To me this was probably the most informative, interesting chat we've done getting a look inside things and getting some real answers to process within our organization. Hope you enjoy.
From Extremeskins Staff
We really appreciate your taking a few moments to speak with us Mr. Riddick. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
From iheartskinsWell, I started working here at the Redskins in 2001 when Marty Shottenheimer was hired here. I had finished playing football in 1998, took off a few years, didnít know exactly what I wanted to do. I got a call from my agent saying that he knew some people who wanted to know if I wanted to get into this business. I came up here to interview, and the next thing I knew I was moving my stuff from Atlanta to here.
Mr. Riddick, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. To what extent does what you are looking for as a scout (or as Head of Pro Personnel) come from the coaches' instructions?
Follow-up from Extremeskins StaffWell, basically all of it does, because every coach has their own style and their own system. You always hear other teams talking about trying to find players that fit their style. Well, here, we meet with Gregg Williams, we meet with Coach Gibbs. They have a system that requires certain characteristics out of certain players and we go out and try to find those guys. We definitely try to find the guys that fit our system specifically and not try and fit our system to our players. At least thatís the way it is when you begin. Now eventually, you may not be able to find every guy that you ideally want and then coaches have to be able to adapt, and our coaches are great at doing that.
Youíve been here since Marty. Marty had his way he wanted things done, then you had Spurrier, he had his way, and Lewis and Edwards. And now you have Gibbs and Williams. Can you get into what those differences are in terms of each style and system, and do you think that anyone had a preference that could lead to better success?
When Marty was here, its no secret, he was a power football type of a coach. He likes a power running game, a big back, big linemen, and big tight ends and likes to play ball-control and control the clock and then hit you up top when he can in the passing game. And defensively, he kind of played the same way. He liked to play basic defenses, blitz when it was opportunistic to do so, get off the field on 3rd down, you know, kind of the same thing what you would call Ďold schoolí coaches want to do. When Steve and Marvin came here, Marvin had the same kind of philosophy on defense. A guy who really believed you needed a dominating front seven, two big deep tackles, a middle linebacker who could run and make tackles, corners who could play man to man and hold it down on the outside if you wanted to commit the safeties in the box to defend the run or to use them as extra rushers. Offensively, we were totally different than what Marty had wanted.
Steve liked a little bit more of the wide-open passing game. He liked the scatbacks, the running backs who were draw and sweep runners, guys who werenít really pounders like we had when Marty was here, like Stephen Davis was. And then, when Coach Gibbs came back, everybody knows Coach Gibbs is a power offense oriented kind of guy, with again the emphasis being that when itís opportunistic to go over top and hit you deep, heíll hit you deep. And with Gregg, his defense is, he likes to have guys that can rush the passer, two big deep tackles who can hold down the middle, a linebacker who can run, some outside linebackers who are great athletes that can blitz and cover, and a dominating safety and two good corners. So, defensively, it kind of remained the same over the years. Offensively, we went from power to more finesse back to power again.
Can you let us know how pro scouting, differs from college scouting. Are you looking for different types of players (E.g. Looking for a player to fit a certain role, rather than just the "best" player.), scouting based more on production than potential ?
Well, the difference between Pro scouting and college scouting is college scouting is a lot more projecting what a players going to be able to do at this level. So itís a little bit more of a guessing game, so to speak. Youíre just trying to narrow the chances of your being wrong about a guy when youíre in college because you donít really know how heís going to react when he gets to this level - when he gets money, starts playing basically 20 games a year, maybe more. You donít really know how those guys are going to react. So, youíre really trying to get a lot of background information, youíre trying to talk to as many people as you possibly can to project what this guy will do at this level. In the Proís itís a little different. You have some young guys who are practice squad type guys, developmental type guys that havenít really reached their potential yet. Pretty much on the pro level, you can see how guys compete against guys on this level, then youíre really just trying to figure out if they can come into your system and fit into what you do. So from an analysis perspective, from evaluating talent, you can get a pretty good idea on the pro level what a guy will do when he comes to your team. You just need to know if heíll be able to adapt to your system.
With the differences in rules and field size, how much harder is it to scout players in Canada and the Arena League and why don't we see more of those guys transition to the NFL? Is it purely the talent level?
