Washington Redskins: Scott Campbell

Hurricane Katrina forced detours for scouts and executives throughout the South. It messed up travel plans, kept them from going to certain place, and left them headed for one place in particular: Vanderbilt University. It became a hub, of sorts, for those wanting to scout SEC players.

They’d pick the brain of Alex Santos, then a graduate assistant at Vanderbilt, wanting to know about this player or that team. Eventually one long-time scout told Santos that he should consider switching career paths.

So he did.

“Here I am, eight years later,” Santos said.

Yes, here he is – the Redskins' new director of pro personnel. The Redskins gave him that title more than a week ago, replacing Morocco Brown, who accepted a new job in Cleveland. Santos spent the past six years as an NFL scout under Brown, a former teammate of his at North Carolina State. And three years ago he felt he was ready for more, that he could handle a promotion like the one he just received.

“We all get to a certain point in life, you want to take that next step,” Santos said. “I wouldn’t say a light went on, but it was something I wanted to do. I didn’t have a timeline or a date set, but the opportunity presented itself. I’m super thankful and appreciative for them to have faith in me.”

The word appreciative came up time and again during a 14-minute interview with Santos last week. He’s not in this for the publicity and would prefer not doing interviews (though he is described as affable and a unifier by someone who worked with him in the past). Santos knows it’s a cliché, but his only focus is doing whatever it takes to help the Redskins win.

For now, that means getting players. The Redskins have finished last seven of the past 10 years, including four of the past five. So there’s work to be done. Santos didn’t want to reveal specifics about what he might change, saying only that “we’ll tweak some things and add to some things that already have been done. ... You put your spin on it.”

Nor is he suddenly awed by the added pressure he’ll face with the promotion. He’ll report to team president and general manager Bruce Allen as well as director of player personnel Scott Campbell.

“It’s exciting,” Santos said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge, embracing the challenge. But it’s something when we talk about presenting information to superiors, that’s something we [as a staff] all do together. Doing it as a group will put us in situations to present Scott and Bruce with the best information possible.”

Santos was a four-year starter at guard for North Carolina State. His first coaching stop was as an assistant at Eastside High School in New Jersey. He joined the Redskins in 2006 as a pro personnel assistant and became a pro scout two years later.

He said he’s learned important lessons along the way.

“Willingness to learn, open to ideas,” he said. “[When] young guys come up to you and present certain things to you about particular ways to do something or about a player, be receptive to it, be open to it. Obviously it’s all on me to make a decision, but being open and receptive to ideas, being willing to learn and definitely not being of the mindset that you know it all."

What he once thought he knew is that his future was in coaching. That changed thanks to Katrina. It helped that Vanderbilt’s quarterback that season was Jay Cutler, so the school was a good place to stop for scouts and executives.

“We had a high traffic volume of scouts come in, general managers came in,” Santos said.

One veteran scout, after talking with Santos, asked if he’d ever considered this end of the industry.

“I hadn’t really thought about doing it,” he said. “I wanted to coach. You don’t want to go back and forth. ... I went into it head first. When the Redskins had a position, I was able to get consideration and it all worked out. Eight years later this is the role I’m in now.”
  • I have no idea what Alex Santos will do in his current role, but his promotion to director of pro personnel as Morocco Brown's replacement made sense. He’d been in the scouting department since 2006 and had a strong reputation in the building. I do know of some others around the league who would have been interested in the job who had more experience (but in one case their situation changed so it became irrelevant).
  • One person who worked with Santos considered him an opinionated talent evaluator with an affable personality, able to unify and with excellent people skills. Plus, and this can’t be underscored, there’s a willingness to grind.
  • Yes, the Redskins have had an awful lot of stability in the front office for a team that has finished last five of the past six seasons.
  • Does that record mean those behind the scenes have failed? Well, you win as an organization. But the tough part to always know: How much are the reports being listened to?
  • I know of at least one player in recent years who was not written up favorably by the defensive coaches – and I mean all of them – and others but were still brought in because one person wanted them. He was OK at best. Another player, safety O.J. Atogwe, was signed because he had played under coordinator Jim Haslett. Was that a scouting mistake? Doubt it. Scouts I spoke with in other organizations felt Atogwe was done at least a year earlier.
  • That doesn’t mean everything that happened in the past was the coaches' fault. It’s too easy now to blame everything on Mike Shanahan. He did have the power, though. However, what it means is that I can’t dismiss a promotion from within only on the basis of the team has been bad for a while so therefore it's a bad move.
  • And, yes, I’m sure some would have preferred a fresh set of eyes in the front office. Just because.
  • Neither Doug Williams nor A.J. Smith was going to get this job, by the way. The hours are a killer – 100-hour weeks for a job that is No. 3 in power in the front office and, in terms of the organization would be even lower because they’d be behind a head coach, too. It’s a job best given to those on the way up. If Smith, for example, wants to get another general manager’s position, he won’t get there being a No. 3 in charge. His résumé as a GM already is built. Smith’s focus this offseason was more on the draft than anything else; Santos’ job will be more about pro scouting.
  • Regardless of who they brought in, though, the power rests with general manager (and, don’t forget, team president) Bruce Allen and then director of player personnel Scott Campbell. I don’t know if a new, young hotshot would have made a dent, certainly not more than the coach Allen hired or the coaches he retained. The fresh set of eyes, for better or worse, belong to Allen and coach Jay Gruden. Allen has new power; Gruden offers a different way of doing things than Shanahan.
  • Is that good or bad? Don’t know; they haven’t gone through a season with this setup so for now anything is a guess. For now you can paint it however you want, depending on your level of faith or cynicism.
  • Nor do I know what sort of job Santos will do. It’s always easy to measure a team because there’s a won-loss record, but it’s tougher behind the scenes. Then it becomes more like politics in terms of who gets credit or where blame is focused. Front-office type when things go bad: “We got him the players. They need to coach them better.” Coach: “They needed to get me better players.”
  • The pressure here remains on Allen. He has to prove he’s capable of building a winning organization with power he’s never had in the past. It’s hard to trust a lot of what the Redskins do because they haven’t won consistently in a long time. Until they do, everything will be (justifiably) viewed cynically. For those wanting that perception to change, there’s one way out: win. Of course, that's been said for too long now.

