The 2016 NFL Draft is two weeks away, and it will mark the second draft in Washington for former San Francisco 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan. He joined the team in January 2015, after three and a half years as a senior personnel executive with the Seahawks, and five years as Senior VP of personnel and then general manager of the 49ers.
There is plenty of controversy surrounding McCloughan's issues with alcohol, but there is no doubt that he is a very solid personnel executive. He has had his shares of misses, but he has found solid success in the draft over the years. This week, he sat down with Bleacher Report's Jason Cole for an interview. He talked about some of his draft philosophy, but he hit on a couple things that will be of interest to 49ers fans.
McCloughan was asked about his mistakes, and if there was a consistent factor. He seemed to place the blame entirely on the player, for not having it in themselves to make the leap from good to great, or average to good.
They don't have the it factor. They don't have the ability in their mind and their heart to make the next step. They don't have the ability to go from average to good, good to great and great to excellent. I have a perfect example, but I won't say his name. He was a good college player who we took late in the first round and he meant well. He wanted to be a good player. He just couldn't get to the point where he could push himself hard enough to take the next step. It's everyday at practice. It's the weight room. It's just trying to get through and push yourself to the end, where you don't think you can go. And if you get yourself to the point, then you're going to get better.
He mentions "a perfect example", but does not give the name. If he is talking about during his time actually running drafts, odds seem decent that he is talking about Kentwan Balmer. The only other "late first round" picks in San Francisco were Manny Lawson and Joe Staley. In his subsequent four years in Seattle, James Carpenter was his only late round pick. It seems reasonable to assume he is talking about Balmer.
In discussing the internal drive to be great, Cole asks if guys like Frank Gore are like that. McCloughan had an interesting story I don't recall hearing previously. It is not a surprising story, but it's cool to hear about it:
Yeah, I'm sure you've heard the story, but I talked to him the night before the draft (in 2005). I'm a Mike Nolan's house, eating dinner. My family hasn't moved out yet and I get a call from an agent asking me, ‘Hey, do you mind talking to Frank.' No, not a problem. I love Frank, I've watched him the last three years. As a true freshman, I watched him beat out (Clinton) Portis and (Willis) McGahee. So he calls me and I can't understand a word he's saying, not a word. He's emotional and I finally get down to it. He asks me, ‘Will you draft me?' I said, ‘We have the first pick in the third round. If you're there, we're taking you. I promise you.' He said, ‘I'm going in the first, I've already talked to three teams. Four teams said they'll take me in the second.' I said, ‘Look, I'm being honest with you, if you're there with the first pick in the third round, I'm taking you.' So we take him and he comes to the building. He walks by all the coaches and everybody else and he says, ‘I want to know where Scot McCloughan's office is?' He comes in, gives me a hug and starts crying. He said, ‘You're the only one who was honest with me.' You start getting that type of credibility, because they all talk to each other. In free agency they're going to call around. They'll call Frank and say, ‘Hey, this Scot McCloughan guy, is he a good guy? Has he lied to you?' To this day, even five years later, we still talk.
The interview does not break a lot of ground about McCloughan's draft philosophy, but it's a very interesting read.