As Roger Goodell said the words - with the fourth pick the Oakland Raiders select Amari Cooper - the next pick was obvious. The Redskins would be able to get Leonard Williams at No. 5, a steal, a heist, and a move sure to send fans into a frenzy. Williams was rated by many as the best defensive player in the draft, a force on the defensive line at the University of Southern California, and a surprise to be available at No. 5.
Only the Redskins didn't take Williams, they didn't send the fans into a frenzy. Instead, Redskins GM Scot McCloughan stuck to his draft board and selected Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff. It wasn't the sexy pick, and that's why it was so important.
For years, arguably more than a decade, the Redskins made the sexy move. It's been a staple of Dan Snyder's ownership, however, rarely has it worked out for the team. And in just his first pick of his first draft, McCloughan eschewed the high-profile move, opting rather to build up the offensive line, a problem unit in Washington for years.
Picking Scherff shows that McCloughan is truly in charge in Ashburn, a welcome sight. Regardless how true the rumors have been, for far too long the word on the Redskins is Snyder gets too involved in the personnel side of decision making. Marketing, winning off the field, those are valued too high, when the focus needs to be on building a winning football team.
With one stroke Thursday night, McCloughan may have put the rest of the NFL on notice that the Redskins have entered a new era. On the heels of a successful, if subdued, free agency period, the 'Skins invested in the O-line when few expected it. No splashy moves. Throughout free agency McCloughan rebuilt the defensive line, and with his first draft pick ever as head of the Redskins, he goes offensive line.
When the pick came in, ESPN draft announcer Jon Gruden could hardly contain his excitement. In fact, he said Scherff is the kind of player that makes him want to get back in coaching. Jon also mentioned how happy the Scherff pick must have made his brother Jay, the Redskins head coach.
Jon was right about Jay's reaction.
"If you’re talking about offensive linemen, you’re talking about a big, physical guy, and we want to bring that mentality back to this football team and it starts up front," Jay Gruden said after the draft on a conference call with reporters. "We addressed the defensive front a little bit in free agency, and I think we had to address the offensive linemen, the offensive line room, and we did that."
For his part, Scherff was not expecting to land in Washington. The Outland Trophy winner did not take a visit to Ashburn, and when he got that unexpected call from Gruden, Scherff said he was "ecstatic."
"I’m just happy. I really didn’t talk to the Redskins after the combine," Scherff said. "But, you know, I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to be a Redskin."
Winning teams don't always make the big splash. Looks like that mindset has finally taken over in Washington.