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A Day of Change or More of the Same for Skins?

June 14, 2017
Tuesday was a new day (kind of) at Redskins Park. After months of speculation and a long list of secret candidates, the Redskins decided to elevate Doug Williams to head their personnel department, as we mentioned they very likely would last week and from the start.

The organization could still add more as Doug Williams mentioned in his press availability on Tuesday, but for now, the major changes are done.

In short, Williams and Kyle Smith, stand as the top risers while others in the organization that have been loyal, take another step up the football ladder.

That’s the nuts and bolts of what became official as the Redskins opened up their two-day mandatory minicamp in Ashburn.

The players on the field and everything else took a backseat to the official restructure of the front office.

What didn’t take a backseat? Criticism for Bruce Allen, Dan Snyder and the Redskins.

Surprise! Or maybe not.

It’s part of the territory and certainly the Redskins deserve plenty of it. They really haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt.

However, in this case, I feel the criticism is a bit unfair, if not unwarranted.

Bruce Allen is the President of the organization. Of course, he has ultimate power over anybody under him. That’s never going to change. It didn’t change with Scot McCloughan either, but many were wrongly convinced that it had. For some reason.

Move past the organizational depth or power chart. Here’s what is important and this is the way it largely works on the football field too. Those who shine and out-perform others will be given more power, control and influence off the field and/or will get more playing time on the field.

That’s the way it works. It’s pretty simple. That’s the way it worked at Redskins Park when Scot McCloughan was hired. He was given a long rope and quickly lost control.

Everybody wants a defined hierarchy to be spelled out publicly but I would ask this: What’s the big deal?

What’s the publicly defined hierarchy worth if it can change quickly behind the scenes, without notice, like it did with McCloughan? Also, do you fully trust who is telling you what the power structure truly is?

I know this: Dan Snyder is taking a more active role in certain situations. Bruce Allen wants to be known/is more of a football guy than people want to admit, but it is far from his strength. Eric Schaffer continues to evolve on the football side, while being a stud at everything else.

Doug Williams is a football person and the furthest thing from a businessman. What Williams does better than football evaluation is being a good people person. That’s important.

It’s important to coaches, players, scouts and administrators along with Allen and Snyder.

Fans don’t care about communication, leadership and organization until it is a disaster. They should, because in some cases, everything might appear to be fine and dandy on the surface, while they are a bubbling disaster on the inside.

Such was the case with the Redskins and  McCloughan for well over the last year. Nobody asked and the Redskins hid it the best they could, until they couldn’t anymore and yet an entire fan base still blindly defends someone they don’t have a full grasp on, because they don’t want to hear it.

Williams works well with EVERYONE in the building and stepped up his role, leadership, organization and vision in the darkest days of a messy off-season.

His relationship with head coach Jay Gruden is especially important. He told reporters, to’s question that Allen wants to take a bit of a back seat and that the “marriage” between Williams and Gruden will fuel most of the day-to-day decisions on the football front.

Nobody’s going to believe that, of course, but that’s the way it will work. On the huge decisions, of course, Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder will be involved, consulted and in bottom-line control just like the Lerner family is way more than many Nationals fans realize or want to admit.

That’s the way it works. Owners don’t just own and presidents don’t just president and count dollars, they get involved on major decisions.

If you don’t like it – STOP watching sports! It happens just about everywhere.

Moving past the obvious, because that’s where we are at and always have been, here are a few reasons why I think Tuesday was a good day for the future of the Redskins.

1 – Some in the NFL have a negative opinion of Doug Williams and his work ethic. Totally their right and it certainly is something I’ve heard as well.

I have worked with plenty of people over my life (in radio and out of media) that are lazy and have a bad work ethic. Sometimes, those people were very successful and sometimes, they were just taking up space.

It happens a lot more than people want to admit and realize.

I can guarantee you this: If Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen, Jay Gruden, Eric Schaffer and others thought that Doug Williams was lazy or had a bad work ethic – they would NOT have promoted him.

Maybe at times he was in the past? That’s what I’ve heard. People change all the time. They get better. They realize what they have to do to get to where they want to be.

This is what I believe has happened here and Williams had to adjust and grow as a man and as a talent evaluator.

2 – If you don’t believe me, or believe the Redskins brass, perhaps you’ll believe former Redskins and Texans general manager, Charley Casserly.

Obviously, Williams and Casserly have a close relationship but if Casserly didn’t respect Williams, he would not have said this publicly on Tuesday. “I like the Redskins promoting Doug Williams to Sr. VP of Personnel. He has great instincts in evaluating people and talent.”

