After somebody has owned a team awhile, you begin to notice certain patterns of behavior. Actually, in Dan Snyder’s case, it was a rather short while. He had been boss of the Redskins for only four games in 1999 when, with his defense springing leaks on every deck, he summoned the famed Bill Arnsparger from retirement to assist D-coordinator Mike Nolan.
The Redskins went on to win the division title that year, still their only NFC East championship under Snyder, but it’s hard to say the defense – or Arnsparger – had much to do with it. As late as Week 16, the Redskins were giving up 418 yards, 250 of them on the ground, against a 49ers club that would finish 4-12. Would the ‘D’ have performed any differently if “another set of eyes,” as general managers like to describe such hires, hadn’t been brought in? Perhaps not.
Fast forward a decade. Now it’s the offense that has the Hogettes gulping Valium, and the owner just has to do something. So he turns to another old coach who has been out of the game for several seasons, Sherman Lewis. Lewis isn’t as well known as Arnsparger, the brains behind the Dolphins’ legendary No-Name Defense, but he has the proper pedigree. His first NFL assistant’s job was in San Francisco under Bill Walsh, the godfather of the West Coast attack; he also has worked for Mike Holmgren and Denny Green.
Will the Redskins’ latest Set of Eyes set the offense straight, an offense that has been averaging about 14 points a game for almost a year now? Not, you would think, unless Lewis can also play right guard, right tackle or, preferably, both. Regardless of what you think of Jim Zorn’s play calling – and he’s certainly had some curious moments – it’s the shaky line and weak supporting cast at wideout behind Santana Moss that are most responsible for the lack of scoring.
But this move is more about symbolism, about appearances, than about fixing a broken offense. It’s about Being Proactive, which Snyder has always been, and showing the fans you’ll do Whatever It Takes to bring them a winner. It’s also very Corporate Culture, which is the only culture Dan knew before he was introduced to the rock ’em, sock ’em NFL. Corporate America is the Land of the Consultants – and that’s what Lewis is as much as anything, a consultant.
Zorn may have “welcomed the idea,” as Vinny Cerrato claims, but he surely didn’t originate it. No, this idea – like the Arnsparger idea and the idea of having Joe Bugel do a drive-by one year when the O-line needed Another Set of Eyes – has the owner’s fingerprints all over it.
As for Lewis being “not a threat at all” to the Z-Man’s continued employment, as Cerrato also said, let me just point out it was Vinny who told us last season that the Redskins weren’t trying to trade for Jason Taylor. And then, suddenly, they were.
Lewis might not be a direct threat to Zorn, but he’s an indirect threat. Why? Because there’s now a coach in the building who can take over the offense if Snyder decides to fire the head coach and, say, replace him with defensive coordinator Greg Blache. Until Sherm agreed to come aboard, there really wasn’t a guy on the staff who had much experience calling plays.
What Snyder will never understand, it seems, is that fans aren’t that impressed with interventions like this. What fans would much rather have the owner do is GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. One of these days, maybe Dan will. After all, didn’t the Cardinals go to the Super Bowl last year? In the NFL, it can happen for anybody.