In seven seasons working in the Chicago Bears’ front office, Morocco Brown met some of football’s toughest, most devout fans, legions willing to brave Arctic conditions in good times and in bad.
“I was talking to a group of investors, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, yesterday,” Brown, the Redskins’ director of pro personnel, said Saturday, “and I was telling them: The previous three years, we won 15 games [losing 33], and we hadn’t won the division since 1999. So that’s a long time. You’re starving to win, and then you’re 10-6, and it just inflates the area.
“Of course, it’s the quarterback. We haven’t had a (big-time) quarterback since Mark Rypien, Doug Williams [late 1980s, early ‘90s]. There’s just a lot of excitement. But now the game becomes, you go from the hunter to the hunted.”
A former linebacker at Kecoughtan High and North Carolina State, Brown returned home this weekend to visit his parents, Pam and Charlie, and to contribute to the annual football camp run by the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation’s Carl Francis and Vernon Lee.
Brown is entering his sixth season in Washington, the first two with head coach Jim Zorn, and this the fourth under Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen. Never have expectations been so high.
But for all of Griffin’s brilliance as a rookie in leading the Redskins to the playoffs – they lost their postseason opener to the Seattle Seahawks – there’s no escaping the offseason surgery he had to repair the right knee he reinjured against Seattle.
“We can’t stop the show because a player’s injured,” Brown said. “So that’s been the thought process during the offseason. … I think we’ve done a good job building depth … whether it’s (behind) him or whoever.”
Indeed, Griffin’s fellow rookie Kirk Cousins filled in admirably last season when Griffin was sidelined. His last-minute, 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon and subsequent 2-point conversion run against the Baltimore Ravens forced overtime, where Washington prevailed.
“You look at a guy like (Cousins), and this speaks to where we are with personnel decision-making,” Brown said. “We’re … light years ahead of where we were since Bruce and Coach Shanahan got here. We had (Cousins) as a second-round talent, and he’s sitting there (available) in the fourth.
“And we’re saying, ‘Hey, this is a position of weakness, and we have a chance to turn it into a position of strength. Take two!’ Coach Shanahan had been in San Francisco with (Joe) Montana and (Steve) Young, so he knew the importance of making that a position of strength.”
Many questioned the Redskins’ drafting both Griffin and Cousins in 2012, but the choices paid off large.
Under Shanahan and Allen, Brown’s role has evolved, even as his title is the same.
“You’re wondering if you (have a job),” Brown said of the Zorn-to-Shanahan transition. “Then there’s, ‘Can this guy bring us some players?’ Then you pass that test and start stacking the roster. …
“Once that happened, my role expanded a little outside the title. I’m doing some college work, a lot. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve shown I can evaluate, so they want to hear what I have to say regardless of whether it’s college or pro. I’m involved in all of that. I have a real good relationship with Coach. He trusts my work.
“It’s just like being a player. Either you can do it, or you can’t, and they’re going to find that out before too long. From there it’s just building trust. You work with the staff and get more comfortable. It’s kind of cool to know you’re a trusted piece of what’s going on, and over time you keep sharpening your tools, your sword, and keep hacking at it. And hopefully you win.”
In addition to scouting some college players, Brown continues to evaluate the Redskins’ practice squad and, most time-consuming, the 300-some players that could be free agents at season’s end. The team’s website says Brown “was instrumental” in last year’s signings of Garcon and Virginia Tech alum Josh Morgan, who became Washington’s top receivers.
Combine those duties with the team’s success and Brown’s easy way with people – thank Pam and Charlie for that – and you have a general manager in the making.
Brown interviewed for the Arizona Cardinals’ GM position during the offseason. The team promoted vice president of player personnel Steve Keim instead, but Brown valued the four-hour, face-to-face Q&A with Cardinals president Michael Bidwell.
“It was great to see the process,” Brown said. “That’s been my ambition since the get-go, to run my own team. … Once you finish (the interview), you have it in the back of your head, ‘You know what? This is attainable. It’s not so far off. Man, I’m knocking on the door.’
“It’s a different mindset when you talk to an owner about how you’d run a team. … It’s not looking through the binoculars, it’s looking through the telescope and seeing the whole thing. … You can’t try to … be something you think they want you to be. You have to just be yourself.”
Brown will accompany the Redskins to training camp July 25 as the team moves its preseason workouts from their traditional base in Northern Virginia.
“We’ve had it for so long at Redskins Park, and the players have a level of comfort,” Brown said. “They’re going to sleep in their own beds, they’re home, they’re with their families. That brings a level of ease you want. … (But) I think the thought process of getting us out of that, and kind of going away so we can all come together and gel as a team is a good idea. …
“I know, no one wants to go through camp. It’s hard. You don’t want to be there. You can’t train enough to get through it. You’re going to freaking collapse at training camp. But when you’re just with the team, and you don’t have to take the trash out, that’s a gelling point where you really get to know guys.”
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