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Thursday, December 17, 2009
Cerrato's out in D.C., so what's next?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

I think fans in Washington had almost given up on the idea of Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato leaving the team after all these years. And let's not for a minute pretend that this was his decision, although the club is officially calling this a resignation.

Vinny Cerrato
Vinny Cerrato was first hired by the Skins in 1999.
Cerrato and owner Dan Snyder have been the best of friends over the past decade. Marty Schottenheimer once ran Cerrato off for a season but Snyder quickly fired the coach and re-hired Cerrato to head up his personnel department. I thought Cerrato's best bet for keeping his job was for the club to make a run at Mike Shanahan, the man he once worked with in San Francisco.

But as I've suggested in this space and in numerous chats this season, the dynamic between Snyder and Cerrato had changed this season. With each loss, Snyder became increasingly frustrated with his right-hand man. On the surface, Cerrato's idea to bring in Sherm Lewis as the playcaller has actually helped the offense. But it was still an embarrassing situation once Lewis revealed to the organization that he'd been calling bingo at a senior citizens center. It emphasized how removed from football he'd been over the past five years and it gave critics even more ammunition with which to go after the Redskins organization.

Cerrato did some good things over the past decade. Obviously, it looks like linebacker Brian Orakpo is going to be a good player for a long time and Cerrato was the driving force behind signing All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency. Unfortunately, though, Cerrato will be remembered for not addressing the offensive line over the years. It's an area that has failed the Redskins over the past decade, in part, because of inattention to it in the draft. Snyder's approach was to throw big money at free agents and largely ignore the importance of the draft. Cerrato was the man who carried out the plan.

I think Snyder probably saw the Browns pursuit of Mike Holmgren and realized that he couldn't waste any more time. I'm not saying he's going after Holmgren, but he knows he needs to start laying the groundwork for a new regime. That's probably why he went ahead and made the move with three games left.

"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 said in the statement Thursday.

He mentioned Joe Gibbs, Greg Blache and Sherm Lewis as coaches he enjoyed working with but noticeably left off Jim Zorn. We'll be back with more analysis throughout the day.