NFC East: Sherman Smith

Friday Beastlines

January, 22, 2010
It's a good bet that your morning newspaper did not touch on issues involving all four teams from the NFC East. That's why I've checked every Web site in the known world to bring you the latest nuggets from the league's most popular division:

  • Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram thinks Jones sent Phillips a mixed message.
  • Slim pickins' on the Giants today. I'll try to come up with something by the end of the day.

The Skins' play-calling madness

December, 6, 2009
Watching the Redskins and Eagles on TV last Sunday, it was entertaining to hear Fox analyst Daryl Johnston try to break down Washington's playcalling process. Vinny Cerrato's hand-picked play-caller, Sherm Lewis, rarely talks to the quarterback Jason Campbell during the week, so it's a little odd that he's the one calling a lot of the plays.

But a triple-byline effort in The Washington Post on Sunday takes a deeper look at how the Redskins come up with a game plan. Talk about a lot of cooks in the kitchen. I can't imagine any other team in the league divides the workload in such a confusing manner. After reading this story, it looks like offensive assistant Chris Meidt has had a lot more say in calling plays than we have credited him for. It's also interesting to read what Jim Zorn's hand-picked offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said about the head coach:

"It was very difficult on Jim," Smith said of Zorn being stripped of his play-calling duties. "I don't think a lot of people understand just how much it bothered him, it hurt him, because he took it personally as a personal failure on his part. He felt like he had let the team down. He felt bad he had let Dan down, so he just was carrying all this guilt, I want to say, on himself, and he shouldn't have. But he's handled it well. It's been tough, but every day he comes in and he's being positive. He wants to be successful. He wants the team to do well. He's been a great example to all of us."

Redskins' new playcaller debuts tonight

October, 26, 2009
Posted by's Matt Mosley

LANDOVER, Md. -- I just watched a grown man race all of the way down the sideline at FedEx to snap a cellphone pic of the Redskins' new playcaller, Sherman Lewis. Folks across the country want to know more about Lewis' bingo-calling past, and that's why news outlets such as ESPN showed up at a senior citizens center in Novi, Mich., this week.

 AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
 Sherman Lewis just joined the Redskins organization a few weeks ago.
An employee at the center granted an interview to 710 ESPN radio -- and the good folks at passed it along to us.

Asked how much attention the center had been receiving in recent days, an employee named Rachel Zagalori said, "Oh my gosh! Yes, people are calling all the time and coming over and doing pictures and stories. And it’s quite the story."

Yes Ms. Zagalori, this is quite a story. I'm going to pay close attention to "head coach" Jim Zorn on the sideline to see how he reacts to Lewis' play calling. Zorn's said all the right things this week, but you know there will come a time when he doesn't like one of Lewis' calls. Will he step in and change the call?

Just because offensive coordinator Sherman Smith is relaying plays to Jason Campbell doesn't mean that Zorn won't be listening to every word. This is one of the most bizarre things I've run across in the league. I think Campbell will be ready to call his own plays if there's a communication problem at any point.

Eli Manning's considered an excellent game manager, but he still has problems with delay-of-game penalties. Imagine parachuting a guy in three weeks ago -- and then giving him play-calling duties.

I smell an Eagles blowout. They were awful last Sunday against the Raiders. I think you'll see them bounce back tonight.

Eagles' issues pale in comparison to Skins'

October, 24, 2009
AP Photo
The Redskins recently stripped head coach Jim Zorn of play-calling duties and gave them to recently hired consultant Sherman Lewis.
Posted by's Matt Mosley

Of the four NFC East teams, the Eagles got off to the worst start in training camp. They had prepared for beloved defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's death the best they could, but it was a painful thing to deal with nonetheless. Only days later, starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley suffered a season-ending knee injury. The injuries kept coming and starting right tackle Shawn Andrews (back) never stepped on the field before being placed on injured reserve and sent to Los Angeles to be close to his doctor.

And on Monday night against the Redskins, the Eagles will try to replace Bradley for the third time when the newly acquired Will Witherspoon lines up at middle linebacker. On the surface, the Eagles don't appear to have a very stable roster. But then, everything's relative when you share a division with Dan Snyder's Washington Redskins.

Snyder's done the impossible: He's making Al Davis look level-headed. Snyder and executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato have embarrassed themselves by toying with head coach Jim Zorn over the past few weeks. They refused to give the man a public endorsement (for the remainder of the season) until after they'd stripped him of play-calling duties. Only two weeks earlier, Cerrato brought in former Bill Walsh disciple Sherm Lewis as an offensive consultant. As's Jeff Chadiha wrote Friday, some players couldn't pick Lewis out of a lineup.

