Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thru the easy part

The Redskins managed to breeze thru the easy part of their schedule, the back-to-back-to-back games against all those winless teams, with a 2-4 record. The rest of their schedule is:

@ Atlanta
vs Denver
@ Dallas
@ Philadelphia
vs New Orleans
@ Oakland
vs NY Giants
vs Dallas
@ San Diego

Are there two wins for them on that schedule? Will they even win a game? If the Pheagles could stumble in Oakland, how are the Deadskins going to perform there? The other most-winnable-looking game is at home against: unbeaten Denver.

Jim Zorn will get fired, but the blame for this debacle lies squarely at the feet of owner Danny Snyder and his player personnel crony Vinny Cerrato. Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post just absolutely destroys Cerrato in an opinion piece:

Cerrato optimistic on line

Here's one thing I love about this piece. On the Post's main sports page online, the subtitle to the link was:

Vinny Cerrato spouts some nonsense to Larry Michael about the woeful offensive line he helped assemble.
On the front of their sports page, the Post offhandedly dismisses public statements from the guy in charge of the team's front office! It is, to put it mildly, unusual for reporters to be so bluntly critical of NFL team front-office types. The lack of respect Cerrato commands is stunning. Maybe more stunning to me than to some of you: I can't imagine the Baltimore Sun treating Ozzie Newsome that way. Steinberg's piece is beautiful:
I happened to be listening to ESPN 980's pre-game show on my way to FedEx Field Sunday morning, and Vinny Cerrato came on for a pre-game interview with Larry Michael. ... Michael was unusually pointed when questioning Cerrato about his handiwork [the offensive line].
[Steinberg quotes the question and Cerrato's doddering answer]
This made no sense to me at 11:30 in the morning, and it makes no sense to me now, but there's really nothing left to say any more. Rarely are the media jackals this completely right. I've never played a down of real football in my life, and yet in August, I–like everyone else–was saying that this offensive line was one or two injuries away from disaster.
Against the 32nd ranked NFL defense–a team that had been allowing 27.6 points and 402.8 yards a game–we saw what disaster looked like. It looked like a cold, wet, smashed hot dog bun that's been run over by a Hummer, stomped on by a marching band, doused with lighter fluid and then smeared onto the side of a porta-potty.

Earlier in Sunday's Post, before the game, a longer article appeared, by Rick Maese and Jason Reid, that was perhaps less colorful, but no less critical:
Redskins Are Still Trying to Put the Pieces Together
Speaking with reporters before the season's first game, Vinny Cerrato, the Washington Redskins' executive vice president of football operations, ran down the team's roster, sprinkling praise on nearly every position, starting with the team's young wide receivers and the depth at offensive line.
Five games into what has begun as a frustrating season – from the locker room to the head coach's office – every corner of Redskins Park has faced intense scrutiny. While the speculation outside of Ashburn might focus on Coach Jim Zorn's uncertain future, the questions surrounding the roster – and those who assembled it – are increasing.
talent evaluators say that while the Redskins might never have been built for an immediate playoff run, they were a team that was clearly built for 2009. They started the season with the oldest team in the NFL. The average NFL team has 10 players age 30 or older; the Redskins have 17.
One veteran, high-ranking NFL player-personnel official who has studied the Redskins' roster said ... “they're an 8-8 football team if everything goes well from a talent standpoint. That's what they are. If they get lucky, maybe you win nine, 10 games.”
The NFL personnel official agrees, saying the biggest change a struggling organization can make during the offseason is not necessarily to its roster.
“It's an evaluation problem,” he said. “And evaluating is evaluating the players, evaluating the scouts, evaluating the coaches. It is an evaluation problem and it is clear. . . . If you go clean house in terms of coaches, you go get a new coach in there, you've still got that problem in the front office that's got to be corrected.”
Cerrato's seat has never been hotter. I'm curious whether this time around Danny and Vinny think they can jettison the coach and pronounce everything all better. I almost think Danny will have the gall to try it.

In the midst of the carnage, columnist Mike Wise reminds us that some of the people over there deserve better:
Sacked by his own coach
You don't have to be from the anti-Jason school or the Told-You-the-QB-Isn't-the-Problem camp to understand: The last guy to have Campbell's back in the organization, the one person he believed would ride out the tough times with him no matter how cold, miserable and rotten the season got -- and six games in, that's what it is -- just retreated to base camp. With no protection to speak of, with the memory of Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato trying to dump the incumbent starter for the newest It Guy in the offseason, and now Zorn, so desperate to coach another Sunday, finally disappearing from his flank, Jason Campbell now must try to scale the mountain alone. First abandoned by the I-need-a-new-toy owner and the team architect who neglected Campbell's offensive line, an architect who forgot to lay the concrete before choosing between gilded faucets, Campbell could at least count on Zorn in this uphill struggle to score points, master complex offensive schemes and beat inferior teams.
But Zorn left him Sunday
How much more abysmal football does anyone with a clue have to see before we find out this is not about the quarterback?
Campbell understandably walked out the back without talking Sunday, stopping only to autograph footballs for a group of children stricken with cancer and leukemia. Mac Dillon, a brother of one of the kids, wore Campbell's No. 17 jersey, which Campbell signed. Mac proudly said he was 17 years old. He invited Campbell to his junior varsity game at Robinson Secondary School. After spending several minutes with his favorite player, Mac bit his knuckles in delight as Campbell walked toward his car in the parking lot.
While I do take an unholy glee in watching the Redskins implode, and I will really savor their 3-13 record if it comes to pass: still I think Zorn & Jason Campbell are stand-up guys who probably deserved a better chance than Danny Snyder's Redskins gave them.



