From 1994 through ’96, five current NFL general managers worked in the Green Bay Packers’ front office.
In retrospect, John Dorsey, John Schneider, Reggie McKenzie, Ted Thompson and Scot McCloughan were part of an uncommonly strong scouting staff working for former GM Ron Wolf as he rebuilt the Packers into Super Bowl champions.
A member of the team’s football staff at the time recently looked back on those days and described each of the scouts in a nutshell.
Dorsey was the hardest working of the group; Schneider the boldest; McKenzie skilled all around but the least outwardly opinionated; Thompson was organized and inscrutable.
And McCloughan, whose Washington team hosts the Packers on Sunday in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs? The best pure talent evaluator.
That’s no small statement considering the overall success of the group – four of the five are in the playoffs this season.
“I’ve always been a big fan (of McCloughan),” the former Packers football staffer said. “I’m glad to see him get an opportunity. You see what he did in San Francisco, that was an impressive team they built. This year he gets (Washington) in the playoffs the first year. Good for him. You have to give him credit.”
McCloughan in fact has built a long history as a first-rate evaluator, though his career has been sidetracked twice because of alcohol issues.
He first learned scouting informally as a youngster while watching video and discussing players with his father, Kent, who was a player in the AFL with the Oakland Raiders and later a long-time scout with the team.
Scot, though, didn’t come to NFL scouting until after a four-year career as a minor-league baseball player. Kent was close friends with Wolf and in 1994 recommended his son as a possible scout. So Wolf put Scot through the standard interview: He gave him video of four or five players and had him write up reports.
“He did an excellent job in that little test,” Wolf said Wednesday.
McCloughan probably isn’t as well known to Packers fans as the other GMs the franchise has produced, mainly because he wasn’t with the team long enough to rise to a high front-office post.
He was an area college scout from 1994 to '99 – one of his early big finds was guard Adam Timmerman in the 1995 draft. Then in 2000, Thompson brought him to the Seattle Seahawks as director of college scouting.
When the Packers hired Thompson as GM in 2005, a source told me at the time that Thompson badly wanted to bring back McCloughan with him. But San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan, who had total control of the team’s football operations, already had hired McCloughan to run his personnel department.
Three years later, McCloughan was promoted to GM. In the five years he ran either the personnel department or entire football operations, McCloughan built much of the core of the 49ers team that from 2011 through '13 went 36-11-1, played in two NFC championships and one Super Bowl. He drafted eight of the starters from the 49ers’ 2012 Super Bowl team, including Pro Bowlers Frank Gore, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis and Dashon Goldson.
“Just look where he’s been,” Wolf said. “Those teams win. Not only do they win, they go to the big game. San Francisco goes to the (NFC) championship game (two) consecutive years after he left. There’s another guy parading around taking credit for it, but it’s really Scot McCloughan’s team in essence.”
McCloughan wasn’t there to reap the rewards with the 49ers because he went to rehab and eventually was fired after the ’09 season because of alcohol abuse. In ’10, Schneider hired him as a senior adviser with the Seahawks but then let him go after the ’13 season because of alcohol consumption.
In 2014, McCloughan started a scouting service and was hired by multiple NFL teams as a draft consultant. Then last January, Washington called looking for a GM.
McCloughan’s first draft with Washington already looks promising, with three players contributing significantly to the team’s 9-7 record and title in the weak NFC East: First-round pick Brandon Scherff is a starting guard, second-round pick Preston Smith is second on the team in sacks (eight), and fourth-round pick Jamison Crowder ranks No. 2 on the team in receptions (59).
It’s a surprisingly strong start for a franchise that has been in perpetual disarray during Dan Snyder’s ownership, which dates to 1999. Snyder at least so far has given McCoughan control of the football operations, and if McCloughan can keep his issues with alcohol at bay, you at least know one thing: Washington will have plenty of talent on its roster in the coming years.
“Scot was very steady,” the former Packers staffer said. “When you asked him about a player, he was very consistent in his message, he didn’t waver. He was a hard guy to take out. Not stubborn, but when he gave his opinion he stuck with it, didn’t back off.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.