WASHINGTON — Amid another lost season and the other off-the-field drama surrounding the Burgundy and Gold this week, you may have missed the rather major legal proceeding taking place. It has flown somewhat under the radar and details have been surprisingly scant and hard to come by.
After former general manager Scot McCloughan was fired this March, he filed a grievance against the team for the $2.8 million left on his contract that ownership refused to pay him. The team would have to show just cause in firing him to withhold that money. The hearing for the grievance began Monday in D.C. and while a ruling isn’t expected for months, the proceeding is expected to wrap up Wednesday.
According to USA Today, the team’s evidence centers around McCloughan’s well-documented struggles with alcohol, an issue the entire league knew full well about when Washington hired him. It was publicly reported as the reason after he was let go from both the 49ers and Seahawks, despite his professional success at each spot. He also spent time in rehab before coming to Washington.
As CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora pointed out earlier this month, evidence regarding the availability and consumption of alcohol on team property seem likely to be presented in McCloughan’s defense. That evidence isn’t hard to come by, even on social media.
As a reader reminded me, Chris Cooley said Bruce Allen tossed him a beer after telling him he was cut. pic.twitter.com/0aUSSCAmaY
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) December 11, 2017
IF Scot firing ends up in legal battle, it wouldn't take much to demonstrate 'culture of drinking in office' tolerated in DC
(Top left) pic.twitter.com/TFYKMCeYSP
— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) March 10, 2017
Pro Football Talk posted the NFL’s Alcohol and Tobacco Policy in their own piece earlier this week, language that seems to speak pretty directly to the anecdote and image above (emphasis ours):
“NFL policy prohibits the use or presence of alcohol beverages, including beer, in any club setting, including in locker rooms, practice or other facilities, or while traveling, including on team buses or flights at any time during the preseason, regular season or postseason, including during the practice week and on game day,” the policy states. “This prohibition extends not only to players, but to all team personnel, as well as to other guests traveling with the team or who have access to club facilities.”
In the grand scheme of an NFL budget, $2.8 million is hardly a seismic amount of money. Refusing to pay would seem to be more about pride and keeping up appearances for why McCloughan was let go. As Mike Jones — the reporter for that USA Today piece and the former team beat reporter for The Washington Post — told The Sports Junkies last winter, a number of people claimed Allen was jealous of the credit McCloughan had gotten for the team’s turnaround.
Washington went 17-14-1 under McCloughan’s tenure, making the playoffs two years ago before just missing them last year, despite a second straight winning season. The team is a combined 34-60 under Allen, finishing with a winning record just once — RG3’s rookie year.
The team has been quiet about the issue all week, but unless the two sides come to a settlement, the result will surface publicly eventually. If the arbitrator Peter Harvey sides with McCloughan, Washington will be out $2.8 million and any credible excuse for letting their best talent evaluator in years walk out the door.