The rules, the field size, I donít think thatís much of a factor to tell you the truth. Particularly because there have been, in the Arena League, a lot of good skill players to come out of that league, a lot of pretty good wide receivers and defensive back types. And the same thing with Canada. Most of the time when you see players come out of Canada, itíll be the wide receivers, the DBs, maybe a running back. The only thing you donít find coming out of those leagues are the big offensive and defensive linemen because theyíre not asked to do the same thing that theyíre asked to do on the NFL level. I mean, its no big secret, Canada likes to throw the football, so most of those guys donít really get much exposure to a power running game that youíre going to have to have on this level, and in the Arena League itís the same way. But there is some value to both of those leagues, teams that hit on some pretty good players coming out of those leagues and we do scout both of them.
From barry wilburn
Many of the players from this year's draft class are either off the team or are non-contributors. Historically, the team's ability to find successful players in the draft has been marginal, particularly in the later rounds. What measures are being taken to increase the team's "hit-rate" in the draft.
Well, you know, thatís always something that people analyze very heavily and thatís something we analyze ourselves very heavily, and its something that we continue to try and get better at. Thatís all we can do. Its tough when you get down in rounds 4, 5, 6, and 7 because itís a lot of, a lot of that stuff is not an exact science down there. But, weíve found some good players down there Ė Rock Cartwright, Robert Royal, to name a few of them, and Nehemiah Broughton whoís on our team now is going to be a real good one. Robert McCune is a little bit of a later round draft pick thatís going to be a good player for us. Weíve done alright there. Weíd like to do better of course and we have guys out of the road right now who are gathering as much information as possible. They bring the information back and we all sit down, pro-side and college-side, and go over all this information and weíre doing our best to try and improve our record in terms of however many people we have on our team that we did actually draft.
Follow-up from Extremeskins Staff
Some of the reason some of the later picks have not carried over from Marty, to Steve, to Joe might be simply what you stated earlier on, that thereís a complete change of philosophy. A guy who mightíve been a perfect fit for Marty might be a bad fit for Steve, who mightíve been a bad fit for Joe. Is that part of it as well, in some cases, with the later picks?
That can happen. And that doesnít necessarily just happen with the lower round draft picks, that can happen with your star players that you try to sign out of free agency. One guy could fit Steveís wide open system, and then a certain kind of running back could fit one system and then the next system, its just not the kind of back that you want. You wanted maybe a bigger, more powerful bruiser type of back. So yeah, that can happen, that can definitely happen, if your philosophy does change like that. It can make the process a little bit harder, sure. But thatís part of the business, thatís part of the game. There is going to be some turnover and weíve got to adjust to it on the fly and find the people we need.
Who were your favorite NFL players when you were playing High School ball? Were you an Eagle fan?
(laughs)ÖI hated the Eagles, as a kid. Thatís the truth. I grew up 45 miles away from old Veteranís Stadium. I hated the Eagles only because I was a big Dallas Cowboys fan, unfortunately, or fortunately, however you want to put it, as a kid I was. And that was only because they had my favorite player, Tony Dorsett, and I liked him way back when he was in college. I was only seven years old when he won the Heisman trophy, but I do remember him. He was one of the reasons I was such a big fan of the University of Pittsburgh where I went to school. But, guys like Dorsett, when I was playing Pop Warner football and when I got into high school, I wanted to be Eric Dickerson. I was mad that I couldnít get his number in high school, so I went out and did everything else that he did. I had the big horse collar like him, I bought some old cheap goggles from a sporting goods store so I could try and look like him, even though I almost broke my nose one game because they didnít fit real well. I wanted to be Eric Dickerson. He was one of the prettiest runners that youíve ever seen in the history of the NFL.
From Extremeskins Staff
This is probably one of the most important questions we can ask. You can hit on 1st rounders or miss on 1st rounders, it doesnít really make any difference, as long as you answer this question correctly. Gas or charcoal?
(laughs) Is there a right answer to this one? Thereís a right answer and then thereís my answer. I donít think my answer is going to be the right answer, but I have a pretty nice gas grill (audible groans heard)Ö.and I really like it. I had a bad experience at a cookout about 5 years ago where somebody was using an old-style charcoal grill. The hamburgers tasted like someone had drug them through some ashes. I couldnít stand it. Right now Iím gas, Iím gas all the way (laughs).
From The Chief
What is the life of an NFL scout like?
Oh boy. Well, for college guys, from August until the end of November-December, its 1 night home for every 10 days. Those other nights, youíre staying in Residentís Inn, youíre staying in Dayís Inn. Youíre going everywhere from Auburn, Alabama, to Florida State, to Jacksonville, up the coast to Clemson, and those guys just go to a school, they look at the players, they go to their hotel at night, type up reports, and get up in the morning and drive to the next school, the next school, the next school, the next school and thatís what they do for 5 months. For the pro-side, itís coming in here 7:30, 8:00 in the morning. Its meeting with coaches, itís reviewing our roster, its watching film of every game that was played in the league. We have 3 guys in our department and we split the league up. I cover the whole league. Our guys have certain teams that they have to cover, that they have to know everything from guys who are hurt, to what their stats are, to whoís playing well and whoís not playing well, to who the free agents are, could they help us, do they fit our system? Our whole business is nothing but 24 hours of trying to gather information all the time.
