- - Thursday, April 27, 2017


Of course the Washington Redskins would still use Scot McCloughan’s player evaluations as part of their draft strategy. Why wouldn’t they? He is very good at evaluating players — like when he drafted Ricky Jean Francois in the seventh round of the 2009 draft for the San Francisco 49ers, and then, two years ago, shortly after taking the job as the Redskins general manager, signed him as a free agent for Washington.

So, like many in the football business — and like a lot of Redskins fans — Francois was stunned when Washington, for reasons that had nothing to do with his ability to judge talent, fired McCloughan.

“I was shocked,” Francois said in an interview on my podcast “Cigars & Curveballs,” available on iTunes, Google Play, the reVolver podcast network and The Washington Times web site.

“For a guy who so many different franchises has spoke so highly of — the Redskins released him, I was shocked … everybody spoke highly of him. Nobody said anything negative about him.”

Well, nobody except the Redskins.

A few days after McCloughan was fired, so was Francois — released by the Redskins. With the departure of free agent Chris Baker to Tampa Bay, Washington lost its top two defensive linemen this winter.

His release also came after Francois had publicly questioned some Redskins Park business in an interview on SB Nation Radio.

“It seems like we’re getting back to the norm … dysfunctional, we’re getting back to the drama,” Jean-Francois said.

“It just feels like … we’ve never had that period where we were just comfortable with everything and everything was just running smooth,” he said. “Everything is changed and it’s like, why? We let go of DeSean Jackson, one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL. We let go of Pierre Garςon — only had one drop last year. You let Chris Baker go, Chris Baker was one great pass rusher for us.

“At the end of the day, it’s business,” Francois said. “But it’s not the business that you want to see each and every other day at work when everything is going hectic and you just don’t know what’s going on, who’s making calls. Who’s what.

“It’s like as soon as you open the front of the newspaper you just see drama.”

A few days later, Francois was no longer a Washington Redskin.

To his credit, in his first interview with Washington media since he was released, Francois refused to directly attribute his release to his public criticism of the team.

“I don’t know,” he said, when asked if he thought he was let go because of his public criticism. “At the end of the day, I don’t take stuff personally. It’s football. It’s a business. Don’t let your feelings get into it or try to figure out what happened.

“When they released me, it was my time to go,” Francois said. “It was my time to take that next step. When I got the phone call from different teams, I didn’t feel bad, because I was getting phone calls from Super Bowl contenders each and every year. I wasn’t mad. It was just my time to move on. I wasn’t shocked.”

Perhaps his next stop eased the shock — signing a one-year, $3 million deal with one of the NFL gold standard franchises, the Green Bay Packers — a franchise that appears to operate 180 degrees opposite of the Redskins.

“The Seattle Seahawks, I took a visit there,” the 30-year-old Francois said. “I took a visit to Chicago too. There were other teams interested, but it came down to Seattle and Green Bay. I talked about it with my wife and we decided to take a shot at Green Bay. They are not big going after free agents, and them allowing me to be part of the franchise and take another shot at the Super Bowl, I am blessed to have the opportunity to suit up in that Green Bay Packers uniform.

“I am excited to be part of the Green Bay Packers history, from Vince Lombardi to Bart Starr to Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers to just so many guys, Reggie White,” Francois said. “When I got a chance to visit there, the history just took me in. I never knew the community owned the team. They have always been held to a high standard. It’s a blessing to be part of a franchise with such a rich history.”

Ironically, it was the Green Bay Packers where McCloughan got his start as a scout.

“If he wants to come back to the Green Bay Packers, I am ready for him to take that step,” Francois said. “He’s a great GM.”

After facing Aaron Rodgers a number of times over his career — including with the Redskins in the playoffs two years ago. But he thinks that the Redskins have that sort of elite quarterback — Kirk Cousins.

One of Francois‘ criticisms in his radio interview was the team’s failure to sign Cousins to a long-term contract. He hasn’t backed off that criticism.

“He (Cousins) broke nearly every Redskins record,” Francois said. “He put us in positions to win. He helped those guys be great. A quarterback can help receivers get from good to great and be their best, and I think Kirk Cousins did that.

“He hasn’t even hit his ceiling yet,” Francois said. “He’s not that Peyton Manning or that Tom Brady yet, but when he gets to that point, he’s going to be one of the scariest quarterbacks in the NFL. Look at his numbers. Tell me what he has not done yet. To do it in back-to-back seasons, that’s enough said. I respect him so much, he worked on the field, first man in, last man out, he was going to show you he was one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”

If Cousins does get to that point — a Manning or a Brady — he, like Francois, may wind up doing it someplace else. The NFL, like Francois said, is a business. But some are better at that business than others.

⦁ Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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