Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Mar 2017

Washington Fires Scot McCloughan

In a sad story, one of the NFL's best talent evaluators has been fired by his third team in the past eight years due to his ongoing struggles with alcoholism.

"After weeks of speculation, the Washington Redskins fired General Manager Scot McCloughan on Thursday, a little more than two years into a four-year contract," reads a report in the Washington Post.

"An official with direct knowledge of the situation attributed the decision to McCloughan's ongoing problems with alcohol, which also led to his firing from front office positions with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 and Seattle Seahawks in 2014."

McCloughan had not been with the team since before the combine. Just yesterday, his agent said that McCloughan was "very healthy" and "in contact with the team, and denied that the absence was related to alcohol.

McCloughan was with the 49ers when they drafted Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Patrick Willis, and Joe Staley. He was with Seattle when they drafted Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and Russell Wilson. In two years in D.C., he drafted Pro Bowl lineman Brandon Scherff, plus Jamison Crowder, Preston Smith, and Su'a Cravens.

UPDATE: Post reporter Mike Jones had this to say:

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 09 Mar 2017

43 comments, Last at 30 Mar 2017, 10:30pm by justanothersteve


by theslothook :: Thu, 03/09/2017 - 10:28pm

The whole thing is bizarre, but you got to like what Scott was able to do with the skins since taking over the GM. For a team that "mortgaged the future" for Rg3 and got nothing but 1 great season for that haul, Scott did an admirable job of ensuring the skins were anything but a talentless squad.

If its alcohol, I hope he keeps working through it and gets another opportunity. If not, well - this is pretty much what you'd expect from the squirrels per usual.

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 12:09am

Great comments. While we often obsess about athletes when they have drug &/or alcohol problems, the people who put teams together are often overlooked yet they are as human as the rest of us. I do think it's probably alcohol because of the bizarre timing of this happening over the combine. McCloughan is an incredibly talented evaluator and I hope he gets his life together. If this is a cover-up for a management coup, then it's back to what we've all come to expect from the team that put the dys in dysfunctional.

by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 5:55am

If he wasn't drinking before this, he sure as fuck is drinking now

by Dales :: Thu, 03/09/2017 - 10:45pm

Something tells me the truth is somewhere in between.

by RickD :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 12:14am

I wouldn't take the "alcoholism" story at face value. I mean, it may or may not be true that he was drinking, but he was fired for having personality conflicts with Bruce Allen and/or Dan Snyder. McCloughan was told he'd have full control of the roster but when push came to shove, the people above him (Allen, Snyder) wanted to have their say.

The DC area has seen so much b.s. from the Redskins in recent years in the form of anonymous leaks that fans don't take any of these stories at face value.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 1:43am

Yeah, I'm about 90% sure the guy has a serious addiction problem (when you've been known to conceal your vodka consumption by topping off your bottles of gatorade, and then restarted with just beer, because that really isn't drinking, you pretty likely have hooch issues), but I'm about 95% sure that isn't why he was fired.

by Mr Skinner :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 4:14am

If the drinking wasn't affecting his job, and it does seem from the outside that he was doing a great job all things considered, why wouldn't you keep him? Some of the greatest managers in football (soccer) in England were known to be very heavy drinkers and it was tolerated.

by justanothersteve :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 2:28pm

Well, considering Churchill was a heavy drinker, I'm not surprised.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 4:28pm

"Mr. McCloughan, you're drunk!"

"Yes, and you, Mr. Synder, are an egotistical, capricious, nitwit. Tomorrow, I shall be sober, and you will still be an egotistical, capricious nitwit."

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 03/13/2017 - 11:19am

That said, do we really not think it's at least possible that booze is the reason why the first half of Clough's managerial career was impossibly, stratospherically awesome and the second half was... fine.

by MC2 :: Wed, 03/15/2017 - 4:04am

Sure, it's possible, but I think the more likely explanation is good old regression to the mean. His draft success rate in San Francisco and Seattle was unsustainable.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 03/15/2017 - 4:33am

Easier to draft on a crappy team as there are more holes that are easily filled.

Once your team is successful, rookies are trying to displace competent veterans and less likely to make the squad.

by Jerry :: Wed, 03/15/2017 - 5:23am

I think Mr. Shush is referring to English football manager Brian Clough.

by MC2 :: Wed, 03/15/2017 - 3:39pm

Ah, you could be right, although I think "Clough" (pronounced as "clue") would be a clever nickname for McCloughan!

by craigj1971 :: Fri, 03/24/2017 - 6:08am

Nope, it's pronounced "Cluff".

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 4:44am

I'd imagine a GM's job is stressful in the first place.

Now imagine trying to do that competently in a dysfunctional organisation where there's infighting and politics.

