WASHINGTON — Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was fired on Thursday after weeks of mounting speculation that his relationship with the organization was fractured for good.
An NFL official with knowledge of the termination says McCloughan was fired for repeated alcohol abuse. He had previously lost jobs in San Francisco and Seattle for the same problem.
“[Team president] Bruce [Allen] and [head coach] Jay [Gruden] run the Redskins. Bruce and Jay’s record for the team the last two years is them,” the source told 106.7 The Fan. “The facade of the GM has been exposed on the outside now…But everyone on the inside and many in the NFL always knew.”
McCloughan, 46, was in the second year of a four-year contract signed in January, 2015. But – as first reported by 106.7 The Fan last Wednesday – he has not been with the team since Feb. 20 when he was sent home by the team. McCloughan denied that specific charge, but he was not with the rest of the front office and coaches at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last week or in the office at Redskins Park at all this week.
McCloughan claimed last week he was dealing with the death of his 100-year-old grandmother. Marie Bessie McCloughan died on Feb. 6 and her funeral was scheduled for Feb. 13.
“I’m taking care of my family, plain and simple,” McCloughan texted a 106.7 reporter at the time.
Neither McCloughan nor his agent, Peter Schaffer, returned texts asking for comment as of publication on Thursday night. Allen also did not respond to request for comment.
McCloughan has been shielded from reporters for months. He last spoke at a formal podium session last May 4 after the 2016 draft. He did not talk to reporters at all at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. in late January, politely declining requests. He did not hold a press conference after the season, either. Last month, Redskins radio analyst and former tight end Chris Cooley openly speculated on air that McCloughan was drinking.
A statement from the team and attributed to Allen said in full: “The Washington Redskins have released Scot McCloughan from the organization effective immediately. We wish him success in his future endeavors. The team will have no further comment on his departure. The organization remains confident in our personnel department as we execute our free agency plans as well as prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft.”
McCloughan was fired as general manager of the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 and lost a job as a senior personnel executive with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Writer Seth Wickersham chronicled McCloughan’s alcohol dependence in a December, 2014 ESPN The Magazine article. McCloughan cooperated on the piece and within a month was hired by Washington as its general manager.
Reporters asked McCloughan about his history with alcohol in his first press conference at Redskins Park on Jan. 9, 2015 and asked whether Allen and owner Dan Snyder pressed him on those struggles.
“I’d rather not. That’s a private conversation,” McCloughan said. “But no, [Snyder] grilled me pretty good, and I was expecting it. And I’m glad he did, you know? I want him to know who he’s getting as well.”
The honeymoon didn’t last long. An informed source told 106.7 The Fan that McCloughan has not been part of the organization’s decision-making process for months – possibly even since early in his 26-month tenure with Washington.
The same source also said Allen, Gruden, senior personnel executive Doug Williams, director of pro personnel Alex Santos and director of college scouting Scott Campbell have been making decisions as a group with Allen holding final say. The source insisted that McCloughan had long ago “lost the respect” of Redskins coaches and staff for drinking episodes that spilled into the workplace.
The American Disabilities Act protects employees diagnosed as alcoholic, but employers still have the right under the ADA to terminate employees for consuming alcohol on the job or if alcohol prevents an employee from doing his or her job.
The timing of McCloughan’s firing comes at a difficult time for the organization. Free agency opened on Thursday and the Redskins signed three players. The NFL draft – McCloughan’s specialty – is coming up April 27 in Philadelphia. The Redskins were hosting wide receiver Terrelle Pryor on Thursday night. High-stakes negotiations with quarterback Kirk Cousins, tendered a franchise-tag offer on March 1, continue.
Allen was Washington’s general manager from 2009 to 2014 before being elevated to his current role and his scouting staff remains primarily in place. Allen and Campbell will run the draft process. Allen works closely with Eric Schaffer, Redskins vice president of football administration/general counsel, on all contracts.
McCloughan was hired in early 2015 to bring discipline to the Redskins’ player evaluation process and streamline the scouting department. He was supposed to have full control over the 53-man roster, but whether he held that power was always unclear .
In a December, 2014 ESPN The Magazine article by writer Seth Wickersham, McCloughan spoke openly of his prior issues with alcohol, but insisted he was not an alcoholic. McCloughan did spend 30 days at a Betty Ford Center in 2008, but told Wickersham his divorce from his ex-wife Kelli fueled another descent into drinking and led to his departure from San Francisco.
Even from the day he was hired, Allen and Snyder and acknowledged McCloughan’s struggles and said they would do everything to provide support if needed. Allen, who has known McCloughan for 30 years, expressed confidence that McCloughan’s troubles were behind him at his introductory press conference.
“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.”
“I’m not ashamed about it,” McCloughan said during that initial press conference. “I went through a tough phase in my life, with my family. And I’ll just tell you this: I grew professionally and personally. It’s got me to the spot where I am today to be able to do this job.”
But it became clear in recent weeks that something was amiss. During the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama last month, McCloughan told four local beat reporters, including 106.7 The Fan, that he could not speak with them. Requests to speak with McCloughan through team public relations officials were denied at the time.
McCloughan was brought in to rebuild Washington’s roster, but made few changes to the team’s scouting staff. A protégé of former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, McCloughan took a job as an area scout with that organization in 1994 after a career in professional baseball ended.
McCloughan left the Seahawks shortly before the 2014 draft after almost four years working alongside good friend Jon Schneider, Seattle’s general manager. He quickly founded his own scouting service, Instinctive Scouting, and had multiple NFL teams, including the Redskins, as clients. Washington hired him after a frustrating 4-12 2014 season.
The team had finished last in the NFC East six of the previous seven seasons with any sustained success unsustainable. It won the division in McCloughan’s first season, but missed the playoffs in 2016 despite a winning record (8-7-1).
McCloughan’s father, Kent, was a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Oakland Raiders and a longtime scout for that team. He grew up in Loveland, Colorado and played college baseball at Wichita State. A 1992 draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays, McCloughan made it as high as single-A before retiring and joining the Packers.
After six years, McCloughan was hired as the college scouting director for the Seattle Seahawks in 2000. That team went to the Super Bowl in 2005. By then McCloughan was the vice president of player personnel for San Francisco. In 2008 he became general manager at age 36. The 49ers won the NFC West in 2011 and reached the Super Bowl in 2012 thanks in part to McCloughan’s success in the draft.