NFL Nation: Stump Mitchell

A few thoughts after the Arizona Cardinals announced Bruce Arians' initial coaching staff for the 2013 season:


  • More resources: Former head coach Ken Whisenhunt had 16 assistants last season, three or four fewer than the NFC West norm. The number wasn't alarmingly low; New England has had the same number at various points. Arians has 20 assistants, counting four holdovers whose names I've bolded in the chart below.
  • OL committee: The Cardinals do not have an offensive line coach by title. With Arians calling offensive plays, coordinator Harold Goodwin will take the lead with the line. Larry Zierlein, the Pittsburgh Steelers' line coach for three seasons ending in 2009, is the assistant O-line coach.
  • Familiar name: Former Cardinals running back and return specialist Stump Mitchell will coach running backs. He spent nearly a decade on Mike Holmgren's staff in Seattle before following Jim Zorn to the Washington Redskins. He was then head coach at Southern University. Mitchell still holds the Cardinals franchise record for all-purpose yards (11,988).
  • Experience rules: Arians is a first-time NFL head coach, but his staff has veteran seasoning. Tom Moore, Tom Pratt, Zierlein, Rick Christophel and Nick Rapone each have more than 30 years of NFL and/or college coaching experience.

The chart compares the Cardinals' final staff under Whisenhunt to their current one under Arians.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Just when you thought this Redskins situation couldn't become any more bizarre, owner Dan Snyder has taken it to a different level. In the aftermath of Sunday's 14-6 loss to the Chiefs, Jim Zorn was stripped of his play-calling duties, according to the Skins' executive director of communications Zack Bolno.

Executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato met with Zorn after the game and told him he thought he had too much on his plate and needed to let someone else call the plays. Zorn didn't disagree with Cerrato, according to Bolno, and the coach will meet with Snyder on Monday to decide who should call the plays. And if you think this arrangement seems completely ridiculous, I'm right there with you.

Why in the world would you keep Zorn around if he's not calling the plays? That's the whole reason Snyder hired him in the first place. He wanted him to call the plays and manage the quarterbacks. It's like Snyder's trying to get Zorn to break up with him.

If Snyder's going to strip Zorn of his play-calling duties, he might as well go ahead and fire him. I hate that Zorn actually accepted this arrangement. It makes him look so weak. Snyder's already brought in a 67-year-old offensive consultant who's been on ice for five years.

Now Zorn looks like the ultimate lame duck. Perhaps Snyder and Cerrato thought that Zorn would resign once they stripped him of his play-calling duties. But it sounds like he's going to hang in there and keep taking punches. Now the Redskins will prepare to play the Eagles without knowing who their playcaller is. Zorn will probably push for offensive coordinator Sherman Smith to get the nod, but I'd be surprised if Snyder signs off on that.

When The Washington Post reached offensive consultant Sherman Lewis on Sunday evening, he hadn't heard about Snyder's decision. The other candidate for calling plays would be assistant coach/running backs coach Stump Mitchell. And I'll throw in one more wild-card candidate. That would be offensive assistant Chris Meidt, who has worked closely with the quarterbacks since joining Zorn's staff in '08.

I'm sort of hoping Zorn sleeps on this decision tonight and then decides to resign. It just doesn't make any sense for Snyder to keep him around now that he's stripped of everything except his dignity -- and I'm afraid that's next.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


You know it's bad when management hires an offensive consultant four games into the season. Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato announced during a conference call Tuesday evening that longtime NFL assistant and offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis was coming out of retirement to serve as a consultant for the club.

Cerrato tried to play down the significance of the move, but he might as well save his breath. Management has obviously lost faith in coach Jim Zorn's approach and it has brought in backup in the form of 67-year-old Lewis. It's an indictment of Zorn and his hand-picked assistants, offensive coordinator Sherman Smith and Stump Mitchell.

"We have had some struggles and thought that it was a good time to bring in a fresh set of eyes and see if there's anything that the fresh set of eyes saw that could help us," Cerrato told reporters.

Zorn issued the following statement via the club's public relations staff: "We're happy to have Sherm's set of eyes and voice to help us as we continue to find ways to create success on offense."

Yes, I'm sure Zorn's pleased as punch to have owner Dan Snyder and Cerrato bring in an elder statesman to give him some feedback. This is the beginning of the end for Zorn. If the Redskins' offense actually starts clicking, Lewis will likely get a lot of the credit. Cerrato made it sound like Zorn will decide what role Lewis plays on his coaching staff.

Does anyone believe that? I'm sure Snyder and Cerrato have told Lewis exactly what he's supposed to do. And this move also allows the Redskins to have a better option as the interim coach if Snyder decides to go ahead and fire Zorn during the season. That may sound harsh, but it's not like Snyder's afraid of making in-season changes.

I'm sure Zorn's embarrassed about Lewis' arrival, but it shouldn't have come as a big surprise. Zorn admitted that he was questioning his own game plan in the first half of the Tampa Bay game. That's not a great sign if you're an NFL head coach. Lewis has been an offensive coordinator with the Packers, Vikings and Lions, but he's been out of the game since 2004.

Charley Casserly, the Skins' former general manager, referred to the move as a "kiss of death" on Comcast SportsNet's "Washington Post Live" show Tuesday. And it's hard to disagree. If you have complete faith in your head coach, you're not bringing in consultants after four games. This seems like a desperate move to me. I realize that Lewis was indoctrinated in the West Coast offense during all those years in Green Bay, but this is a guy who's spent four years away from coaching. That's an eternity in this profession.

This is a franchise always in search of a shortcut -- and that's what Lewis represents. Snyder basically brought in an insurance policy in case Zorn and his players completely implode. At 2-2, that still hasn't happened but it could happen in a hurry.

I've always admired Lewis from afar. But it's ludicrous to think he can show up after so much time away from the game and make an immediate impact. This is like putting a tiny Band-Aid on a gaping wound. It might satisfy a few fans, but it's not going to change the course of the season.

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