In the late hours stories emerged that Zorn had been relieved of his play-calling duties:
Following the team's dreary 14-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Zorn met with Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations, and was asked to give up his offensive play-calling duties, according to Zack Bolno, the Redskins' executive director of communications. After some discussion, Zorn agreed, and the two were expected to meet again Monday at Redskins Park to decide who might call plays moving forward.
This is the kind of thing that typifies Danny Snyder's Redskins: make a rash move, and then try to turn it into something intelligent & workable, later. Exactly who, on the premises, is qualified to take over play-calling duties? You originally hired Zorn to be the offensive coordinator and QB coach! You only gave him head-coaching responsibilities when the guys you wanted wouldn't take the job. Sherman Smith is the titular OC: but he's a former RB coach who Zorn brought in to be his guy, has (like Zorn) never coordinated an offense before. There isn't anybody else. And this is the situation you wanted: you took Jim Fassel's suggestions about who he would want as coordinators if he were to take the head job, and then you shafted him by not offering him the job.

Oh wait, there is someone else:
Sherman Lewis, hired Oct. 6 as an offensive consultant, is expected to be given playcalling duties tomorrow, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
Sherman Lewis is the guy Danny and Vinny plucked out of retirement last week, and brought in to undercut Zorn. He's been in the building 10 minutes, and he's supposed to command the support of the players on offense? Really?

This classless quote is also typical of how that organization operates. “Two sources with knowledge of the situation”: hmm, who could those be? Snyder does this sh!t every year. Officially he doesn't give statements during the season. Unofficially, he leaks stuff constantly, making sure the slant that he wants gets out there. But it's not for attribution: it's “sources”. Despicable. And so transparent: the only “two sources with knowledge of the situation” are Danny and Vinny. But the DC media lets them get away with this stuff.

Sherman Lewis is by reputation a man of class and dignity. Mike Wilbon championed him as a head-coaching candidate ~10 yrs ago (and as one of a number of examples of the league's discrimination in its head-coach-hiring practices). It would be awesome if he found the resolve to tell Danny and Vinny that Zorn is his head coach, and he will not take play-calling duties without being instructed to by his coach.

Won't matter, ultimately, as all of these guys will be gone by season's end. But oh, what a little drama plays itself out.


  1. I've never been a fan of the head coach calling the plays. Brad Childress also struggled with it in Minnesota and finally relinquished it to his OC. Interestingly enough, when Childress was the OC in Philly, Andy Reid called the plays, so Childress took that model to Minnesota. Yet, Reid gave up the play calling duty to his new OC pretty quickly after Chilly left, which has always made me wonder about whether that was truly a paradigm or a compensation.

    It's a bad sign that it took someone else to tell Zorn to give up play calling. I'm not sure why it took so long... could be that he was too beholden to a "system" or that he didn't trust his OC or that he was unaware of what it was taking away from him or something. Regardless, it's the right move but one would hope that he would have been a bit more self aware in this case.

    As far as whether they have the right guy... Sherm Lewis has never really stood out as a spectacular play caller. Competent assistant, good knowledge of the game for diagnosing film and game planning, but not able to really adapt on a play-by-play basis to what is happening once the game starts. That doesn't sound like a good recipe for what the Redskins need.

  2. I feel so sorry for Jason Campbell. I just don't have a clue if he has the talent to be a good QB in this league, because he's got absolute garbage to work with. Bad OL, mediocre at best receivers, and the coaching is an absolute joke. There's no question he'll be on someone else's roster next year, probably more because he doesn't want to be back than because they don't want him back...and I think it's obvious how little they want him back.

    Zorn I feel bad for, but I can only feel so bad for a guy that has no business doing the job he's assigned to do. He's in a crappy situation, but he's arguably not qualified to be an OC, never mind a head coach. He's getting shafted, but at the same time it's just not fair to say he doesn't deserve to get fired.

    I really hate the Skins. I feel sorry for their fans. But at the same time, it's fairly satisfying to see them wallowing like this. The Danny deserves nothing more.

  3. "But at the end of the half, there began a chant--Sell The Team. Sell The Team. Sell The Team.--that everybody in the box heard. The people in the box were stunned. I don't know that he heard it, because he wasn't there, but the people in the box were STUNNED. And I remember saying to him about two hours before the game, 'If you don't understand this, this is falling on you. ON YOU. Not anybody else, falling on you. And he said--and I will share this--he said 'I'm just so embarrassed for the fans, because I do think we have great fans.'

    "And I said, 'Well, why don't you say that out loud somewhere?' And then we talked about what you could do or what you couldn't do, but I'm not an adviser to the team."

  4. I've long believed that the owner of a professional sports franchise has only two fundamental duties:

    (1) Hire the best general manager possible.
    (2) Sign your name on the checks of the players that the GM brings in.

    That's it. It's why I believe owners like Snyder, who interfere on a regular basis, are doomed forever. After so many failed seasons in a row with more coaches than I can recall offhand, perhaps it's time to learn the old lesson: "The common factor in all of your failed relationships is you."

  5. I think Bisciotti actually does a fantastic job of being an owner that's also a huge football fan. He is honestly probably as involved with the team as Snyder is. The difference is, he sits and listens and mostly stays out of the way and lets Ozzie run everything but the highest of the high level decisions.

    The "Sell the Team" chants are hilarious! I feel sorry for their fans. But considering Snyder's penchant for suing them, I doubt it would make much of a difference to him.


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