If your habitual way of dealing with stress is alcohol then it's no surprise if your alcoholism resurfaces.

That said, as other posters suggest, it may well a cover story for firing him.

by Kevin from Philly :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 10:05am

Strange time of year to replace your top talent evaluator if it's just a management shake up.

by Toner :: Tue, 03/28/2017 - 1:27pm

I disagree - if management is fighting with your top talent evaluator, it's most likely to come to a head when the team is focused on evaluating talent and making decisions on a draft board/strategy.

You can't have a functional draft if you're still infighting so you can't wait to fire them after the draft, and during the season there's enough distractions and a low priority on talent evaluation that it glosses over any issues.

So the natural time of conflict is shortly before the draft when the talent evaluator wields the most power.

by Never Surrender :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 11:21am

The alcoholism story is very likely a smear campaign on the part of the organization. Please don't report it as fact.

by Steve in WI :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 2:50pm

Yeah, that is my thought too. It seems like management/lackeys for the organization are reporting that it's his drinking while one source noted that several players interviewed were surprised at the idea that he'd been drinking and said they had never seen him drunk in the locker room (which is something that management specifically alleged).

Obviously with his history it would not be shocking if he had relapsed, but I don't trust anything that Washington says.

Does anyone know how easy/hard it will be for them to fire him for cause and not have to pay the rest of his contract? I assume that unless there is language in the contract saying he has to be 100% sober, Washington will have to present some kind of a case as to how he wasn't doing his job. And reports are that up until very recently he had not been absent from any of the football events you would expect to see him at, so it would not seem on the face of it that he was going on benders and missing work. Now obviously you can be drinking heavily and have it affect your job while still showing up everyday, but I would think that since unlike the vast majority of us he has a specific contract, Washington would have to come up with more evidence to support their claim than "we say he's been drinking a lot."

by MilkmanDanimal :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 12:09pm

Using an overt racial epithet for a name might be the singly best thing about that whole organization. Yuck.

by serutan :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 3:09pm

Have to agree with those who are saying the drinking is
only a cover story. If it were really the issue, they could have simply said he was being relived of his duties so he could get help. Instead they initially said it was
due to his 100 year old grandmother dying 6 weeks previously.
Was wr

by IrishBarrister :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 3:35pm

I'm very suspicious of this whole episode. I have not been made aware of any report prior to this that Scot McCloughan had any negative instances of drinking or alcoholism. Recently, the Washington front office spent nearly a month explaining that Scot McCloughan's absence was due his grandmother passing away, but that he was in close contact with the front office during that entire period. Scot McCloughan, however, never appears at the combine. Then at the very start of free agency, the Washington front office says he's been fired for alcohol-related events that sound like they are saying occurred during the 2016 season. Nothing about this story and timeline makes sense.

Well NFL team owners: who wants arguably the best talent evaluator in the league?

by Theo :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 8:26pm

If the guy was really away for a month in a crucial offseason period for alcohol reasons (rehab/passed out on the couch) then I'd say I give him one chance and a very short leash.

by Alexander :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 5:13pm

The worst part about this is the media's head-bobbing and blind acceptance that if someone drinks a lot they can't be great at their job. Perhaps for athletes as alcohol is a substantial negative to fitness (even though I know many pros that pound the bottle and do fine for a period of time), but huge swaths of America function just fine in their jobs pounding a six pack after work.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 03/13/2017 - 11:24am

The father of a childhood friend drinks whisky by the bottle (not always only one bottle a day) and has done for years, and is an internationally renowned, controversial but undeniably brilliant professor of history. It's certainly possible.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 03/13/2017 - 1:28pm

Submitted for your consideration, the imbibing habits of one Winston Churchill....


by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 03/13/2017 - 4:34pm

His reported exchange with MP Bessie Braddock was probably ungentlemanly, but you still have to tip your cap to the wit (which was clearly undiminished by his inebriation).

by Will Allen :: Tue, 03/14/2017 - 8:51am

I find it both hilarious and terrifying that his early morning habit was a constant weak scotch and soda sipped throughout, which he referred to as "mouthwash". Just gettin' warmed up for the day.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 03/14/2017 - 1:50pm

Also, when a monumental speed freak like Adolph Hitler call you a "terrifying drunk", you are in a league of your own.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:51pm

Not to drag this down, but... Churchill was beloved as an inspirational leader during the war, but he was a terrible manager, especially when trying to direct military planning (in two wars, no less). Which is why he was dumped as PM after the war.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 03/15/2017 - 11:50am

I shudder to think about the bender that 'ole Winston was on when he planned the Gallipoli campaign.

by LionInAZ :: Thu, 03/16/2017 - 9:14pm

It must have been a 25-yr bender because he was still pushing the 'soft underbelly of Europe ' idea in 1942...

