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Tempering Expectations of the McCloughan Appointment

With the expected hiring of Scot McCloughan, Redskins fans around the world have jumped from rock bottom to the top of Mount Expectation in a matter of days. Optimism should be welcomed with a degree of caution however.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I am sorry to play the role of damp squib, but I want to talk about something I am worried about.

After years of selling false hope and delivering broken dreams, the Redskins needed to re-evaluate their whole operation this offseason, that was obvious to everyone.  What wasn't obvious was how aware the Redskins were, and this led many fans to delve to new depths of apathy and anger.  We have been screaming for the organisation to appoint a true GM for years.  Someone to renovate the roster and make sound decisions based on the product on the field instead of winning off it.

By appointing Scot McCloughan, who many fans had as their top choice for this role, the Redskins have finally answered this long sought after dream.  It's a kind of promised land, or fantasy world, that many did not think we would ever see again. We are delirious and rightly so.

Whilst the appointment of a respected and talented GM is a huge step forward for the team, we need to be careful that expectations do not get out of control.  Many things (including the actual contract being wrapped up as of writing) can happen, and as Redskins fans, we all know how easily things can go wrong in DC. The infamous ESPN article that was doing the rounds the last couple of months has set an unrealistic expectation on McCloughan's talent.  Words like 'savant' have been thrown around. People are excited.

Let's look at some of the other things we need to be aware of:

The first expectation to manage is time.  How long will it take before this appointment could provide us with a competitive team on the field?  Looking at McCloughan's time with the 49ers, we can see that it took at least 4 years for that team to turn around and start to be competitive again.  Head coaches came and went, and schemes changed as the team slowly took shape and became the force we all recognise today. We aren't going to be Super Bowl contenders in year one. Or two. Or even three.

Next is draft success rate.  While McCloughan certainly has a reputation as a great talent evaluator, and drafted some excellent players in his time with Seattle and San Francisco, he is not perfect.  Hitting on 2 or 3 players in an average draft is the norm.  Compare this to the recent Redskins drafts, where we are lucky if we hit on one or two starters at the most. Don't expect us to draft 7 starters in the Spring, but do expect us to find more depth in later rounds. Also expect us to start getting more draft picks per year.  In Seattle and San Francisco, McCloughan regularly had 9 or 10 picks per draft. More picks equals more chances you will hit.

What about McCloughan himself? A man with demons such as alcoholism, that has already hampered his career twice to date, is a risk.  Returning to a stressful environment (and let's be honest, the Redskins with it's starving fan base and intense media speculation, is as high pressure as it is going to be) is going to test his resolve.  Can he maintain his sobriety and focus?  Did he came back too soon? Will he just get fed up with the crazy circus we have here?  All concerns.

Offseason winners? While the experience of being a Redskins fan in the last 20 years has been difficult to watch, it has at least been entertaining in so much that offseasons were exciting.  Waiting for the next crazy move from Dan Snyder in FA, to trading away draft picks for a franchise QB is now the norm for us and the media.  By all accounts, McCloughan is very much a draft and develop kind of guy who only uses free agency to complement his team if needed (think Packers).  This is really positive news of course, but an adjustment to our expectations of how the team operates is necessary. It might be boring and don't expect us to be big players in FA any more, but I for one would welcome this.

How will the Redskins FO react?  It is never as simple as plugging one man into a dysfunctional environment and expecting it to work.  The Redskins have a culture of losing. They have people, not least Daniel Snyder himself, who will have their own agendas.  How much autonomy of the team will McCloughan get, and will Snyder and Allen interfere in this? How long will it take him to get the people he wants into key positions?  What if he doesn't get on with Allen or thinks he is being undermined?

Finally, and this is a big one.  What if McCloughan just can't make it work? We are all acting like it is a sure thing that he can turn us around.  What if he can't? Maybe he just got a bit lucky in the past, or the environments he was in last were just right time, right place.  No one is perfect.

In no way am I trying to put a downer on this move by the Redskins.  It is one of the best decisions the team has made in a very long time, and shows us that they are now aware of the problems that we have been screaming about for years.  All I want to do is point out that despite our extreme joy in this appointment, we need to be aware that patience and an open mind will be our best friends for the next few years.

The worst thing that could happen is fans, and by extension the media, smother McCloughan with ridiculous expectations in his first couple of years as GM, and as a consequence he decides to leave or gets fired by Snyder when it doesn't work straightaway.  Look at the whole circus around drafting RGIII. Remember him being the "saviour of the franchise"?

Remember your training.  Find your inner Redskins fan and realise that nothing is certain here.

Hunker down. Enjoy the ride. Be patient, but optimistic. There's a gleam...