How often do guys like yourself scout kids in 1-AA schools?
We go to wherever thereís a player our college scouts will go to. It doesnít matter if its 1-AA, if itís Division II, if itís Division III, they go everywhere. They go from the small schools like Bethune-Cookman or Morehead State or Appalachian State, to obviously the big schools. We hit them all.
It seems like the Redskins have needed a solid KR/PR for a while. I keep wanting the team to draft a guy in the late rounds that is just scary fast for the sole purpose of being a return man. Do you scout any players primarily for their return abilities or do they really need to have a chance to play WR or CB or some other position? Please, find us someone that can take a couple to the house each year.
Well, those positions, obviously the return guy is very important because Special Teams is all about winning the field position battle which as you see every week in the NFL is important. For us, unless thereís a glaring, glaring need, most teams do not go out and specifically try and target that kind of a guy. But they try and find a guy who can help you at another position who also has that kind of return ability. Now, coming out of college itís usually that way. In the pros sometimes, if youíre going into free agency and your return team really has been suffering, and itís something thatís going to kill your field for you, sure, you can target a guy like that. If it fits into your salary cap structure and what youíre willing to pay, you can target guys like that. I mean, just a couple of years ago, when Dante Hall was possibly up for free agency Ė sure the Chiefs re-signed him Ė but if he wouldíve hit the market there wouldíve been some people all over him because a guy like that is a game-changer. And if youíre fortunate enough to get a guy thatís proven that he can do that, yeah, if you need to you go and get him.
How many scouts does the typical NFL team have? How many employees are there in Pro Personnel with the Redskins?
Well, you know, on the college side, thereís a Director and maybe 6 or 7 area scouts, say 9 scouts there, plus 4 on the pro-side. Lets just say about 15 or 16 people typically make up a personnel department. And then on the pro-side, thereís myself, we have 2 fulltime scouts, and then we have what we call pro personnel assistants, so thereís four of us that are in the office all the time, plus Vinny Cerrato whoís in the office all the time also. So thereís really 5 guys on the pro-side here.
Will Coach Gibbs go to the NASCAR Race after the football game on Nov 20?
(laughs) I have no idea, I have no idea. At this time of year, I donít know how Coach really handles the things he has to do with his race team, but during the football season, heís pretty busy with us. So I donít know what heíll do.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
1) To your knowledge, has anyone in the NFL tried to take the Moneyball analysis approach from baseball and apply it to NFL players and prospects?. It seems that it would be extremely difficult to do since NFL players are so specialized in each position. However, it seems that this type of evaluation would be even more important in the NFL due to the salary cap.
2) How does injury risk factor into decisions on draft choices, acquiring free agents, and keeping Redskins free agents?
Yeah, the moneyball question is something that was pretty hot over the Summer and last Spring because some guys in baseball have had some good success with that, and people were interested in how you can incorporate that into football. The only difference is, with baseball, you have a pitcher and you have a batter and itís really a one on one match up and you can really statistically breakdown who won and who lost that match up. In football, I donít know how you can really apply a moneyball analysis to a left tackle and say Ė some people would try and argue this Ė they would say, well how many sacks did that left tackle give up? But thereís too many other factors that are involved. Was there crowd noise? Did he get off the snap late? Did the quarterback hold the ball too long? Was the guy blocking him for 5 seconds and the quarterbacks standing back there and running around and finally get sacked? Did an offensive lineman or back not help him when he was supposed to?
Thereís all kinds of things that you have to factor into it. Thatís where the moneyball analysis starts to break down in those situations. On the 2nd question, sure, thatís huge. Every guy that we bring in here, and every team does this, when you bring a guy in here to work out during the season, or youíre going through free agency and the draft, the medical screening process is gigantic. Really, thatís the most important part of the NFL combine, when we go up to Indianapolis in March. Those guys go through basically a whole day, maybe a day and a half of physical testing, of being poked and prodded by all kinds of doctors, getting tests everywhere. Orthopedic tests, internal medicine tests, all kinds of stuff. And thatís huge, because you donít want to buy damaged goods, and you want to make sure a guy is healthy. You just canít afford to make a mistake on an injured guy like that, you just get punished too severely.
