There were many issues that led to the messy departure of Scot McCloughan from the Redskins. But the primary one appears to be the issue that still is the lead story of the 2017 offseason.
The partnership between the organization and the man they hired to be their general manager in January of 2015 started to fray less than a year after it started, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. After successfully lobbying for the team to make Kirk Cousins the starting quarterback and bench Robert Griffin III in August of 2015, taking five hours to persuade Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder that it was the right move, McCloughan tried to get Cousins, who was in the last year of his rookie contract, signed to a new deal.
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But there was resistance due to concerns over how Griffin, who they thought still may have a key role, would react to a Cousins extension. There were some preliminary talks with Cousins’ agent during the Redskins’ bye week but Cousins’ play had been inconsistent and the talks didn’t go much of anywhere. McCloughan got the green light to make a push to get Cousins to sign a long-term deal in December but by that time Cousins was on a roll and the price tag had escalated.
The Redskins had to use the franchise tag on Cousins and that set the bar for the negotiations. McCloughan tried to get a deal done and the early 2016 talks got off to a "rough start," as Breer put it. By later in the year McCloughan was off the Cousins negotiations, replaced by Eric Schaffer. The GM was not in the loop on decisions regarding Cousins after that, including the application of the exclusive franchise tag last month.
There are some “what ifs” involved here. It’s easy to say that if McCloughan had been able to have his way shortly after Cousins became the starter the organization would be up in the air as it is now, facing the choice of making Cousins one of the the highest-paid quarterbacks in the game when he clearly is not among best or starting all over again at the most important position on the field either this year or next.
But that presumes that a fair deal with a quarterback who had been inconsistent and eventually benched when he had chances to start in 2014 would have been easily accomplished either before the start of the 2015 season or even during the bye week. Cousins has been more than willing to gamble on himself and it is not a given that a deal could have been done.
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Regardless, the conflict over how to handle Cousins was the beginning of the end of McCloughan’s time in Washington, or at least part of the end. Breer also cites Allen’s issues with McCloughan’s handling of situations involving an injury to rookie Su’a Cravens and an incident where cornerback Bashaud Breeland had an outburst during practice as major factors in McCloughan’s departure.
There is more to it, of course. Some players disputed that McCloughan’s alleged problems with alcohol were as evident as some sources said it was when the news of the GM’s firing was first reported. When something blows up in such an ugly fashion there usually are dozens of problems preceding the blow up at the end. As Breer put it:
"Maybe we eventually get more answers on what really happened. What I do know is that the conclusion predicted by some in Ashburn—Eventually, those people forecast, there would be problems over power and McCloughan’s past issues would be raised as he departed—has come true."