- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

Through several coaching regimes and quarterback changes since Dan Snyder bought the Washington Redskins in 1999, the two constants were a below-average on-field product and Vinny Cerrato. Despite a shady history in free agency and a hit-and-miss record in the NFL Draft, he continued to wield considerable power as Mr. Snyder’s trusted confidant.

Until Thursday.

In a move that stunned those inside and outside the organization, Mr. Snyder changed the face of the Redskins’ front office by pushing out Mr. Cerrato and hiring veteran NFL executive Bruce Allen, a son of the late Hall of Fame Redskins coach George Allen, as executive vice president and general manager.

“This is obviously the right time for a change,” Mr. Snyder said during a news conference at Redskin Park.

Bruce Allen went to work immediately, meeting with coach Jim Zorn before practice. He’ll use the final three weeks of the season to get a head start on evaluating the coaching staff, the roster and plotting a course for 2010.

A former general manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mr. Allen spent this year out of football but said the Redskins are a natural fit for his return.

“What makes it a good fit is I want to be at a place with tradition,” he said. “The dedication and passion of the ownership to win, I embraced. I like urgency. I like doing things sooner than later and that made it the most attractive position that could have possibly been available.”

Mr. Allen’s first major decision will be the fate of Zorn, who has been a lame duck since Mr. Cerrato stripped him of the play calling duties two months ago. Mr. Allen has a long working relationship with television analyst and former Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, and former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan also could be in play.

Once the coaching situation is finalized, Mr. Allen must address the futures of quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Clinton Portis and attempt to rebuild an offensive line that has suffered with injuries and ineffectiveness.

“I have interest in hearing the opinions of people,” Mr. Allen said. “The great opportunity by coming in at this point of the season is to build a plan and get a head start on 2010 and identify what can help us win in 2010 and beyond with never losing sight of the upcoming game.”

Mr. Allen is the first person to hold the general manager’s title for the Redskins since Mr. Snyder fired Charley Casserly in July 1999.

For 10 of his 11 years as owner, Mr. Snyder has turned to Mr. Cerrato to make the major football decisions, and promoted him after Joe Gibbs’ retirement in January 2008. Mr. Cerrato’s first major decision was to promote Zorn from new offensive coordinator to new coach. The results have been subpar; since a 6-2 start last season, the Redskins are 6-15.

Mr. Snyder worked secretly and quickly to hire Mr. Allen. He said several individuals were interviewed for the post and even those close to Mr. Snyder’s inner circle did not find out his decision until Tuesday morning.

“Everything that Vinny’s been doing had been exactly the same,” a team source said. “There was no indication whatsoever that there was going to be a disappearing act.”

Players and coaches saw Mr. Cerrato as bulletproof since he had survived despite the team’s 63-81 record during his tenure, several questionable trades involving draft picks and a consistent misallocation of resources in free agency.

“My reaction was a bit shocked,” Zorn said.

Said linebacker London Fletcher: “Right now, we’re a 4-9 football team. We had extremely high expectations and for one reason or another, we have not lived up to the expectations Mr. Snyder had for us and everyone else as well. When you don’t live up to the expectations, there’s going to be change and, unfortunately, there’s been a change with [Mr. Cerrato].”

Players seemed unaffected by Mr. Cerrato’s departure because they had such little interaction with him.

“I guess that’s the first change and you never know what Mr. Snyder has up his sleeve,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said. “There’s going to be change in personnel; there’s going to be changes all over and probably more changes coachingwise.”

Running back Rock Cartwright was more blunt, adding: “I wish him the best and hopefully I don’t see him down the road.”

Mr. Cerrato, whose comments were limited to a statement, and his scouting department can be credited with drafting some late-round gems like Cartwright and safeties Chris Horton and Reed Doughty and not mishandling high first-round picks like Brian Orakpo and Sean Taylor.

But when the Redskins missed on a player, they were huge blunders. In 2006, they signed Adam Archuleta and traded for Brandon Lloyd; neither move panned out. Last training camp, they traded two draft picks for defensive end Jason Taylor and then played him out of position.

What didn’t win Mr. Cerrato many fans in the locker room, one veteran said, was how he failed to address the offensive line in the draft or free agency, spent $41 million guaranteed on one player (defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth) instead of addressing other, greater areas of concern and twice attempting to trade quarterback Jason Campbell last offseason.

“We agreed that the franchise needs someone different in this position,” Mr. Cerrato said in his statement. “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.”

It will be up to Mr. Allen to help get the Redskins out of the NFC East cellar.

A former player agent, Mr. Allen, 53, was a senior executive with Oakland for nine years before joining Mr. Gruden in Tampa Bay for five seasons. Those teams combined for a 115-118 record.

“He’s a proven winner,” Mr. Snyder said. “He has a great passion for the game, a passion for winning. He has a tireless work ethic. He works around the clock.”

Mr. Snyder said Mr. Allen would have “authority” to make all football-related decisions.

“In terms of the past, I’ve not been involved as much as people may have thought,” Mr. Snyder said. “In terms of the future, obviously, we’ll be counting on Bruce to lead the way.”

Said Mr. Allen: “The Redskins will have a common goal - they’ll make the decision based on what will help this franchise win.”

Mr. Allen’s reputation around the league is as a contract negotiator more than a talent evaluator. Al Davis ran the show in Oakland, and Mr. Gruden was involved in the decision-making with the Buccaneers. Depending on who coaches the Redskins next year, Mr. Allen will be making the most important calls.

Mr. Allen hopes to bring a stability to the Redskins that the franchise has lacked since Mr. Snyder bought the team, save for Mr. Gibbs’ four-season return.

“I’m interested in 52 weeks of good practice, 52 weeks of work ethic, because that’s what’s going to turn into a good season,” Mr. Allen said. “[Building a winner] is you get as many good football players and get great leadership from the coaches and you’ll be successful. It’s a real simple formula.”

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