This might be an interesting question to ask about a guy that was unceremoniously let go from the Washington Redskins just this past spring, but this article isn’t about his tenure with the Redskins. Okay, maybe it is. But just a bit.
After Scot McCloughan’s exit from D.C. this past March after two seasons, he seemed to retreat from the public eye, much like he did after he parted ways with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Many fans were expectant (and more than a few even hopeful) that he would return to give us his side of the story on what really happened. It seems that the D.C. faithful have heard every side of the story except for his, and theories abound to this day as to what it really was that let to such an acrimonious split from a team that seemed by most accounts to be trending upward.
None of that happened. In fact, McCloughan (although he was seen in public in Virginia still wearing Skins gear on several occasions) seemed content to keep mostly silent about his time in Washington.
Then, about two weeks ago, something happened.
An innocuous tweet, from a new Twitter account passing itself off as that of Scot McCloughan, surfaced on the Internet. A hesitant curiosity spread through the Redskins Twitterverse as many latched on to the tweet, but many others dismissed the account as fake. McCloughan had never been known for his social media activity before. In fact, when watching his habits over his two years with Washington, it would have been easy to peg McCloughan as someone neither into media nor much into socializing. But it wasn’t long after that initial tweet that McCloughan’s wife, Jessica (who has, in a way, been more vocal about the McCloughan tenure in Washington than her own husband), started pointing her own followers to the account. His son, Caden, soon joined her, and observers were left with two possibilities: Either this was a very elaborate hoax where someone had hacked multiple accounts and was impersonating the entire McCloughan family on Twitter, or the reclusive uber-scout, seen by many as a tragic hero of talent acquisition, had really thrown his hat into the social media ring.
The account was verified in less than a week, which removed most, if not all, doubt. What was more, the account has proven to be for more than show, and has seen McCloughan readily answer many questions about his decisions and thought processes across his career. This in and of itself isn’t something we’ve seen much, if at all, from someone with Scot’s credentials. The average fan, provided they have a Twitter account and an intelligent question, is receiving a level of access into the thought process of a talent scout that has little precedent.
Meanwhile, Scot has returned to private practice as a freelance consultant that can rent his expertise at finding talented prospects to any team that wants it, without the stresses and politics of a full-time GM role.
It’s not something making national NFL news, but maybe it should, and here’s why: I believe freelance scouting has the potential to become a popular new wave in talent acquisition – both for how scouts can find work, and how teams can supplement their scouting staffs. Scot’s approach is general, usually consisting of a list of his best hundred (or so) prospects that he sends to teams. But this new arena of sorts lends itself to specialization – in the future, you could easily see scouts that specialize in unearthing wide receiver talent, or small-school prospects that may be drafted late, if at all, but nonetheless project to being solid NFL players. Couple this with the emergence of programs like the Scouting Academy (McCloughan has mentioned interest in contributing to something similar one day) and it’s not hard to see McCloughan’s path becoming a more widespread phenomenon. While I don’t believe it will ever replace teams having their own scouting departments, I do think there’s something to be said for having pairs of eyes on the outside that aren’t required to bend their approach to the NFL’s constantly-in-flux coaching ranks or to the whims of front-office big wigs, some of whom range from no football knowledge, to just enough of it to overreach themselves and make a mess of things. (Not talking about anyone in particular here, I swear.)
Until that day comes, though, McCloughan remains an intriguing anomaly – a lone wolf whose best hunting may, in fact, be done away from the pack.