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The “Spit” Hits the Fan!

February 15, 2017
Late last week and over the weekend, we wrote two different columns essentially questioning  the motives and rationale of Bruce Allen when it came to his general manager, Scot McCloughan.

In case you missed it, we suggested that instead of muzzling McCloughan, Allen should have and still should reach out to Morocco Brown, the former Redskins pro personnel executive to help McCloughan do his job.

We then wrote about Allen’s apparent power-play to regain even more control of the football operations and roster than he already has and always had.

Everything that I wrote in those columns are absolutely true based on what I’ve heard and what I know has happened over the years.

However, there’s always been an elephant in the room. Something that nobody wants to talk about and worry about and for good reason.

Scot McCloughan agreed to join the Redskins after a one-year sabbatical from the NFL to deal with an alcohol problem.

He admitted what many in the NFL already knew.

McCloughan also never said that he stopped drinking alcohol in this ESPN feature from Seth Wickersham. As a matter of fact, Wickersham wrote and with McCloughan’s blessing, that he opened a “light beer” while watching a Thursday Night Football game.

Wickersham’s line of “There’s an old joke in the NFL that everyone is either born-again or alcoholic. Scot McCloughan isn’t born-again” is pretty startling, even two-plus years later, when you read it again.

In the feature, McCloughan tells Wickersham “I had a drinking problem. I’m a good person. And I know how to run a team.”

McCloughan certainly  knows how to run a team. He’s helped return the Redskins to respectability. They’ve won 17 regular season games in two years with him in an executive role.

Maybe they would have without him? There’s no way to know for sure, but that doesn’t jive with reality. In McCloughan’s first season, the Redskins won two MORE games in 2015 than they won in 2013 and 2014 COMBINED.

There’s no doubt that McCloughan has done a good job. Could he do better? Sure. Could the Redskins have won more? Of course.

Has he been even close to perfect? Hell no. There’s been plenty of swings-and-misses. Every team has them. It just depends on how big of a rip you take.

Which brings us to a critical off-season and McCloughan’s status, entering and now in his third year as a general manager for the Redskins.

He hasn’t been allowed to talk to the media on the record. He hasn’t been willing to talk off-the-record either. 

Many thought this was unfair. Many had no problem with it. I’ve been on-record saying that talking to the media does not prevent you from doing your job. However, damaging leaks could have an affect.

There were some that speculated about a Jason Cole Bleacher Report story as coming from McCloughan

I have strong suspicions too, because of the past connections between McCloughan and Cole, but that’s the way the game works.

Either way, Allen clearly wanted the message to be controlled and put the clamps on McCloughan in the same manner that he tried to do and for the most part did to Jay Gruden late in 2014 before McCloughan arrived.

The difference was that Gruden was required to talk five days a week to the media and McCloughan is not. It’s an easier operation to silence the general manager.

But what if McCloughan was not silenced as much for what he’s said but to prevent him from saying anymore. And what if Allen silenced him, because there’s a huge potential problem behind the scenes at Redskins Park?

That seems to be the working theory of Chris Cooley, a team employee, who has full access to the digital playbook and coaches film with top-level clearance.

Cooley is on the team radio broadcast, on the team’s television shows and does a radio show from the front lobby of Redskins Park every morning.

Cooley, per Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post  and the D.C. Sports Bog, speculated on ESPN 980 Tuesday that McCloughan could be having an issue again.

The headline: Chris Cooley speculates on-air about Scot McCloughan: ‘Is he drinking?’

Ummm…hello! Houston (and the free world) we have a problem!

Steinberg details what Cooley said and the former tight-end and extremely popular player pointed out that he was just speculating.

“It’s nothing that I’ve heard or been told,” Cooley said per Steinberg.

What Cooley did not say is what he may have seen with his own two eyes

Could he be covering for what he’s been told about or told to say, while knowing full well that he will be protected at all costs?

I don’t know if any of that is true, but I know that building specializes in dirty politics, far too often.

I will just say this: Nothing would surprise me or anybody. I hear things all the time and there’s nobody that should be surprised about any level of dysfunction at Redskins Park.

Furthermore, I would hope for Cooley’s sake (despite his repeated statements about him only speculating because of the past) that he didn’t just decide to throw McCloughan under the bus, with a topic so sensitive as this.

Cooley is smart. I worked with him for a couple of seasons. He’s not just some random radio host throwing something to the wall and expecting nobody to care. For crying out loud, he absolutely knows that is not the case.

I respect Chris Cooley, I consider him a friend and found him to be very helpful when we worked together. I respect Kevin Sheehan, his partner, and developed a very solid friendship with him over the years.

I was shocked to read this because it’s something that I know many in the media do not feel comfortable or safe talking about.

It’s not something to speculate about, even if there is a documented past, which seems to be the reasoning for such speculation. Even if you believe or know something.

I know a LOT of things that I’ve decided professionally to not report. That’s a calculated decision I’ve made because some of it could be very damaging, to a lot of people.

It’s something that I don’t even speculate about, because when you do, you are essentially accusing.

If this speculation is completely unfounded, I would expect that the Redskins will come out with some sort of declarative statement denouncing Cooley’s words on the team-controlled and Dan Snyder owned radio station.

Perhaps, some discipline would even be handed down?

If that does not happen, it doesn’t absolutely mean that Cooley’s speculation has merit, but it sure would be very odd that a team run-and-owned radio station allowed one of their employees to stir up an insane hornet’s nest about their general manager. 

Wouldn't it?

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for six seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for the last five. He covers the Redskins for Monumental Network (,, & Warpath Magazine. Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN