The Washington football team is perhaps the most dysfunctional in the NFL, and this week the Skins have given D.C. football kremlinologists plenty to chew on.
This story goes back to last Tuesday, when former Washington tight end Chris Cooley—who does color analysis during Skins games, hosts a drive-time radio show on a Dan Snyder-owned radio station, and is very much on Washington’s payroll—said some wild stuff about GM Scot McCloughan, who hasn’t been speaking to the press this offseason. From the Washington Post:
“You start to wonder, what the hell is going on here?” Cooley asked. “And I start to look at this and say, ‘Do we not trust what Scot McCloughan is going to say to the media, and is that why he’s not allowed to talk to the media?’ And if we don’t trust what he’s going to say to the media, why don’t we trust what he’s going to say to the media? Now, if you look at the history of Scot McCloughan, I think the one thing that you’d immediately start to flush out as to why we don’t trust what he’s going to say is that he’s had a drinking problem over his entire career. And so you ask right away, is he drinking?”
McCloughan has had past struggles with alcoholism, and he’s been very candid about them. What’s interesting here is not only that one team employee went on the radio and raised the possibility of another team employee actively having a drinking problem, but that the Skins had nothing to say about it. You’d expect a normal, competent franchise to at least issue a condemnation of Cooley’s statements, but the team effectively gave a no-comment when asked about the issue by Pro Football Talk.
You can bet that this did not go unnoticed by the local media, and today Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer spun a wild but not-totally-unbelievable-for-this-franchise theory explaining why the Skins have yet to publicly admonish Cooley:
That can mean one of just two things: Cooley was too close to the truth, or Allen didn’t care that McCloughan received the negative publicity.
Even during good times, [team president Bruce] Allen hasn’t liked that McCloughan is cast as a savior changing the culture of the organization and erasing the many mistakes of the past. McCloughan has deflected praise consistently, but in every sports franchise, it’s easy for jealousy to infect the environment because breakthroughs require a massive group effort regardless of whose vision is being followed. It’s especially easy when a team has enjoyed as little success as Washington has the past two decades.
Brewer goes so far as to suggest that Bruce Allen’s jealousy of McCloughan is so potent that he may have planted the alcoholism talking point via Cooley. Given Cooley’s financial and personal ties to the franchise, such a theory can’t be dismissed out of hand.
It’s just as likely that Cooley was running his mouth on his own and received no instructions from Allen or other higher-ups, but the Skins have nobody to blame but themselves for all this speculation. If the team had just shown the slightest bit of public support for McCloughan—or, better yet, not spent years and years crafting itself a reputation as a dysfunctional organization that’s lousy with political infighting—this wouldn’t be a story. It’s absurd to believe that any NFL team president would sic a local radio host on his own GM, but if such a thing were to happen, it would absolutely happen in D.C.