IRVING, Texas – For assistant director of player personnel Will McClay and the scouting department, this time of year is their game day.
That’s how McClay described it this weekend on 105.3 FM “The Fan” as the scouts evaluate college players and put their board together. He said evaluating and discussing the different possibilities to make the team better with the draft fast approaching is the exciting part of the process.
He said there’s a misconception, though, that owner/general manager Jerry Jones doesn’t listen and takes matters entirely into his own hands during this time.
“What Jerry does is take in that information,” McClay said. “My job is to try to get the guys to try to have somewhat of a unified voice and looking at things the right way and have a process that’s consistent so that the information that comes to him is consistent. He listens to us, and he believes in the scouts. He’s going to take the input of the coaches and the scouts.”
McClay said sometimes there’s a general situation throughout football organizations that the coaches and scouts don’t see eye to eye all the time.
“We’re trying to bridge that gap,” he said.
Given his background, McClay understands the importance of involving coaches in that process. McClay originally came to Dallas as a member of the Dallas Desperados Arena Football League coaching staff, working his way up to head coach before getting back into evaluating personnel.
“We want to find out what the coaches want,” McClay said. “We also want the coaches to respect the work the scouts put in and the information we have and take all that information, put it in a pot, mix it up and be able to give Jerry the right information as best as we know how and help him make the right decision.”
McClay spends between 15 and 18 hours a day at Valley Ranch around this time, studying players and trying to create that synergy between departments. When it comes time to draft, he considers both the team’s needs and the best available player and said a balance between the two is important. He said a team shouldn’t enter the draft without the thought of what their needs are.
“We look at what we need on the team for now and in the future,” McClay said. “But as you build a team, in this day and age, this game is played in space, so you need speed. One of the first things we look at is speed. They’ve got to be a good football player and the character has to fit…but we’re looking for speed.”
The scouts also figure out which players fit best into the Cowboys’ defensive philosophy. McClay said it’s essential they find value in the lower rounds to come in quickly and compete. He also said head coach Jason Garrett has emphasized the importance of making sure every player is in the right position to maximize their potential.
That’s something the scouting department will have to consider this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“The college scouts go out on the road, gather information, they have their sources,” McClay said. “This is really our first opportunity to interact with those guys, find out how they’re going to react to some of the questions and things we ask them… we’re also aware of what we’re putting them into and trying to see if there’s a fit.”