Once a Super Bowl MVP, Doug Williams waited his entire post-playing career to run a professional team.
“You want this day to come,” he said. “When you get up every morning, you hope it’ll come.”
It’s here. The former quarterback is now in charge of the Washington Redskins as senior vice president of player personnel. He’s running the show, but Williams made it very clear he’s not the general manager.
“We had a general manager — it didn’t work out that well,” Williams said Tuesday, referring to the two-year tenure of Scot McCloughan, who was fired in March. “My job is to control (my) hallway. And I think if we do a good job, no matter what happens, we all get credit for what this football team does.”
In announcing Williams’ promotion from senior personnel executive, team president Bruce Allen said the 61-year-old stood out among more than a dozen internal and external candidates. Allen hired Williams in Tampa Bay and has known him for a long time but said his “plan” made it clear he was the right man for the job that has been done piecemeal for the past few months.
“I was proud of when Doug presented his plan because his vision was a team,” Allen said at a news conference. “He was a quarterback again leading a team.”
Williams, who has been with Washington since February 2014, will run the personnel department and work in concert with Eric Schaffer, director of pro personnel Alex Santos, Kyle Smith — son of former NFL executive A.J. Smith — and coach Jay Gruden. Schaffer was promoted to senior VP of football operations and general counsel, Smith to director of college scouting, Tim Gribble to assistant director of college scouting and Richard Mann to assistant director of pro personnel.
After the Redskins fired McCloughan, Allen considered bringing in someone from the outside but decided to stay in-house by hiring one of the most prominent players in franchise history. Williams was the first black quarterback to lead a team to victory in the Super Bowl and earned MVP honors in the title game after the 1987 season.
“Based on his track record as a player, that’s some great credibility,” Schaffer said. “I think that’s a great role for Doug, and I think players have a trust with Doug.”
But Williams brushed off the notion of being a “celebrity” hire because of his connections to the Redskins’ Super Bowl past that they’ve been desperate to recapture. Before his time with the Buccaneers and Redskins, Williams scouted for the Jacksonville Jaguars, coached at the college level at Grambling State and was a high school athletic director.
Gruden brought Williams onto the field at the end of Tuesday’s minicamp practice and said it was good to have someone players can talk to, but won’t just be “a shoulder to cry on” and will demand greatness.
“He’s worked very hard,” Gruden said. “He’s never used his name and what he’s accomplished here as a crutch to get him to where he is right now. He just worked very hard and earned the role that he received.”
With the Buccaneers, Allen said Williams was his “people meter” and will count on him again to meld together the rest of the team under him and owner Dan Snyder. Williams said he’ll let Schaffer — the chief negotiator — “finish the job” in negotiations on a long-term deal with quarterback Kirk Cousins and won’t mess with Gruden when it comes to coaching decisions.
“My job is to bring in good players,” Williams said. “I’m not the general manager, I’m not the president, I’m not the coach. My job is to sit up there and watch the guys that we bring in.”
If there is a disagreement, Allen and/or Snyder might get involved. But unlike when Allen touted McCloughan getting final say when he was hired as GM, this was a decision with a heavy emphasis on collaboration because the previous situation didn’t go as planned.
“You’ve got to have a team to win so that’s what we are,” Williams said. “This is not an ‘I’ business. This isn’t about Doug Williams. It’s about us. I just happen to be in the leadership role.”