- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

UPDATED:

In a stunning development Thursday morning, Washington Redskins front office chief Vinny Cerrato announced his resignation after nearly a decade as owner Dan Snyder’s top football official.

The Redskins wasted little time in replacing him: The club confirmed that former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders executive Bruce Allen has been hired to serve as executive vice president of football operations and general manager. Allen, 53, is the son of former Redskins coach George Allen.

“Bruce Allen is the personification of an NFL winner,” Snyder said in a statement. “Our fans know his heritage, we know his abilities. He is the right person to lead our club.”

Said Allen: “This is an extraordinary opportunity with one of the world’s most successful sports franchises. I love everything about this assignment. I know what it means to be dedicated to the Redskins. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Allen was introduced at a press conference at Redskin Park on Thursday afternoon.

Cerrato was seen as bulletproof around the NFL because of his friendship with Snyder. But with the Redskins 4-9 and last in their division, the focus on how the club was ill-equipped to handle injuries centered on the way in which Cerrato built the team.

The offensive line, in particular, was aging and perilously thin entering the season, and the club did little in the offseason to strengthen an obvious weak spot. Once the regular season began, injuries to key players quickly decimated the unit.

In a statement released by the team, Cerrato said he had “numerous conversations” with Snyder the last few weeks.

“We agreed that the franchise needs someone different in this position,” said Cerrato. “I’m thankful to Dan Snyder and other members of his ownership team for the opportunities I’ve been given over the years.

“Of course, I am disappointed with this year’s results, but I strongly believe that with outstanding draft picks and encouraging performance by our younger players, we have laid a strong foundation for the franchise.”

Cerrato was Snyder’s right-hand man for all but one year (2001) of the owner’s 10-season tenure. He was fired when Marty Schottenheimer was hired as coach, but he returned a year later after Schottenheimer was fired.

During Cerrato’s tenure in charge of personnel, the Redskins won two playoff games — in 1999 mostly with players acquired by predecessor Charley Casserly and in 2004, when the Redskins won in Tampa Bay.

The Redskins became infamous under Snyder and Cerrato for spending millions in free agency and trading draft picks but not producing a consistent winner.

In his statement, Cerrato said: “I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great coaches such as Joe Gibbs, Greg Blache and Sherman Lewis, great people on the Redskins staff, and, most especially, some of the best professional football players in the world.”

Notably absent from that list is the club’s current coach, Jim Zorn, who Cerrato recommended be hired in February 2008 despite having no head coaching or play-calling experience.

The hiring of Allen leaves the ouster of Zorn as the club’s likely next move.

The Redskins struggled badly in the early part of this season, losing to some of the worst teams in the league. Snyder and Cerrato stripped Zorn of his play-calling duties after an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 18.

The team has played better in recent weeks, defeating the Denver Broncos and Raiders and suffering narrow losses to the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints. Still, Zorn isn’t expected to be retained despite the improved performance of his team.

The arrival of Allen raises the question of whether former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, now working as an analyst for ESPN, will join him on the Redskins as the successor to Zorn.

Gruden and Allen worked together on the Raiders, and when Gruden joined the Buccaneers as coach, Allen followed. Gruden won a Super Bowl with the Bucs in the 2002 season. Allen worked for the Raiders from 1996 to 2003 and the Bucs from 2004 to 2008.

Allen was fired by the Buccaneers last season, along with Gruden.

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