- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Robert Griffin has high expectations for the Washington Redskins for the upcoming NFL draft — with Washington holding the fifth pick in the first round on April 30 — because new general manager Scot McCloughan has told him to expect the best.

In an interview with NFL.com, Griffin said McCloughan told him, “I’m going to put the 10 best players around you to maximize your potential.”

This isn’t exactly discovering a new formula for success. I’m sure former Redskins coach and executive vice president Mike Shanahan had the same goal in 2013, and last year’s GM, current team president Bruce Allen, probably had every intention of putting the best players around Griffin last year, when they drafted Morgan Moses, Spencer Long and others who have not quite yet contributed enough to maximize Griffin’s potential.

Some of the enthusiasm from Griffin is the same that Redskins fans have called on to believe that this time around, this franchise will make the most of their draft picks with quality choices — all because of the man supposedly making those choices, McCloughan.

He came to Washington with a long list of testimonials from NFL insiders and observers as perhaps one of the best talent evaluators in the league.

But how do we judge that?

In San Francisco, McCloughan was vice president of player personnel from 2005 through 2007, and the 49ers had tremendous success in those two drafts — Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Joe Staley, Vernon Davis, Alex Smith, and Delanie Walker, among others. All became valuable NFL contributors, along with free agents Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks.

He wasn’t the top guy, though. Coach Mike Nolan had final say over personnel — sort of like the relationship that Shanahan and Allen supposedly had here in Washington before Shanahan was fired at the end of the 2013 season.
Nolan was stripped of those duties when McCloughan was named the 49ers general manager and began calling all the shots.

He was hardly a personnel guru in the two drafts that he oversaw as the general manager in San Francisco.

McCloughan drafted defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer out of North Carolina with the 49ers’ first-round pick, No. 29 overall, in the 2008 draft. He was gone two years later, traded to Seattle — where McCloughan was then working as a personnel executive for Schneider — for a sixth-round pick, and waived a year later.

Redskins fans may be familiar with Balmer: He signed with Washington in November 2011, and then left the team during training camp in 2012, his whereabouts unknown. That was the end of his NFL career.

That 2008 draft didn’t get much better for McCloughan, who brought in Reggie Smith, Cody Wallace, Josh Morgan and Larry Grant.

His next draft in 2009 hit on the first pick — Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver selected 10th that year. Following that, came running back Glen Coffee, who lasted one season and retired because God told him to; Scott McKillop, a linebacker out of Pittsburgh who tore a knee ligament in training camp in 2010 and was out of the league a year later; Nate Davis, a quarterback out of Ball State who is now throwing passes for the Amarillo Venom in the Champions Indoor Football League; tight end Bear Pascoe, safety Curtis Taylor and, ironically, last but not least, defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, who has signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Redskins.

Save for Crabtree, there wasn’t a lot of maximizing potential going on in San Francisco in those two seasons McCloughan was the general manager.

This is not to diminish his acclaim as a talent evaluator. His influence on the 49ers’ roster the two previous years set the stage for their NFC championship team in 2012 and a sustained period of winning. And, though Schneider is the general manager in Seattle, McCloughan, as his personnel advisor, was credited with the Seahawks’ picks of quarterback Russell Wilson and conerback Richard Sherman.

But it does illustrate that even good talent evaluators make bad decisions, and McCloughan had a host of them in the two years he was the general manager in San Francisco. Sometimes it takes time to hit on enough of them to surround someone with 10 of the best players to maximize potential.

Robert Griffin III doesn’t have time.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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