My blogging colleague at Hogs Haven has picked up rumblings that the Washington Redskins will bust a personnel move after the draft. He even names names: Bears assistant GM Bobby DePaul, and Bills assistant GM Tom Modrak. That's good sleuthing. Combined with an earlier rumor, reported here, that the Redskins are going to nuke the scouting department after the draft, I'm going to officially declare this as smoke. Where there's smoke, there's a flicker, maybe. "The game's afoot, Watson." Something's up.
How to reconcile all this with Boss Hog's firm statement that the Redskins never considered naming a GM after last season's fiasco? You can't name a GM right after the owner said "we did not consider a GM." No one who works for a living would be that dumb. Simple solution, you call him something else. Vice president of player personnel is available. Vinnie Cerrato is vp of football operations. Or, take a tip from the White House and call him an Implementation Czar.
Whatever the title, it's the background and role that's important. If - that's IF - this happens, I would hope the Redskins select someone who developed as a talent evaluator; that means hands on scout and player personnel experience. The man (it's always a man) should be connected in the NCAA world, for that whisper network that turns up undrafted prospects who can play. I hope he's been affiliated with at least two teams to bring best practices and another point of view. It would be ideal if his experience is with AFC and NFC clubs. They play different styles of football, and the AFC is the superior conference at the moment. I also hope that this background equips the guy to evaluate current NFL players and their contracts as thoroughly as are college players. (Why doesn't Mel Kiper evaluate NFL players as well as college draftees? The only organization I know of who independently ranks NFL players is EA Sports.)
It's the role that will make or break the move. Whatever you call him, if the personnel guy is unwanted by team president Joe Gibbs, he will fail. If the reporting structure isn't changed to give the personnel guy a real voice - real clout, then this will fail. We don't need another Vinnie. We need someone who can translate team needs into three alternative players, not just the best known star, and land him on a affordable contract. We need someone Gibbs respects and will listen to.
I can't see anyone coming who isn't fully supported by both Snyder and Gibbs. I can't see a top notch candidate accepting the position without some firm commitments about his role and understanding about his influence. An upgrade to front office personnel would be smart on Snyder's and Gibbs' part, on a par with the upgrade to the coaching staff with Al Saunders. Yes, I know Saunders and Gregg Williams didn't show well last season, but they remain the best minds in pro football. That's who you need to turn things around You need someone like that in the front office. You need a GM who gets talent and negotiates, really negotiates, the tough deals. (The Redskins negotiate by throwing draft picks into a deal until the other side surrenders.) You need a guy who can eventually step up to team president. More than players or coaches, a GM is the most important decision and owner makes. It should be the first decision an owner makes.
A GM by any other name would be a good start.