We weren't the only people to get time with Bruce Allen yesterday as many of you know. But we did get some quality one-on-one time with the Washington Redskins General Manager, and we had the chance to raise some of the issues we have spent the last year debating here at Hogs Haven.
Bruce is no rookie, and he proves his veteran mettle with some of his answers below. You'll find that we spent zero time on Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth. Frankly, I am sick of talking about it, and I was not about to waste my precious time on either topic this time around. Thankfully, every other reporter he spoke to yesterday brought it up so we didn't have to...sweet.
Our interview with Bruce after the jump (and yes, I do ask him about the memo they sent out last year stating that Tthe Future is Now").
Hogs Haven: Last year when you came on board, you said "the status quo was unacceptable". What aspect of the organization did you set out to change right away and how would you define today's status quo?
Bruce Allen: Well, first of all I think we have changed the status quo. Not to the levels we want in record, but I think we have the infrastructure in place and the foundation for us to be successful. When you blend a bunch of new players, new coaches and new schemes on offense and defense, it's going to take some time. But I believe the will of this team and the fight in this team is actually quite impressive.
HH: We spoke with Chris Cooley recently and he told us that he expected it to take 3-4 years to get the ship righted because of the expected turnover. While that is just one man's opinion-and a tight end for that matter-what would be your response or comment on that sentiment?
Bruce: (laughs at the tight end comment) Well, you know...that's Chris' opinion. I don't really comment on that.
HH: This next one is kind of a big one for us. We have spent considerable time on it and many of our readers have voiced their opinions on this topic. Not to suggest that you carry with you a lot of regret, or can even afford to given the world you kind of live in, but with regard to sending out a memo last year suggesting that "The Future is Now"...would you go back and maybe do that differently? What do you feel about that decision at this point in time?
Bruce: What memo are you referring to?
HH: The letter that was sent out to the Redskins fanbase last summer ahead of the preseason where the key phrase was "The Future Is Now" and that the team was really gearing up for a big run. While there were things in place that maybe could have backed that up, that was a big cause of angst we think because it seemed that in fact we were rebuilding and that we weren't built to win it immediately. Is that something that you would go back and do again?
Bruce: Well, Ken, let me first explain the phrase "The Future is Now" for you. When my father said that, it was something he had been telling the kids our entire life. That meant, "Take care of today. What you do today will determine what your future looks like. If you do everything you can to be the best you can in that day, your future will be brighter." And what we're trying to do today-actually today because we're cross-checking our player evaluations offense versus defense-is to make sure we're doing everything to improve our team. Our intensity and desire to win every single game will not change.
HH: Assuming for a moment that we are kind of putting this team together, whether you want to call it rebuilding or not, how would you rank your priorities in terms of building the team from an ideological perspective-draft, free agency and even the addition by subtraction of players who just don't fit in?
Bruce: Well, the number one thing is to get 53 men working together for the benefit of the team. The coaches' and the players' objective is no different than anybody else in the building and that's to be successful. Whomever we think can fit into that magical mix, that's who we're going to try and add to this football team...whether it's via trade, via draft or via free agency.
HH: As a personnel guy, would you rank one over the other, specifically regarding free agency and the draft?
Bruce: You can do that more in hindsight when you do it because there are some gems sometimes in the draft that you get or undrafted free agents like we got a few players this year or it can be in free agency. There is really no set or fixed in concrete way...we're going to look at every avenue we can to get better.
HH: One could argue that you really built a veteran team in Tampa Bay, but in the draft, it seemed that the decision-makers in that Tampa Bay front office at the time didn't produce a ton-in fact I think it was just one...Pro Bowler. Without really going back and talking about that in particular, I think what people want to know is what did you learn from that experience in Tampa Bay and how would you compare the Washington Redskins decision-making structure with the one you had in Tampa Bay with Jon Gruden?
Bruce: You do learn every year on this job and every month on this job and every week on this job and that goes hand in hand with what we are doing now. We're evaluating our players and not just what they can do or what they can't do but how will they fit in with another player. And I think experience will tell you that, have we made some mistakes in the past, yeah certainly I'll raise my hand on that. But if you work harder today and do everything you can today to make sure you research every aspect of a player...that can minimize your mistakes.
HH: Does Coach Shanahan say, "I need this guy" or...how does it work deciding on which free agents to bring in with regard to the way you guys work?
Bruce: It really starts in our pro personnel department. We'll have all the players in the league evaluated and graded and then we meet with the entire coaching staff and discuss the players and then we'll prioritize as a staff-the entire coaching staff and the entire scouting staff-on various models of fitting X player at Y position until we exhaust every one of the potential options we have to acquire a player. So the entire staff gets together and it's an honest and candid debate sometimes of opinions, but we have been able to come together as a group on each decision we've made.
HH: How would you contrast the styles, or the way you have worked with Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan?
Bruce: Well, you know everybody's different in this league...and in life! Everyone has their unique perspectives. I don't know if Mike has worked with someone like me or if Jon has worked with somebody else different than whomever. It's different because people are different but the objectives are the same. When Mike was in Denver and when I was in Tampa or Oakland and...we're here and we want to win.
HH: I know that the CBA is a big issue and I'm not going to ask you about it, but for a moment if we could kind of set it aside which I know is a big deal, it looks like we could see a free agent class this offseason like none we have ever seen, both from a numbers standpoint as well as a talent standpoint. Without giving away any specific strategy-
Bruce: Don't worry, I won't!
HH: Haha...Can you speak to two things: a) what kind of player the Redskins think they need at this point and b) if you anticipate any difficulties acquiring your top targets due to the perceived treatment of perceived players this past season?
Bruce: No, I think we'll make our game plan and hopefully be able to execute a lot of it. I think it is a little premature.
HH: Agreed...and I appreciate that. It is just interesting that-and you've been around the NFL for a long time and you understand that sometimes in the past the Redskins have been criticized for pursuing the free agency route more than the draft route and yet this offseason the free agency route may in fact be the best course for the Redskins based on how many draft picks we have as well as the kinds of players that could be available.
Bruce: We made it a point that this was the 2010 season and we didn't want to compromise where we were in the future. We see the draft obviously as a great way to set up the core of your team. That is what we are going to start focusing on when we go down to the East-West game next week and the Senior Bowl and as we prepare for the Combine. There won't be an avenue that we won't look to try and help our team.
HH: We really appreciate your time and we certainly wish you guys the best.
Bruce: I appreciate you guys. Thank you.