Just shows that it's easier for a drunk to deliver inspired prose than to manage complicated affairs. (Just ask any Irish literature student.)

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 03/17/2017 - 2:35pm

"it's easier for a drunk to deliver inspired prose than to manage complicated affairs"

At least he got one of those two skills down. Jim Irsay can't manage either.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 03/18/2017 - 12:34am

No surprise. Churchill learned how to drink at Harrow. Irsay learned how to get soused at SMU.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 03/14/2017 - 12:54pm

Sure, and it's possible to basically spend years swimming through pools of heroin, booze, and other substances and come through perfectly fine just like Keith Richards, but, you know, playing the odds and all, it's unlikely to happen. 99%+ of people wouldn't have survived the kind of things Richards or Ozzy put themselves through, so it's hard to rely on outliers like that.

by CaffeineMan :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 5:52pm

Now there is a reported rumor that they are considering Mike Mayock. To me that points to the idea that it was not a job performance issue, but a power conflict that got him canned. Regardless of what you think of Mayock's abilities, if they're looking at him I bet what they really want is a talent evaluator and someone that will let Allen/Snyder make final decisions.

by theslothook :: Fri, 03/10/2017 - 8:17pm

As someone who works for an incredibly dysfunctional startup - let me share some things I have learned.

I use to believe a dysfunction organization could not survive for very long if it was lead by dysfunctional people. And certainly not succeed in any way. My startup has been around for over 5 years and just raised a new round of funding. I was shocked.

I learned very quickly - dysfunctional owners will hire a cadre of yes people who will do just enough to ride the productive members of the company as much as they can. The prevailing company culture is one of self preservation and constantly looking over one's shoulders. I learned that such people will take advantage of employees who do their job in absolute earnest and loyalty no matter how shabbily they are treated.

Finally - I learned that dysfunctional people have an unbelievable arrogance when it comes to self evaluation. They will be convinced everyone who leaves the company was incompetent and the only reason they were given a chance in the first place was due to charity on their parts. That every success is a testament to their own brilliance and every failure is excused through blame deflection. The yes men and women around them only perpetuate this narrative.

God bless, my team lead is one of those good earnest people who hasn't reached the breaking point yet. After one of my less than accepting coworkers left for a better job and made his dissatisfaction quite known, the team lead begged one of the CEO's yes men(in this case a woman) to bribe the rest his team to stay(including me). That had they not made some kind of overture, the entire engineering team was prepared to quit by week's end. Even after a decent raise(offered through gritted teeth), I had to accept the fact that lousy owners are lousy owners and that will never change. Especially since all overtures are treated as extortion maneuvers.

I use to find the "Synder is a terrible owner so the redskins are terrible" explanation a low hanging fruit kind of explanation. I don't anymore. They may make the playoffs, but they will never go any further as long as Synder and his set of cronies continue to run the team.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 03/11/2017 - 4:48am

Well written.

Don't stay there any longer than you have to. I appreciate there may be other factors in your life holding you there. It'll be a breath of fresh air the day you move on.

by jackiel :: Sat, 03/11/2017 - 4:33pm

I think we'll find out the truth soon enough. If alcoholism was the culprit, then I imagine that the Skins wouldn't pay out the rest of Scot's contract, causing Scot to sue them. If the reason was something that's not fireable for cause, then Scot probably got all of his money and will stay quiet.

In any case, I don't think that Synder's about winning the Super Bowl. He's about winning the profitability race. This whole saga reminds me of something Jerry Jones said on Real Sports on HBO last year. When asked about his dismal performance and weird personnel moves as the GM, "everything we've done here has increased the value and attractiveness of the club." Those aren't the words of someone who loses sleep about not being a Super Bowl contender. Synder's the same way. He wants a popular, bankable team, not necessarily a good one.

by justanothersteve :: Sun, 03/12/2017 - 4:45pm

You're probably right that Snyder's only motive is profit. Winning would be nice. But as long as the team - like the rest of the league - continues to print money, Snyder will be content to maximize his profit. Jones, for all his faults, still tries for both the money and a winning team. Jerry is the show that never ends, a combo of PT Barnum and Busby Berkeley for the NFL. Snyder sells football junk bonds. I'd take Jones over Snyder as the owner of my team's franchise if I had to make a choice.

by Led :: Mon, 03/13/2017 - 4:43pm

If McCloughan is struggling with booze then for his sake and his family's I hope he can get better. If he isn't, then damn Snyder and his suits to hell.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 03/30/2017 - 10:30pm

It doesn't look like this story is going to die for a while. Found this in Pro Football Talk. If true, the Washington "leaks" really look bad. Just when you thought that team couldn't be more dysfunctional.