Follow-up from Extremeskins Staff
In some cases, I know Coach Gibbs has said Ė Walt Harris is a perfect example Ė the team knew he was injured, and still took that risk. What would allow the team to take a risk on one player, where they wouldnít maybe on other players?
Well, youíre right. It would seem that, sure, weíve taken some risks on some guys. And theyíve panned out. What would allow you to take that kind of risk? Itís really getting together as a group, getting with the medical people, seeing how long is this guy going to be able to play for us? What stage is he at in his rehab? What degree of injury is it? Whats this guyís history in the past? Has he had an injury history in the past or was this just one of those freak things? How did it come about? Was it just one of those plays, was it just bad luck, or is he pre-disposed to getting injured. And some of its just gut-feel. Some of its just a feeling that you have that we think heíll be able to come back from this and sometimes you take a chance. You just do it. Thereís no exact science to it.
From big z
Sir, if I may just ask a couple questions, thanks in advance.
1st. Sir, does Coach have the horses he needs in the running game? I don't mean our running backs. I mean our blockers. Are we still looking to upgrade at our TE position to get a mammoth blocker there, an extra lineman almost, so to speak. Thanks.
2nd. Mr. Riddick, How is Carlos Rogers progressing and, while i know it's Coach's decision, do you think Carlos will be starting this season? I really like Harris, but his tackling has had me scratching my head for answers and I think our rookie needs to get in there soon.
Thank you Sir! Good luck, Go Skins, and God bless!
Yeah, I think we have the horses that we need. Our offensive line, you look at Chris, you look at Derrick, at Casey, Randy, and Jon Ė I would take those guys against any offensive line in the league. When those guys are playing consistent, and theyíre healthy, and theyíre on top of their game, weíve got plenty of horses. At tight end, Cris Cooley has developed into one of the best H-backs in the league, one of the best threats that there is all-around. Weíve got some young guys who weíre counting on to do some good things here in the near-future and help us out at that position as well, at the true tight end position. And Mike Sellars, thereís another guy whoís been huge the last couple of weeks, catching the ball, blocking, special teams. So weíve got what we need there.
As far as Carlos Rogers, heís going to be one of the better corners in this league for a long time. Heís done some real good things. I was just watching him in a defensive meeting a little while ago and the kid has been making plays, causing fumbles, heís a solid tackler, heís got good feet, heís tough, he plays hurt, heís smart, and heís learning from two real good veterans in Walt and Shawn. Now will he start at some point down the road here as we head into the 2nd half of the season? Thatís up to Gregg Williams and Dewayne Walker and the rest of the staff. But if he has to play, and he does start, we donít worry about it at all. Thatís why we drafted him, and he was worthy of being drafted at that 9th spot.
From Larry Brown #43
What have you learned from working with Coach Gibbs about what it takes to build and maintain a successful NFL team?
Well, the biggest thing that Coach Gibbs has taught us all Ė quality, character people Ė as much as those phrases are thrown around in the league, and people go Ďyeah, yeah, but tell us more about what kind of size players you want, how fast a player do you want?í Ė it really is important that you have guys that you can count on, who you know that when they leave the facility, that theyíre going to do the right thing, that theyíre going to come back and take care of business and you donít have to worry about them. And guys who are going to be good in the locker room, guys that are going to be good in the meeting room, and just guys that youíre going to feel good coming to work with every day. Because the seasons a long grind and youíve got to be able to trust and like and be able to work with the people that youíre going to be with from August till hopefully the end of January. Coach is just a real big people person. He has a tremendous instinct for recognizing good people, and he has a great instinct for recognizing trouble too. Heís been dead-on and heís taught us all a lot.
From Extremeskins Staff
Dwight Freeney or John Abraham? Which guy are we getting at the end of the year?
(laughs) Well, Iíll tell you what, weíd love to have either one of them. Those guys can both rush the passer like crazy! Have you ever seen speed like Dwight Freeneys? Itís unbelievable. You donít find too many D-ends who run a 4.38 forty. Both those guys would be a tremendous asset to any team. But whether or not weíll get either one of them, who knows? Youíll have to stay tuned.
Closing Statement Ė Louis Riddick
I think itís awesome when fans write in and ask questions and want to know about the kind of stuff that we do here. Because thereís a big, big machine going on in every NFL city. And it isnít just on Sunday. Thereís a lot of hard work going on at these places, and itís great to see people write in and ask questions about the different aspects of an organization and have so much interest. I think itís a good thing that you guys are doing.