- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2015

The pomp and pageantry of a fall Sunday morning never wafted into the remote stretches of farmland 100 miles north of Seattle, and Scot McCloughan couldn’t take it. It was there, in Ferndale, Washington, where he had set up the headquarters of his new scouting operation, where he would review tape of college games on a near-constant loop and pull together his rankings of the top players in the country.

By all accounts, McCloughan was happy. His life had regained some measure of stability following his departure from the Seattle Seahawks in April, where he served as a senior personnel executive for four seasons. He was finally able to do things in life that someone working 80 or more hours a week could never be afforded the ability to do.

On Sunday mornings, though, that feeling of isolation hit. Wherever McCloughan looked — his television, his computer, his cell phone — he would be reminded that professional football games were being played around the country, and then it would all come back to him, the only sentiments he had known for the vast majority of his adult life.

“I just had to make sure it was right for myself, for my children,” McCloughan said. “That was first and foremost for me. I didn’t want to jump back into something that I wasn’t ready for. I went through my process, I went through my scouting service and realized it’s time.”

Eight and a half months after parting ways with the Seahawks to tend to a personal matter, McCloughan’s wishes were granted. Hired by the Washington Redskins on Thursday as their next general manager, McCloughan was introduced in that role on Friday, when he held a 45-minute press conference at Redskins Park.

McCloughan didn’t delve into specifics on his vision for the organization, frequently citing his recent arrival and his lack of familiarity with personnel. Only on Thursday did he have a chance to meet with coach Jay Gruden for the first time; in-depth discussions with the assistant coaches and members of the scouting staff will take place in coming days.

It was clear, though, that McCloughan is eager to get back on the road and delve into talent evaluation. He won’t have to wait too long: Practices leading up to the East-West Shrine Game begin on Monday, with practices for the Senior Bowl, the premier collegiate all-star game, following a week later.

A former collegiate scout, McCloughan learned a draft-first philosophy in Green Bay and applied it during stops in San Francisco and Seattle. He is set on applying that directive in Washington, where draft choices have, on the whole, failed to pan out in recent years and the most productive players have arrived via free agency.

“I honestly think the draft is the lifeline of your organization,” McCloughan said. “But also, you’ve got to understand with free agency, that’s a tool that you can use and you can use it in a positive manner.”

Allen, the general manager for the last five years, will remain with the organization as its president. He sat alongside McCloughan during the press conference, introducing his successor by noting that he will have full control over the personnel department and the players on the team.

McCloughan also avoided specifics concerning players on the Redskins‘ roster, though he did stress after the press conference had ended that he would like to see the organization remain patient with Robert Griffin III.

The quarterback, injured for a sizeable portion of the season, struggled during his time on the field, with Gruden eager to discard the former No. 2 overall pick in favor of Colt McCoy. McCloughan recalled the circumstances that led Brett Favre to Green Bay in 1992, noting that it took him two seasons to learn coach Mike Holmgren’s offense.

“I think with Robert, he’s ahead of Favre from the standpoint of picking up schemes and understanding what the offense is trying to do,” McCloughan said.

Negotiations with McCloughan began on Tuesday, Allen said, during a six-hour meeting at owner Dan Snyder’s home in Potomac, Md. McCloughan didn’t visit Redskins Park until the first time on Thursday, when he signed what is reportedly a four-year contract.

Allen and Snyder, who attended the press conference but did not speak and left the moment it ended, each grilled McCloughan on the nature of the personal issues that forced him to resign as the San Francisco 49ers’ general manager in 2009 and from the Seahawks this past April.

McCloughan only spoke in generalities on Friday when addressing those situations, which have been widely reported to be linked to alcohol abuse. He said, however, that he believes he has grown “professionally and personally” and is able to handle the responsibilities the Redskins have granted him.

“I was aware when Scot was going through his situation,” Allen said. “I did talk to him about it, and we had a very forthright conversation. We’re here to support him, and he would not be taking this job if he thought that was going to be a concern.”

During his time away from the league, McCloughan formed Instinctive Scouting, LLC and put together rankings of what he perceived to be the top 150 collegiate players in the country. He sold that list to a handful of teams — he declined to say which, but Allen confirmed the Redskins were among them — and hoped to find a way out of his quiet corner of the country.

Now he’ll find himself in one of the top media markets in the league, one in which 22 different reporters asked him a question during his press conference, and mired in a rebuilding process unlike any other.

“I thought this was the time to give it a shot and see what happens,” McCloughan said. “People thought I was crazy. I really enjoyed it.”

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