Doug Williams: 'Great day for me'

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
5:15
PM ET
Doug Williams was happy to be home. But not only will the town be familiar, so, too, will the job. It’s the same one he performed for five seasons in Tampa Bay when Bruce Allen was the Bucs’ general manager.

“It’s a great day for me to come back into the family,” Williams said.

Williams, hired Monday, as a personnel executive, will have a crossover role. He’ll help both director of pro personnel Morocco Brown and director of player personnel Scott Campbell, who focuses on college players.

Williams has had chances to return in the past, but the timing wasn’t right for whatever reason. After Tampa Bay let him go in May of 2010, Williams spoke to the Redskins but opted to become the general manager of the Virginia Destroyers. A year later Williams talked to them again, but returned to become head coach at Grambling.

“It’s the right fit because of the turnover and the direction the organization is going at this time,” Williams said. “As we know coach [Mike] Shanahan, when he was here he had the last word on whatever decision or player. Now it will be more of a team effort situation with Bruce and Morocco and Scott and the other scouts. Everyone will have a voice.”

Williams said he has not yet studied the Redskins’ roster closely enough and will use the next several weeks to catch up and prepare for the scouting combine.

“Full speed ahead for the next few weeks,” Williams said.

Williams also said he saw “bits and pieces” of quarterback Robert Griffin III this past season. He also made it clear he wasn’t going to be coaching him at all. They spoke after the Dallas game in December and have traded text messages.

“With coach [Jay] Gruden, I don’t think he could ask for a better guy to be his coach,” Williams said.
ASHBURN, Va. -- Bruce Allen said it after Mike Shanahan was fired. And nothing will change now that Jay Gruden has been hired.

Allen is in charge. There will be a shared approach to decision-making, but ultimately one person must have final say. In the past four years it was Shanahan. This time it won’t be Gruden.

“It will be my responsibility,” Allen said.

As a first-time head coach, Gruden should not be granted ultimate power. He’ll have enough to worry about as a head coach -- and play-caller -- to dabble that much in personnel, too. Morocco Brown will be the director of pro personnel; Scott Campbell the director of player personnel. Former San Diego general manager A.J. Smith, currently a senior executive, could have a greater role in the future (he did not earn high praise for how he worked with the coaches in San Diego; Marty Schottenheimer said in "A Football Life" that he learned of roster moves at times through the media).

But Allen said Gruden’s time in Cincinnati should prepare him for the current setup.

“The coaches were really involved with the personnel office,” Allen said. “We’ll make our selections based on the Redskins choices. The scouting department will give us the players and the list, and we’ll work through with the coaches and analyze it. Every player will be chosen as a group.”

But Allen has to prove he can build a winner as the primary decision-maker. He said he does not feel any more pressure than he previously did, though it's also true that general managers don't often stick around long enough to make a third hire if the first two don't work.

“We have to get it right,” he said. “We need to get the franchise back on track in a winning direction. That is a responsibility, but I’ve felt that responsibility every day.”

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