Yet this is the man who will stare at Zorn's laminated play-calling chart in the press box and then inform another neutralized member of the staff, Sherman Smith, which play to relay to Jason Campbell. This has success written all over it.

According to the folks I've talked to with the Eagles this week, their biggest fear is Lewis going rogue and coming up with a completely different approach. Though coach Andy Reid would never admit this, the Eagles believe they'll destroy the Redskins if they stick to the normal script -- the one that's produced just over 13 points per game. I'd be shocked if Lewis starts freelancing Monday. And if the former bingo caller suddenly barks out "B 11," what's Smith supposed to do?

When I talked to Campbell this week, he said he was attempting to remain "open-minded" about Lewis calling the plays. Campbell's shown a great deal of grace in the face of Snyder and Cerrato's bumbling ways -- dating to their dogged offseason pursuit of Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez.

"We're all human," Campbell told me Tuesday. "Every now and then you have a moment where it gets to you."

Fortunately for Campbell, several teammates and ex-quarterbacks reached out to him after he was benched last Sunday. As we first reported last Monday, Campbell will get the start against the Eagles. Backup quarterback Todd Collins has been told to be ready, which isn't exactly music to Campbell's ears. But there's at least one local legend who has Campbell's back.

"Joe [Theismann] reached out to me first thing," Campbell said. "I can just talk to him about a lot of things. He told me to go out Monday night and play freely. He said I've got to block everything out."

Campbell told me that he made the mistake of not trusting his offensive line against the Chiefs. He was playing behind a group that included two new starters and another teammate (Stephon Heyer) playing out of position at left tackle. Of course, Snyder and Cerrato's decision to ignore the offensive line both through the draft and free agency helped cause this problem, but that's a column for another day.

By the end of my conversation with Campbell, he'd actually talked himself into thinking the Skins could beat the Eagles on Monday.

"If we can get back to .500 at the midway point, there's a chance we could rally in the second half [of the season]," Campbell said. "When it rains, it pours. And right now, we need it to stop raining."

Unfortunately for Campbell, I don't see the dark clouds over FedEx beginning to clear.

Knee-jerk Monday in the Beast

October, 19, 2009
Posted by's Matt Mosley

All three NFC East teams that were in action lost Sunday. Here's a look at what folks around the country are saying about the Beast.

Raiders 13, Eagles 9
Saints 48, Giants 27
Chiefs 14, Redskins 6

Wrap-up: Panthers 20, Redskins 17

October, 11, 2009
Posted by's Matt Mosley

It looked like the Redskins were headed toward a 3-2 record at one point in the second half. They had a 15-point lead and you would've thought the Panthers would be ready to fold. But that's not what happened.

The Panthers raced down the field and made it 17-12, and the Skins never really recovered. The huge play was the fourth-quarter punt return on which Byron Westbrook collided with Antwaan Randle El. The Panthers were awarded the ball and they made the Skins pay.

The Redskins are an absolute mess but I'm not sure an in-season coaching change would make all that much difference. They play the Chiefs at FedEx next Sunday. I'd wait to see if they can beat Kansas City. If you lose that game, then go ahead and make the change. But if you win that game, you're hosting the Eagles the following Monday with a chance to go to 4-3.

I'd like to see Zorn get a full season -- even if it's his last. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Snyder go after Mike Shanahan after the season. But Shanahan's not going to accept an interim job. Stick with Zorn and see if he can get a win next Sunday.

It's not like the Redskins played particularly well in the first half Sunday, but they'd done enough to have a 10-2 lead. Then they made it 17-2 in the third quarter. Now, the Jim Zorn watch is on again. The Redskins have brought in offensive consultant Sherman Lewis to try and offer suggestions to Zorn and offensive coordinator Sherman Smith. Either Lewis or defensive coordinator Greg Blache could take over on an interim basis if Dan Snyder fires Zorn.

What a joke that DeAngelo Hall couldn't bring down quarterback Jake Delhomme on a third-and-9 late in the game. Do we blame that on Zorn, too? I agree that Zorn is in over his head right now, but a coaching change isn't going to accomplish anything -- just like an offensive consultant won't.

Get a close look at Sunday's loss to the Panthers. That's the Redskins in a nutshell.

