Bruce Allen isn't Bobby: The Reason Mike Shanahan isn't Joe Gibbs

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports


As is often the case with my Fanposts, as single concept from a single thread comment snowballed into an entire research project. The results of which turned into the article I give you now. That particular comment was:

Hell of a good point. That’s our problem. We need to STOP looking for an old Gibbs type. People (Snyder) seem to think that the way to get a bowl is to go hire some established big name HC with established success.

Nope. When we hired Gibbs what was he? Not an HC. He was an excellent prospect who had proven his worth as an OC and AC.

That’s what we need to be scouting for now. The next great HC of THIS generation, not LAST generation. By constantly looking at established HCs with past success, we are not trying to hire the next Gibbs, we are trying to hire the next Gibbs 2.0.

Which raises the question, how do we spot a Gibbs type? With a talent spotting General Manager, that’s how. In this case it was legendary GM Bobby Beathard. Since I was in single digits when Beathard was in D.C., I had to look up his background, and what I discovered is a clue to what made him effective. A trait he shares with several other winning GMs (as we’ll review further down). A trait Bruce Allen does NOT have.

Talent Evaluation.

Lets look at the stats:

Bobby Beathard



1963 Asst Talent Scout for KC, Talent Scout for AFC,

1966 Full Time Scout for KC (went to SB)

68-71 Scout for Falcons

72 Dir Player Personnel Dolphins (2 SBs)

Accomplishments as a GM: 3 Redskins SB rings. 1 San Diego SB ring. (4th 1991 Redskins championship team composed mostly of Beathard picked players)

Notable player acquisitions: Art Monk, Joe Jacoby, Mark May, Russ Grimm, Dexter Manley, Charlie Brown, Darrell Green, Charles Mann, and Gary Clark.


"Oh, you guys want an Oline? I'll look into that."

While we are at it, let’s look at some other highly regarded GMs in the league. (Picked from a Forbes top ten list of GMs with a few candidates omitted for lack of SB rings, involvement in cheating scandals etc)

Ted Thompson



92-99 Talent Scout for GB Packers (two SB appearances one win)

93-99 Director of Personnel

00-04 Seahawks VP

Accomplishments as GM:

07 NFC Champ Game (Lost) ’10 SB (Won)

Notable Acquisitions: Aaron Rodgers

Said former Seahakws GM Mile Homgren, RE: Thompson’s work as VP, "Once Ted Thompson came on board and we settled down a little bit, we started making good decisions."

Kevin Colbert



’84-’89 College Scout for Miami Dolphins

’90 Pro Scouting Director for Lions

’00-’10 Director of Football operations (de facto GM as position did not exist with Steelers until 2010, when he became it.)

Accomplishments: ’06 SB, ’09 SB

Bill Polian



’78 Pro Scout for KC


8 championship appearances, 6 Super Bowl appearances, combined regular season record of 228-139, 13/22 seasons (about 60%) had 11+ wins

Notice a trend here? Now I am not saying a guy MUST be a former scout to be a GM, but it sure doesn’t seem to hurt. This should not be a surprise should it? If a GM is (supposed to be) the main executive voice in making personnel decisions for your team, doesn't it make sense to hire guys who started out proving their effectiveness as PROFESSIONAL TALENT EVALUATORS?

That really should be the recipe for GM success shouldn't it? Find a guy with a proven eye for spotting and evaluating talent. Empower him to make decisions.

Now, let see how this compares to Bruce Allen.

Bruce Allen



Former Assistant coach Arizona State

Former Head Coach Occidental (DIV III)

Former GM USFL Blitz, Arizona Wranglers one year each. (Hired by the coach, who was also his dad)

Upon George Allen’s retirement, he became a full time player agent to stay in the industry. (This should be a huge red flag. This seems to indicate that he couldn't find/maintain a GM job separate from his father.)

Late ‘80s early ‘90s Sports Agent

’95 Director of Operations Oakland

03-09 Tampa Bay Bucs GM

So what are we seeing here? We are seeing nearly ZERO job experience that was based on talent evaluation. The sports agent work is based on negotiating with talent, not evaluating or spotting it. This is sensible when you consider what most believe is Bruce Allen’s true capacity as a GM. Mike Shanahan gets final say, and Bruce Allen is there to be a cap guru, numbers man and contract negotiatior. Unfortunately, this means the Washington Redskins DO NOT HAVE A REAL GM.

Sadly, this has the earmarks of a historic Dan Snyder hire. A guy who is brought in not because of his experience, skill set or potential, so much as he was brought in because he has connections, knows the right people, has a notable name and has just enough semi-relevant history for the team to be able to spin a convincing argument that he’s going to be perfect for the job.

There are a few standard replies when you point this GM problem out. Let’s address them both here.

1. The "Brain Trust" theory – This is the argument that the Redskins’ FO is actually a think tank comprised of a savvy team of guys. Mike the coach, Bruce the cap wizard and the sharp Scott Campbell and Morrocco Brown as personnel guys. A veritable superfriends/justice league of NFL decision making. Problem: this structure makes GM a toothless position. It takes the real responsibilities of a typical GM position, splits them among three people, and makes all three of them subordinate to Mike Shanahan. There are no checks and balances. We can tell everyone this is a decision making team, but allow me to illustrate what that distribution of power looks like in practice.

"Are you sure about trading back for injured guys? Sounds risky? The Oline..."


"I find your lack of faith disturbing..."

2. The "Belichick/Pioli did ok" argument. Oh? Did they? Did they really? Or did HE? Yes, Bruce Allen’s position does have some parallels to Pioli, but they might not be good ones. Pioli, like Allen, split the power with his head coach. Pioli, like Allen has a history of success attached to his name, but its easily argued that the coach did that, not the GM. Pioli had Belichick like Allen had Jon Gruden and to a lesser extent Bill Callahan. What happened to Pioli led teams when he didn't have Belicheck? The Kansas City Chiefs happened. That’s what. Terrible QB moves the likes of Matt Cassell and Brady Quin. Only 1 year out of 4 with a winning record. That ONE season netted Pioli overstated praise though, since the Chiefs pulled a worst to first, DIV title by going 10-6.


So my main point here is Bruce Allen may be a great guy with football smarts and cap wizardry but he does not appear to have the winning elements you need from the guy you are going to put in the GMs chair. We need to look at other options.

On a side note here is a scary thought. How many people talked about Kyle eventually assuming the throne after Mike retired. How did we not realize what that would have meant? The Skins would officially be run by "Team Silver Spoons" charter members of the "Didn’t You Hear Who My Daddy Is?" club. I suppose that would have been ironically appropriate for D.C.’s team about 10 years ago, when G.W.B. was in the White House, but still, I’d rather not.

Where do we go from here? I am not sure. IF (and this might be quite an if) Bruce Allen isn't the type to have personality/power wars I would be totally supportive of keeping him here in another position. I’d consider shifting Allen over to more of a Director of Personnel position and having him continue to be the cap wizard. I’d potentially look at elevating Scott Campbell to the true GM with actual GM powers. Then I’d figure out either keeping Shanahan with the understanding that he does NOT override Campbell, or if egos were too much of an issue, I’d opt to start scouting for Shanahan’s replacement.

What do you all think?

What does it take to get us back HERE?


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