and ask him to consult? What happens if the Browns go 2-14 this year this year and decided to rip it up again and call and ask if he would interview for the head-coaching job? I don’t think he’s on Saban’s level as far as desirability, but I do think he could easily find a good job in the NFL as early as this season if he would so choose.
THE EXIT INTERVIEW
Nice “Exit Interview” article about Bob McGinn. As a Packer fan I loved reading Mr. McGinn’s breakdown of each position grouping on the Tuesday after a Sunday game. His level of detail and bluntness was a joy to read. I always wondered how many other NFL teams have a journalist doing this for their team.
Thank you. And good question, Jacob. As Bob said, “NFL teams” wouldn’t have this, because it’s all sunny and good news on NFL.com and team sites. But there are not many fan bases that get the kind of dispassionate, deep-dive services that Packer fans got from McGinn. For him, it wasn’t about bluntness. It was about the simple truth as he saw it.
NFL IN THE UK
With regard to an NFL team in London, I have always thought that a way to beat the logistics problem would be to base the team on the East Coast of the United States and just play the games in London. For example, if the team training facility was close to JFK Airport in New York, so many problems such as tax, salary, living conditions, food, roster building would be solved. Whether a team could be competitive with all the additional travel is a different thing but Transatlantic flights are as comfortable as a team meeting room I would think, and Seattle is another team who deals with the long miles. Whether this halfway house would turn off the European casual fans, I’m not sure.
Thanks for the note, Colin. It’s an interesting dilemma. I do think it would turn off the England fans. I think their attitude would be: You want to play here, but you don’t want to live here and you don’t want to practice here and you only want to step foot in our country for 10 days a year? No thanks. If the NFL wants to put a team in London, the league has to commit to football in England, with all that entails—players making visits in the community, players being on talk shows and studio shows there, players sending their kids to school there, etc. It can’t be a drive-by. It has to be a real embedded situation.
Hey Peter King! Thanks for the Rockies shoutout in MMQB. I've been a Rockies loyalist since the beginning (1993), and this season has been gratifying to see that draft and development is finally paying off with our club. Also nice to see that national media types like yourself are beginning to take notice.
—Adam M., Centennial, Colo.
When you’re good, you’re good. On another note: How can Mark Reynolds never land a long-term home? Seems like all he does is hit 20 homers, year after year.
FATHER’S DAY BOOK RECS
I enjoyed your Father's Day book column and hope to check out a couple you mentioned this year. The closing of your recommendation to read Hillbilly Elegy where you pointed out that Vance credits his success to his grandmother and peace at home is a great illustration for our country. If our society nurtured and encouraged a positive home life and strengthening family connections, so many of our socio-economic problems would be improved and eventually solved. I watched an interview with Senator Ben Sasse recently where he said we have a crisis of loneliness in our country. I couldn't agree more. Community, especially within the construct of a supportive family, is critical to success. Here's hoping and praying we can find a way to build stronger communities that start with stronger home life. Thanks for your great writing and perspective on sports and life!
Your email warms my heart. Thanks for sending it, and thanks for encouraging people to read. I’m like everyone else: I’m way too attached to my phone, and when I can put it down for a while, as I will at times on vacation in July, I will be better for it—because I am reading.
HANK WILLIAMS JR. ON MNF
There is a very simple reason why ESPN hired back Hank Williams Jr.: It wanted to court that same crowd that elected Donald Trump. The same crowd who complained about Colin Kaepernick and have folks debating whether or not ESPN has become too “liberal.” In my opinion, the NFL just told its black fans that they could care less about us. Colin Kaepernick is getting blackballed for bringing attention to the very serious issue of unarmed black men being shot for no good reason, with the most recent one being an honor student/star athlete in Texas, who was shot by a policeman with a rifle while leaving a party. And the cop lied about what happened. Notice how you haven’t heard lot in the media about that shooting. The victim’s name was Jordan Edwards. And since he doesn’t fit the usual media narrative of a thug, his story is being kept very quiet.
But ESPN brought back Hank Williams Jr. Really? But the NFL wants to treat Kaepernick like the NBA did Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Craig Hodges. John Mara talked about how he received so much mail from fans about Kaepernick, and how fans would stop coming to the games. Well, here’s one longtime NY native and Giants fan who is now on the bandwagon about not watching NFL games until Kaepernick is signed. I love football. I live and breathe it. I have coached high school football for 22 years. And I won’t watch any NFL games this fall. So go ahead NFL, invite Hank and all his rowdy boys back for Monday night. I won’t be watching.
The part about Williams coming back that bothered me is that he compared either our president (more likely) or speaker of the House several years ago to Adolf Hitler. Williams apologized for being misunderstood but not in any way for comparing Barack Obama or John Boehner to an exterminator of millions of Jews. The fact that ESPN simply waited a few years and then brought Williams back—without making him clarify his apology or issue a sincere one or say he was categorically wrong to bring Hitler into this discussion—struck me as nothing but a let’s-bring-back-the-good-old-days ratings ploy. So good for you, Yusef.
EVERYBODY’S ENTITLED TO AN OPINION
To this day, I cannot watch a MNF game without thinking of Rowdy Friends and reminiscing about the old pregame music. When I was little, my bedtime on Mondays was literally once Hank Jr. finished singing. And when I hear the song today, all I think about is watching MNF with my dad when I was growing up. So, I guess count me as one of those people you’ve never met who does think Hank Jr. adds to their MNF enjoyment.
To each his own.
The “24 Hours With” series is a great style of article. Keep doing these. This one reader really enjoys them.
We’re going to keep doing them, Tom. Thanks for reading. We’ve got some good ones in the hopper.
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