Final Word: NFC East

October, 9, 2009
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s games:

 John Rieger/US Presswire
 Todd Haley's familiarity with the Cowboys organization could give him an advantage.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley knows the Cowboys' personnel and would love to beat his former employer. Haley still has a lot of friends in the Cowboys organization, but he knows what a win could do for his credibility. Haley and general manager Scott Pioli have done a lot of interesting things to try to change the culture with the Chiefs, but winning is the only thing that will truly do the trick. I thought Haley and his defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast, put a tremendous game plan together to help the Cardinals beat the Cowboys in '08. Haley told me Thursday that he's watched that game on film twice this week. The Cowboys should win the game, but don't discount how important Haley's knowledge of the Dallas personnel will be in this game.

The Giants are going to beat the Raiders with or without Eli Manning. Who are we kidding? Coach Tom Coughlin's not going to let his team lose to a Tom Cable outfit. Steve Smith has been one of the best wide receivers in the league through four games -- and it will take more than the best cornerback in the game to slow him down. I talked to Justin Tuck on Thursday afternoon and he talked about how the Giants always seem to rally around injuries and other distractions. If Manning doesn't play, I think David Carr will be just fine. As long as he doesn't have any flashbacks of playing behind the Texans' offensive line, it shouldn't be much of a problem.

Can Jim Zorn find a way to lead his team to a win with all this turmoil going on? Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato have made an interesting move in bringing in offensive consultant Sherman Lewis to help right the offensive ship. What they've done is embarrass a good man in the process. Bully for offensive coordinator Sherman Smith for saying what was on his mind once Lewis was hired. This is franchise stumbling all over itself right now. Would anyone be surprised if they lost to the Panthers on Sunday? Didn't think so.

The Beast is headed to Philly to watch Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick on the same field: I'm anxious to see how many snaps Eagles coach Andy Reid gives Vick in the shot gun. My best guess is eight or nine. And I think he'll see some snaps in the red zone. How will McNabb react? We're about to find out. If it's a blowout -- as I expect it to be -- then there won't be any problem. I think poor Josh Johnson's in for a long day. He'll be scrambling for his life -- and Eagles defensive end Trent Cole will have at least two sacks. Huge day coming for Brent Celek. Write that one down, folks. Clip and save.

Could Wade Phillips' job be in jeopardy if the Cowboys lose at Arrowhead? Jerry Jones has never fired a coach during the season, but this would be a huge embarrassment. Jones said Friday that Phillips' job would not be in jeopardy if he lost to the Chiefs, but let's wait and see what happens. One of the problems is that you really don't have an interim guy who could handle things. It's not like Jason Garrett is inspiring a ton of confidence right now. I guess former head coach Dave Campo might get the nod -- and Garrett could remain as offensive coordinator. Have a head coach, defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator ever been fired at the same time during a season? I'll try to look that up for you guys. Have a tremendous weekend.

Lewis getting a cool reception at Redskins Park?

October, 8, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

You knew the addition of longtime NFL assistant coach Sherman Lewis as an offensive consultant wasn't going to be a big hit with the Skins' coaches, but it's not like they had a choice in the matter. Asked Wednesday how much he talked to Lewis before he was hired by Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, head coach Jim Zorn responded, "Zero." Oops!

"It's not something that I was looking for initially," Zorn said. "I wasn't saying, 'Hey, Vinny, you need to go out and really find a guy for me.' But when the suggestion was made, I'm open to it. I just want to make sure that I don't have so much pride in having to have all the answers that somebody can't come in and look and see what I'm doing."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but Zorn's not in a position to offer much resistance with his offense struggling and his team 2-2. What offensive coordinator Sherman Smith offered was a little more cryptic.

"I don't think he's going to tell us something we don't already know," Smith said. "I think we're doing the scheme the right way. If he sees something in our scheme that we don't see, I hope he'll tell us. That'll help us."

Lewis told reporters he's not sure what his role will be. OK, who's ready for the Skins' playoff push?

Report: Redskins to try out another RB

October, 5, 2009

Posted by's Matt Mosley

In search of a spark in the running game, the Redskins will reportedly work out former Titans second-round pick Chris Henry on Tuesday. Clinton Portis turned in a courageous performance Sunday, but it's obvious that he needs some help. I'm not sure Henry's the answer, but he's certainly worth a look. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean also reported the Henry tryout.

To say Henry was a bust is an understatement. He didn't even stand out when he was at Arizona, and he was drafted on the basis of an amazing performance at the combine. Redskins offensive coordinator Sherman Smith was Henry's position coach with the Titans, so maybe he knows something the rest of us don't.