- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 24, 2009

Steve Largent is a Hall of Fame receiver. He was Jim Zorn’s teammate in Seattle, and they remain close friends.

In 1982, Zorn and Largent crossed the line as the players’ strike began to fall apart - a decision, it was reported, based on religious principle. Largent cited Matthew 5:36-37, saying “your word is your bond” and “all contracts shall be honored as with God.”

In 1989, Largent became the first Seattle player to win the Steve Largent Award for “spirit, dedication and integrity.”

In 1994, Largent was elected to Congress from a district in Oklahoma, where he served for eight years.

In 2006, Largent was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

And on Oct. 23, 2009, Vinny Cerrato, the Washington Redskins’ executive vice president of football operations, said Largent was, to put it delicately, misrepresenting the truth.

I now will list Cerrato’s credentials to establish his credibility.

He starred in the 1994 movie “Kindergarten Ninja,” portraying police Sgt. Antonelli.

The first 20 minutes of Cerrato’s radio show, “Inside the Red Zone” on ESPN 980, were must-listen radio Friday for the absurdity and incredulity factors alone.

First, Cerrato declared Zorn would remain the coach of the Redskins “for the rest of this season and hopefully into the future.”

Really? Even if the Redskins’ game against Philadelphia on Monday turns into a national embarrassment of epic proportions?

Even if Zorn continues to make clear with carefully measured answers that the presence of Sherm Lewis as play caller is something with which he was forced to “comply”?

My, my. The capacity of this franchise to create entertaining drama hasn’t come close to its zenith. And as Cerrato said on the show, fans want to be entertained.

“There’s been a lot of false rumors, media speculation, unnamed sources out there all the time,” Cerrato said. “I hired Jim, along with Dan Snyder. And obviously we’re all very disappointed by the season performance thus far. In fact, Dan constantly talks about how disappointed he is for the fans. And we’ve got great fans.”

You mean the fans shouting “sell the team, sell the team” at the owner’s box during the Redskins’ 14-6 loss to Kansas City on Sunday? Or the ones behind the bench cursing out the players in the final minutes?

But the most bizarre comments Cerrato made came during his attack on Largent, who went on a Seattle radio station this week to defend Zorn. Largent said Zorn, when faced with being stripped of his playcalling responsibilities after the loss to the Chiefs, considered quitting.

Cerrato had a different version of events at that meeting with Zorn. He said it was just the two of them and that when he suggested a change in playcalling duties, Zorn said he would go home and think about it. Several hours later, Cerrato said, Zorn called him and said, “I’m in.”

No talk of a contract being presented to Zorn as an ultimatum. No talk about trying to force the coach to resign.

Largent went on to ridicule Redskins management, and Cerrato struck back on his show, ripping Largent but referring to him only as Zorn’s “friend” and never by name.

“Maybe his friend thought that he was protecting Jim because he thought something was going to happen to his career,” Cerrato said. “But I think his friend forgets this - that we were a top five defense [when Zorn was hired]. We had just been to the playoffs. Last year we had four Pro Bowlers on offense. And in Jim’s contract, he controls everything over his staff.

“And the thing about it is, the other thing is that his friend doesn’t mention that Jim worked with all these coaches for a week prior to becoming the head coach, and he said during the interview, ‘Those are my guys; I want those guys. Those are the guys I want; I don’t want to go hire anybody else.’ ”

The way the Redskins operate is hardly worth debating. You can’t turn on the television, read a newspaper or listen to the radio these days without some former Redskins or NFL player criticizing the way the franchise does business.

But what strikes me is the discrepancy between Largent’s comments about the contract being used to browbeat Zorn and Cerrato’s version in which he says the coach called him later that night and said he was “in.”

Funny, the next day, when Zorn said he would “comply,” I don’t remember anything remotely close to “I’m in.” One of them - Largent or Cerrato - is making something up or leaving something out.

It is possible for a devout Christian to do that. And it’s possible for a Steve Largent Award winner to do that. And it is possible for a Humanitarian Hall of Famer to speak falsehoods. And we know it is possible for a member of Congress to fudge the truth.

But how likely is it that a devout Christian, recipient of an award for integrity, Humanitarian Hall of Famer and former member of Congress is not telling the truth?

How likely is it that Vinny Cerrato isn’t telling the whole story? Would Sgt. Antonelli do that?

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