3 – As you go along in life, most people get wiser and better at whatever their craft is. I know I am a better broadcaster now than I was 20 years ago or 10 years ago, even though I was paid better and had a national stage. That’s the truth. I’m a lot better now than I was then.

I’m a better Dad and person today, at 43, than I was at 33. This is indisputable. I was a jerk way too often back then.

This isn’t about me. This is about Williams. Williams is a better talent evaluator today than he was three years ago, when he came back to the Redskins. I know this for a fact. He’s a better evaluator of talent than he was in Tampa, because he worked at his craft. It became his passion.

Williams is a better leader than he was three years ago. He’s a better leader than he was as a player.

Yet many will choose to completely ignore the reality and only rely on past impressions and judgements.

I won’t and you should not either.

4 – One area of evaluation that Williams might not be great at is the college scouting side. It is different than evaluating established pro talent. Williams has been working for years, both at Grambling (as a head coach) and other stops in the NFL at this part of the job.

Clearly, nobody should think that he is as good as Scot McCloughan is in this area and the Redskins had to take a big swing at the fences to improve this area, considering what they lost.

They once again chose to stay in-house by promoting Kyle Smith. Once again, critics are going to say who and if they know who he is, they’ll chalk it up to a promotion just because of his Dad’s close relationship to Bruce Allen and Williams.

Some of that might be fair, but what they don’t know is that Scott Campbell, who received a soft promotion that he’s happy with, has mentored and taught Smith along the way.

It was Campbell who put Smith in charge of the Southwest first and then of the Southeast region, which features the SEC, and is considered the most desirable regional scouting location. The Redskins have obviously tapped into that well many times, as recently as their two top picks this year, Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson from Alabama.

My hunch is that Smith was drawing interest from other teams and the Redskins wanted to do the right  thing and promote from within.

5 – Scott Campbell will still be very involved in the organization. He’ll still heavily scout the top-100 on the road and serve as a mentor to Smith, on the road, in the building and just a phone call away depending on the time of the year. I was initially concerned when Campbell was not at the press conference and Smith was announced to that position, but Campbell’s role was later clarified and NFL sources outlined the plan and his responsibilities above.

6 – The Redskins are being criticized for promoting from within, simply because the critics feel that the men who were promoted will be puppets for Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen.

I can assure you, they won’t be. Doug Williams has never been afraid to take a stand and fight for what he believes in. Kyle Smith is A.J. Smith’s son and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. That’s a good thing for the Redskins. The younger Smith is not going to be afraid to take a position and fight for what he believes in. That’s the way his Dad operated every single day of his NFL career and you can bet that Smith has some of that in his DNA.

Remember when Jay Gruden told you in a million ways that Robert Griffin III couldn’t play in the NFL or play for him and nobody wanted to believe him? He was accused of being a racist and clueless by many, for no legitimate reason at all. They had no clue and yet they still have prominent jobs. Shame on them.

Gruden wasn’t too far away from being fired at several points over this specific issue and survived. He also proved his point and received a contract extension.

The notion that “promoting from within” is not the right way to run your company is simply preposterous. All great companies and organizations identify what they have and reward, financially or with a title, and hopefully with both.

The only reason why the critics are down on this is because of past history and “track-record” which is often confused for a guarantee of something happening again. It doesn’t and there are no guarantees, one way or the other.

This is the correct process. Doug Williams, Kyle Smith and Eric Schaffer KNOW the Redskins players, coaches and the building better than some guy who might be from another organization that has been more successful, but hasn’t worked in this environment.

To hire someone from the outside would be foolish. It would take months for them to fully get comfortable and caught up with the evaluations of in-house personnel and to get on the same page as the coaching staff. Only at that point, can that individual then get to work on making the Redskins better.

Is that what you want? What if philosophical differences exist and you wind up with John Fox and Ryan Pace in Chicago? How’s that working out for the Bears?

Here’s the bottom-line: Williams has the same responsibilities that a football general manager has. His job title is NOT IMPORTANT in any way. He’s not going to be involved in contracts and the salary cap. Eric Schaffer does that in a masterful way. And Smith’s elevation, while retaining Campbell more than allows the Redskins to make up for what they lost on the evaluation side with McCloughan’s firing.

It’s very simple. The Redskins are a better organization today than they were on Monday. They’re a much better building than they were four months ago and this has a real chance to work.

Now it’s time to play football. 

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