December 17, 2009
For the second straight winter, change is coming to Washington.
Vinny Cerrato, the much-maligned Washington Redskins executive vice-president of football operations, resigned this morning, nearly two years after becoming the organization's de facto general manager. Fans in D.C. are treating the news as an early Christmas present.
To understand Cerrato's bizarre role in D.C., one would have to understand the bond between he and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, something I'm not sure anyone has been able to do. The two were friends, we know that, but how did the obviously-in-over-his-head Cerrato maintain his job status with an owner known for his fondness for making sweeping personnel moves at the drop of a pass? There were always jokes that Vinny had "something" on Danny, but that was probably closer to the truth than we realized. Not in a "I'm holding this over your head" way, but in a "look what I can provide" way.
Cerrato's presence allowed Snyder to still pull the strings, all while providing a front and a lightning rod for criticism. Who else could do that? Cerrato gave Snyder all the appearances of a GM, while providing all the benefits of a yes man.
Unlike other infamous owners like Jerry Jones and George Steinbrenner, Snyder largely stays out of the limelight, declining interviews and not parading around on the sidelines. Thus, for a while, most of the criticism of the team's personnel moves went to Cerrato even though he was, at most, a partner in these decisions with Snyder, not the guy who pulled the trigger. He couldn't sneeze without Snyder's approval it seemed.
His departure doesn't necessarily mean things are going to get better in Washington, since Snyder has been the problem all along. But it is a sign that things are going in the right direction for the first time since Joe Gibbs retired two years ago. Snyder is finally shedding the dead weight and realizing that something -- anything -- needs to change.
It's been obvious to fans for years that the biggest problem with the Redskins isn't Jim Zorn or Jason Campbell(notes) or a confusing offensive playcalling system or missed tackling, it's the disorganized, incompetent front office that drafts three pass catchers in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft, all while ignoring the aging offensive line ... the front office that goes after Albert Haynesworth(notes) (not a bad decision) but incorrectly assumes that he's the missing piece to the puzzle ... the front office that played footsie with two quarterbacks in the off-season and then had to tuck its tail between its legs and stay stuck with the supremely-adequate Campbell ... the front office that ignores special teams players right up until they actually cost the team a game, rather than contribute to it ... the front office that hired its seventh choice to be head coach. We could go on for thousands of words. (And I have.)
The timing of the resignation is strange, but what else would you expect from the Redskins front office? It likely means that Snyder has a beat on Mike Holmgren or Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan and wants to strike now while he still can. Dragging his feet is only going to lead to getting a guy he doesn't really want, sort of like what happened two years ago when he was forced to hire Jim Zorn against his will.
What this means for Zorn is anyone's guess. Cerrato hired him so you'd figure this would be it for him, but if Holmgren comes to D.C., could he play Parcells to Zorn's Tony Sparano?
Those are all questions for later though. For now, all Redskins fans need to care about is the fact that Vinny Cerrato is finally gone. Hope and change are just around the corner.
Update: Former Raiders and Bucs GM Bruce Allen has been hired to replace Cerrato as the Redskins top executive. Allen is the son of the second most famous coach in Redskins history, George Allen. While with the Bucs, Allen won a Super Bowl with a certain coach-turned-broadcaster at the helm. Cue the speculation of Jon Gruden to Washington.
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