- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

You knew Dan Snyder couldn't sit still for long, not with another season slipping away. It's been, what, seven months since he did something dramatic (e.g. sign Jeremiah Trotter to a big-bucks contract)?

So rather than wait until January to make major changes as he should have done when he fired Norv Turner two years ago Snyder has decided to act now, according to Washington Times sources. He's relieved VP of football operations Joe Mendes of his draft duties and given them to "the Billy Martin of pro football," as one radio host dubbed him: on-again, off-again director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato.

Both men, in other words, will return to their original jobs under Snyder which for Mendes was negotiating contracts and managing the cap. The more things change at Redskin Park

Why this, you ask? Why now?

Heck, I dunno. Why anything with Dan the Man?

The Times' Rick Snider reports that there had been a growing rift between Mendes and Cerrato that came to a head in the owner's box during the recent Redskins-Giants game. Not surprisingly, Snyder has sided with his racquetball partner in the dispute. Mendes, after all, was brought into the organization by Charley Casserly back in the '90s; Cerrato was hired by Snyder right after he bought the team. (And besides, Dan and Vinny are much closer in age and, presumably, world-view.)

Redskins fans can only hope Snyder has guessed right this time. The last time he had feuding employees, he kept Turner and let Casserly go then called Charley later in the season and told him, "I chose the wrong guy." (Casserly's Houston Texans, in their first year in the NFL, have already beaten the Giants and Jaguars, two clubs the Redskins lost to.)

Admittedly, Snyder and Mendes are an odd management couple. Dan is impulsive some would say reckless and wants everything done yesterday. Joe is more cautious some would say uncreative and long-term minded. It was hard to imagine their marriage lasting long.

Cerrato, on the other hand, stood idly by while Snyder spent the Redskins into oblivion in the 2000 offseason. The Redskins are still digging out from that disaster. Marty Schottenheimer cleaned up part of the mess last year, painful though it was, and Mendes has been trying to deal with the rest of it. But it ain't easy when the boss is handing middle linebackers $35million deals.

A week ago in This Space, I said the Redskins needed to stop living from itch to Snyder itch and come up with A Plan for the future. Is this the owner's idea of a plan, to turn the clock back to August 1999 when Casserly was cleaning out his desk and Dan and Vinny were running the show? If so, yikes.

Cerrato's problem in San Francisco, you may recall, was that his drafts weren't terribly productive. And his 2000 draft with the Redskins didn't turn up many keepers, either. Sure, he came away with LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels, but that was largely Casserly's doing. It was Charley who'd left the club with three first-rounders, one of them the second overall pick (thanks to the "Ricky Williams trade" with New Orleans).

Look at the Redskins' other selections that year, though. Only Del Cowsette, a backup defensive tackle, is still drawing a paycheck. This is one of the things that's been killing the team since Snyder took over; they just haven't found any players after the second round of the draft. And in the era of the salary cap, you can't just stock your roster with high draft picks and pricey free agents it's too darn expensive. You need to have a few mid-round picks come through for you (like Trotter, a third-rounder in '98, did for the Eagles).

Casserly hit on his fourth-round pick three years in a row in the late '90s, drafting Stephen Davis in '96, Albert Connell in '97 and Shawn Barber in '98. Snyder's two fourth-round picks have been Mookie Moore and Sage Rosenfels. This is how you get yourself in salary cap hell.

Bobby Beathard was the master of the late-round steal. He was forever unearthing a Dexter Manley (fifth round), a Darryl Grant (ninth), a Raleigh McKenzie (11th), a Mark Schlereth (10th). Why, Beathard drafted two future Super Bowl quarterbacks, Mark Rypien and Stan Humphries, in Round 6. And to think Snyder could have had Bobby handling his drafts if he hadn't blown it, that is.

And so, once again, we see the Redskins going in circles. Mendes in, Mendes out, Mendes back in, Mendes back out. Cerrato in, Cerrato out, Cerrato back in.

Not exactly the way business is usually done in the NFL.


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